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Project Management for Information Technology

Archive for the ‘Business Strategy’ Category

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. 🙂

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Posted in Admin, Business Strategy, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Social Media Here, Social Media There, Social Media Everywhere

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 »

Seth Godin and One Thing

Posted by iammarchhare on 8 July 2009

Seth Godin had a couple of good posts last month that are worth a read.  Both are about concentrating on one or two things that make a difference.   First, you must identify the key thing you should be focused on.  Second, you must ensure you aren’t spreading yourself too thin.  The second is particularly relevant for job seekers in this economy, but there is a larger principle as well.

One post was “Ruby slippers”.  Do you know what the one thing even is that you should be concentrating on?

If you could make one thing come true that would change everything for your project, do you know what the one thing would be?

There are a lot of companies that don’t know what they want, so they inevitably fail.  Been there, done that, and it ain’t no fun!

The other post is a little longer and is about “How big is your farm?”  This one particularly hit home because of all of the “experts” that want you to get out and network here, network there, be on this social site, be on that social site and run yourself ragged for some pretty iffy payback.  Double that if you are looking for full time employment and not consulting gigs.

The number of media channels available to you keeps growing. The number of places you can spend time and money is almost endless. Yet your budget isn’t. Your time certainly isn’t.

Some people would have you spend a little time on each social network, run ads in ten or fifteen media, focus on one hundred major markets and spend time on PR and publicity in every publication willing to listen to you.

You know, it never ceases to amaze me how people react when I give them simple answers to what they perceive to be complex questions.  They are making it hard.  What do you do when customer Z wants something, but you are working on customer A’s project?  That’s easy!  Which one has the priority?  Pick one and do your best on that endeavor.  You cannot do your best work by juggling 26 different projects.  You cannot even do acceptable work by juggling 26 different projects.

I used to have a product manager that had the philosophy that you should not be afraid to fire a customer.  If the customer required too many resources, made unreasonable demands or just wasn’t living up the ROI, it’s probably time to fire that customer.  Spend your time and your money on the customers that matter.  Make sure catering to that customer brings you something you need.

Usually, it’s about this time that people get flustered and start on, “Well, how do you choose which customers don’t get what they want?”  When I respond with, “Well, what is your business strategy?”, about 90% of the time it turns out they don’t really have one.  They don’t know the ROI because they don’t know what R they want for their I.  Is it prestige?  Cash?  Other goods and services?  What return do you really need from this customer to keep from firing them?

Each of us has 24 hours in a day.  The rich don’t get more, and the poor don’t get less.  How you spend that time says a lot about your priorities.  What are your priorities?  Do you know?  Are you following through on them?

Posted in Business Strategy, Leadership | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Should It Be Hard?

Posted by iammarchhare on 29 June 2009

From the “Don’t Make It Hard” files: The right way and the wrong way to make things hard.

We should clarify the phrase “don’t make it hard”.  Some things are meant to be hard.  It is a tool.  It is used  to better our own (personal or corporate) positions.  For example, you want it to be hard for your competitor.  You want to create what Seth Godin calls “The Dip” for those who would otherwise take your market share.  You want it to be hard enough for candidates who apply for a job that the bottom feeders are weeded out.

May I use an analogy?  Cement is a good all purpose agent to build structures.  Cement, or concrete if you prefer, makes excellent sidewalks and driveways under the proper conditions (I’ll spare the long story about my own driveway).  However, it can also make a horrendous mess if poured incorrectly.  It also isn’t good for using a chisel on in order to chisel out a statue, similar to marble.

Both cement and marble are hard.  However, they have different purposes.

There is a small company looking for staff, but they have had a vacant position for some time now.  That may be hard to believe in this economy.  It isn’t because of cost necessarily.  They are just looking for a good quality fit.

Are they being too picky?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Time will tell.  Most likely, they will find that quality person and fill the spot.

Barriers to entrance is one way that making it hard can be good.  You want the best for your investment, after all.

Of course, that type of barrier depends upon knowing what you want.  One way you can make things hard is to have an “Ambiguous Scope”.  A common cause of an ambiguous scope is the client doesn’t know what they want.

Contrast the example of the small company above with another company looking for a contractor to fill a need for a short-term task.  Initially, it seems they know what they want.  The funny part is that it should be a rather straight-forward little project.  Emotions and politics have clouded their judgment.  They will probably pay too much for too little because what they are asking for doesn’t match their real concerns.  As you dig into it, you begin to realize that the contract may not be in your best interest to pursue.  Red flags are being thrown, flares are going off, and your gut tells you it’s not a good idea.

In other words, you begin to realize that they are making it hard – on themselves.  Without going into specifics, they cannot see the forest for the trees, so they are lost in the forest even though there is a pathway in sight.

There is a time to make it hard – for your competitor, for prospective long-term relationships (yes, there are hopefully barriers to entry for marriage as well as employment) and even for criminals.  However, when you make it hard for yourself, those in a long-term relationship with you (which presumably includes employers) or customers, then you are adding unneeded stress to everyone around you and potentially harming those relationships.

Posted in Business Strategy, Consulting, Requirements, Risk Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Should It Be Hard?

Strategic Project Management

Posted by iammarchhare on 15 June 2009

Last week, I posted about a CA Clarity TM presentation on how “Project and Program Management Key to IT Efficiency”.  One of the main points in the first presentation is that executives can look at the list of projects to see how well they align with company strategy.  The need is to work on the right things.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) Information Systems Special Interest Group (ISSIG) has also posted a webinar on “Strategic Project Management”.  If you are a member of ISSIG, then viewing the webinar is free.  Otherwise, you will need to purchase access.

Project management is often used as a tactical tool.  It isn’t normally viewed by businesses as a strategic tool.  Don J Wessels argues that 60% of the projects should be strategically aligned.  Strategic project management is a new process that comes between strategic planning and project execution.

Similar to the Clarity presentation, Wessels goes out of his way to note that executive championship is key to successful project-program management.  While Clarity mentioned that CIOs should sit on governance boards, Wessels’ angle points out that executive championship underlies the real challenge to many organizations in regards to project management and now strategic project management.  Attrition of executive champions has taken its toll on project management in general.

Wessels has a slide on “Without Strategic Emphasis” that lists symptoms of an organization that doesn’t have strategic project emphasis.  Boy!  Have I been in this organization!

This webinar is worth 1 PDU.

Posted in Business Strategy, PMI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Strategic Project Management