Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘basics’

What Are the Basics of Project Management

Posted by iammarchhare on 14 July 2009

Yesterday, I pointed you to a Helium article on the “Basics of Project Management”.  I also posted a Helium article on “What are the basics of project management?” with quite a different approach.  Which do you like better?

What are the minimal items you need to run a project? If you want a decent shot at project success, there are certain elements you need to address, either formally or informally. The larger the project, the more important it is to address these elements formally. Except for very small projects, at minimum, you need a project charter, project team, requirements, project scope statement, work breakdown structure, project schedule, risk and issues plan and a quality test plan.

Before getting into each of these areas, it is important to understand that a key project management concept is progressive elaboration. Each of the items being discussed may change as a result of the process of progressive elaboration. That means clarity is added to a plan when a greater level of detail is achieved as more specific information is discovered. Requirements, for example, will start at a very high level and will be lacking a great deal of detail. As requirements are gathered, however, they become more specific and concrete.

You can read more here.


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Basics of Project Management

Posted by iammarchhare on 13 July 2009

Here is an excerpt from my Helium article on “Basics of project management”:

A project manager (PM) has many tools in the project management belt. Here are some of the more useful things to know about when running your project.

The first and most important thing to remember is that the project is supposed to produce something. It is far too easy for a PM to manage the project schedule, project meetings and project documentation, but forget why the project exists in the first place.

People make up your team. People are, well, people. A good PM is as competent at handling people as the technical stuff.

You can read more here.

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Project Management 101

Posted by iammarchhare on 6 July 2009

Here is an excerpt from my Helium article on “Project management 101”:

This is a short introduction to project management. Since this article needs to be brief, it will cover what is project management, what is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK ), who needs to understand project management and where you can find additional resources for more information.

What is Project Management?

“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

~ PMBOK , p 6

The project requirements dictate what the project is trying to accomplish. The project’s end goal will be a “unique product, service, or result” (ibid., p 5). Another difference between a project and an operational process is that a project is temporary. It will have a definite beginning, and it will have a definite end. Project management tries to ensure the success of creating the unique item while keeping costs, scope and duration under some type of control during this temporary endeavor.

Read more here.

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Are You Cut Out to be a Project Manager?

Posted by iammarchhare on 27 May 2009

On the blog Project Management Tips, Brad Egeland wrote 2 articles titled “Five Signs You Aren’t Cut Out to be a Project Manager” and “Five More Signs You Aren’t Cut Out to be a Project Manager”.  Both of these articles are worthwhile reads.

The first 2 he lists pretty much show that an IT PM’s job is to bridge people and technology.  While people skills are important, they certainly aren’t the only skills you need.  Likewise, a PM in a technical position needs some sort of technology background.  While it is important for an IT PM to be technically minded, it certainly isn’t a necessity to be an expert.  Being an expert can help, as it lends credibility to the PM, but the reality is that the PM must rely upon the subject matter expert (SME) in a given area.  However, to be totally unable to understand the technical team members and to not be able to communicate the information to a business partner, a sponsor, an executive or customer can be a death sentence to a PM career.  This touches a few of Egeland’s other points as well.

In addition to the signs Egeland lists, I would like to submit these 5 for your consideration.  It isn’t that these are any better than Egeland’s lists, but his certainly got my own thought processes working.

Inability to Negotiate

Part of being a manager is the ability to negotiate items.  As a PM, you may need to assist purchasing with negotiating features or price with a vendor.  A PM will definitely be negotiating timelines and resource allocations.  A PM might have to probe into estimates and help come up with alternatives.  A PM will have to set customer/sponsor expectations.

Unwillingness to Continue Learning

Some people graduate college thinking they will never need to learn again.  A PM, though, is constantly learning.  In fact, any IT manager, including an IT PM, has to do double duty on learning because a good PM will be keeping up on the latest technology as well as learning new management skills.

