Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Archive for August, 2009

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.

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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.”

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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?

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The Devil is in the Details

Posted by iammarchhare on 26 August 2009

Seth Godin posted an interesting post on Seth’s blog.  Is it better to get new tires for a Suburban to increase gas mileage by 3 miles per hour, from 10 mpg to 13 mpg, or to rework a Prius to double their gas mileage from 50 mpg to 100 mpg?  Careful how you answer!

The answer is on onpreinit.com, posted as “The MPG Illusion & Seth Godin”.

Next time you are tempted to throw a lot of facts and numbers at someone, stop and think.  Graphs are a lot more useful, you know.

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‘Forty five percent (45%!) of project costs industry-wide is rework’

Posted by iammarchhare on 25 August 2009

That’s the claim that Jamal Moustafaev makes in “Who Needs Walkthroughs, Inspections and Peer Reviews?”.

That is a sobering statistic, but it only tells part of the story.  When you remember that a $1 mistake early on in the project easily balloons into a $40 fix later on, you begin to see why it is so important to do requirements correctly.  However, even good requirements have flaws.  Therefore, it is vital to pull together your team and do a thorough walk-thru of the requirements, project plan and statement of work.  It is important that these documents undergo a peer review by a fellow project manager as well as the technical project team.

Moustafaev makes several good points about pitfalls and things to look for in walk-thrus and reveiws.  A worthwhile read!

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Dangers of Blogging

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 August 2009

I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice.  Become an expert in your field, get on LinkedIn, get on networking sites, answer questions, network, participate and start your own blog.  Well, perhaps that is good advice, but the last one can be a little more dangerous now.  Or, at least if you are a celebrity chaser.

The Telegraph reported on 19 August that “Google reveals blogger’s identity after Vogue model’s ‘skank’ insult”.  The blogger, who went by the ever so original “Anonymous”, described Vogue covergirl Liskula Cohen in several unflattering terms.  A New York supreme court judge quoted an earlier Virginia ruling that online critics can be held accountable once they cross a certain line.

I’m all for civility online, but the constant eroding of speech on the web is somewhat of a concern to me.

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Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Tool

Posted by iammarchhare on 21 August 2009

At one place I worked, we were looking into some content management systems.  When I found out the licensing cost for one tool we were already using, I was pretty much floored.  The old pricing scheme was pretty high, but in order to update, we had to move to a licensing scheme that seemed pretty insane to me.

Since there already was a Microsoft license in place, the recommendation was to move to MS Sharepoint and dump the more expensive tool.   It literally meant quite a bit of conversion and testing time, though.  There was a weird path assignment for many documents, and it would have been easy to have a lot of broken links.

Well, Alfresco offers an alternative to the more expensive contenders.

Twenty years of experience drove us to believe that the Enterprise Content Management industry was driven by:

  • High Cost — Application driven purchases with a high up-front investment and per user pricing
  • High Complexity — Long rollout cycles and complexity resulting in software either not being implemented or used
  • Lack of Customer Control — Proprietary control preventing choice and ability to switch to other vendors

For these reasons the vast majority of people do not use ECM systems but instead work with shared drives and email to create, share and store content.

That last paragraph really hit home with me.  At the company I was working for (above), there were quite a few pockets of people using shared drive because no one wanted to pay for the overpriced licensing.  While an older version of Sharepoint was in place, it’s use was mostly for project work.  There really was no central schema to how to get information.

At any rate, I plan to have a further look into Alfresco.

Posted in Knowledge Management, Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Tool

Highlights From Seth’s Blog

Posted by iammarchhare on 20 August 2009

Most of you know by now that I enjoy Seth Godin’s blog.  You’d be amazed how many of his posts relate to project management as well.  Here are some highlights from this month:

1. “All storms are perfect” makes the point that a perfect storm can be anticipated.  I don’t want to give his whole post away (it’s very short), but notice where the actual failure is in his example.  Now, ask yourself, “What sort of ongoing verification have I put into place once this project has been completed?”

2. Godin tackles a requirements definition problem in “Are we solving the same problem?”  If you’ve ever had to sit through some large vendor’s sales pitch, you surely can relate to this post.  How many sales people drone on and on about features you aren’t even interested in?  Worse, have you ever delivered a project only for the enduser to say, “That’s not what I wanted”?  Perhaps you were, like the vendor sales person, focusing on the solution and not the problem.

3. Godin’s article on “When tactics drown out strategy” reminds me of my own difficulty in separating tactics and strategy.  It is far too easy for me to focus in on details and forget why I’m trying to get it done in the first place.

4. In “Critics that matter”, Godin points out that there are critics that matter, critics that are loud and critics that are difficult.  I have alluded to this in previous posts that you won’t please everyone.  As I have stated in “Ambiguous Scope”, the sponsor needs to define for you when a project is “done”.  It needs to be measurable.

However, there will be other key stakeholders on the project that you need to identify and engage them in shaping requirements.  They are called “stakeholders”, but don’t kid yourself that all of them have a stake in “the project”.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that their real concern is in the product being produced!

You know the audience is somewhat different, the tools are different and even the emphasis is different, but there are a lot more similarities between marketing and project management than either side will admit!

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43 Things Actually Said in Job Interviews

Posted by iammarchhare on 20 August 2009

CareerBuilder on MSN published “You Said What?!”, which lists 43 things that real job applicants have said in a job interview.  Some of them just make you scratch your head, but others are real jaw droppers.

I guess I now know why there are professional agencies out there to coach people.

You may be a techie, but don’t underestimate the value of people skills.

Posted in Employment | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on 43 Things Actually Said in Job Interviews