Shady Ethics

Yes, it is a sad statement on the state of the world to even mention this one, but many companies these days have lost sight that the public trust has to be earned.  International companies can present special challenges because graft and “gifts” are taken for granted in some cultures.

Lack of Transparency

This is similar to lacking ethics, but it also includes hiding “bad news” from stakeholders.  This does not mean, of course, that you just bluntly state bad news, but it does mean you don’t try to hide it either.  Bad news has a way of leaking out when it is least convenient.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed executives and product managers that try to cover up the truth only to worsen customer relations in the long run.

Lack of Creativity

Perhaps the most controversial on my list, this item isn’t referring to artistic flair or even to not being able to create an appealing user interface.  Rather, this is the ability to use or reuse technology and processes in some new way.  If you are really creative, it may mean using items in a manner that wasn’t originally intended.  For things that already exist, someone had to be first.  Someone had to be first in applying user supplied tags to objects.  Someone had to be first to take the idea of streaming video and create video conferencing over the Internet.  I can remember using DOS batch files for fdisk-ing and formatting hard drives in a computer lab during bootup because the Novell scripting had limitations that made it difficult in Novell.  Do you have the creativity required to be a true solution provider?

Those are Mine

So, what are some that you have identified as being necessary in order to be cut out to be an IT PM?

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Why I am Still a Geek

Posted by iammarchhare on 3 April 2009

Why Being a Techie is a Positive Thing

The other day, I posted about how I’m a Geek! out of frustration with receiving spam emails for all sorts of “opportunities” that have nothing to do with IT or project management.  Yesterday, I posted in the article Don’t Try to Get a Job which included a blurb about how IT project managers are rather independent, which is likely due to being tried by difficult circumstances.

Is this contradictory?  I think not.

If you have read my post about The Most Important Project Management Skill, then you realize, IT or not, a project manager must first of all be a good manager.  Often, the project manager requires even more skills because the people working on the project do not report directly to the PM.

Geeks are not nerds.  Some people are very smart, very bright but socially don’t express themselves well and do not wish to.  Nerds are sometimes inclined technically.  Geeks, however, are technically inclined but also know how to communicate their ideas and vision to others.  Geeks may or may not make good managers, but nerds do not.

Project management is so much more than running the latest earned value calculations or updating MS Project.

This brings me to a topic that people often disagree on.  Should a project manager be an expert in the field they are working in?  Usually, PMs will move up through the ranks, so it isn’t a question.  However, I have seen a construction PM oversee an IT project.  The skills are transferable.  However, is it desirable?

I would at least think it would be desirable that a PM overseeing an IT project have a technical background.  Likewise, I would not feel comfortable overseeing a construction project.  However, should that stop me from overseeing a wireless communications project?  Honestly, I don’t think it should.

The PM relies upon the subject matter experts (SMEs) to get the work done.  If they don’t know their job, it will fail unless they can be swapped out for others who know it better.  SMEs know how to get it done and how long it takes.  That’s why they are the experts.

It will take some extra effort for the PM to reorient themselves, but if the project manager has been in technology for a while, he or she should be used to changes by now.  How fast do operating systems change?  How long does hardware really last?  Anyone in a technical field should be used to constant change.

If you are stuck in a rut, consider branching out.  If you haven’t programmed in a while, blow the dust off of Visual Studio.  If you already know .NET, open up Eclipse and take it for a drive.  Expand your horizons.  If you came up doing software, volunteer for a small infrastructure project.  Building your skill set not only helps your team and company, but it makes you more valued by the company and by the project teams you work with.

Let’s face it: In today’s job environment, every little bit helps.

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Project Management for Non-project Managers

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 March 2009

When you were growing up and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, did you exclaim, “I want to be a project manager”?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

All of us had to start somewhere, though.  We all had that first project.  In addition, if you are a project lead or a supervisor, you will likely have to head up some projects yourself.  That’s why I wrote “Project Management for Non-project Managers” on Helium.   It will take you through the (very) basics.


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