Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

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.

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The “Wave” of the Future

Posted by iammarchhare on 4 June 2009

Email has been around a long time.  Longer than the web, actually.  It was the first form of communication on a network.  Yet, it is still the most popular application in use today.  Google is working on something now that is so revolutionary that it might actually knock email off of its pedestal.

You have probably heard that claim before.  Yet, email has remained king of the hill.  So, how likely is it that there may actually be something revolutionary enough to do it?

Google is working on a new application that runs in a browser.  No surprise.  However, according to Andy Wibbels’ blog, “Google Wave Obliterates Everything”.  Imagine only needing one application for email/IM, wikis, forums, blogs, and so on.  Oh, and did I mention it will work on Android as well?

It is also pretty cool watching pictures being dragged and dropped onto a web browser and have them automatically upload.  While uploading, the thumbnails appear on other users’ web browsers.  Not to mention watching 3 people edit the same page at the same time.

I remember the first time I saw a web browser.  I knew then that what I was looking at was nothing less than revolutionary.  This has the same potential, IMO.  If anyone can pull this off, Google can.

This might change the way we work, even.

I will warn you that the entire video is 1:20:11 long.  However, I am writing this the evening before making a trip to Columbus for an 8:30 am event, but I could not resist watching the entire thing!

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Webinar: Agile Cuts Costs

Posted by iammarchhare on 13 April 2009

I watched part 1 of a webinar called “Agile Cuts Costs” by Rally Software and GlobalLogic have a pretty good high-level Agile presentation that is free to view.  If you find yourself with the need to justify Agile project/program management or a high-level view of how to move into Agile, then I suggest you check it out.  The presentation is given by Jean Tabaka of Rally and Johnny Scarborough of GlobalLogic.  It is just over an hour long, so I picked out points that hit home with my own experience.

Signing up and getting the presentation going was more annoying than it needed to be.  I had  to fill out a form, which wasn’t totally unexpected.  However, I have no desire to give you my phone number.  Don’t call me.  It’s too early yet to know if I will get inundated with spam, but at least that is a normal question.  The player has a clunky interface (I didn’t know I could minimize silly audio control window which pops up right in the way and cannot be moved off the screen entirely).  Once I got beyond this, though, things got dramatically better.

Jean and John go into the importance of metrics, particularly productivity index (PI).  “Productivity is often the most difficult measure to improve in regards to software development.”  PI for large, distributed teams can be lower, but they do not have to be.

The presentation shows that defect count can be kept under control even though schedules are shortened more than 50% by using Agile.  This would depend a lot upon the maturity of the organization, though.  I should point out that I have seen other presentations that show it doesn’t always mean faster delivery or reduced cost, but even those presentations show that it raises quality.  Let’s face it, you do save time and money when you aren’t fixing numerous defects.  However, as a team matures, there is no reason to believe the schedule would not be shortened as efficiencies become habit.

They only briefly mention the importance of time boxing.  From surveying the literature and experience, I have found that this is at the heart of Agile.  Getting that “flow” is very important.  However, flow is just the first level.

Teams often think that meeting a 2-week iteration is next to impossible and that nightly builds and testing are too expensive.  However, the presentation points out that it is actually too expensive to not do nightly builds.  I have found that there are pros and cons with nightly builds, but if you want to point out bad habits and team weaknesses early on so you can close those gaps, there are fewer ways to find them than by doing nightly builds and tests.

I agree 100% with the importance of a “step-by-step approach” to Agile adoption.  This cuts to the heart of my personal experience moving teams and processes to Agile practices and processes.  Culture doesn’t change overnight, and Agile is usually as much of a culture change as anything else.  It takes about 3 months or 6 iterations to go from amateur (“flow” organization) Agile level and mature to intermediate level (“pull).  It takes 12 – 24 months to attain to expert level (“innovate”), in part because it takes maturity across the organization.  Agile cannot “sit in engineering” and be at the expert level.  I have to believe, however, that larger organizations could take longer to adjust than this, but I could be wrong about this.

The risk inherent in the waterfall method is something that often is overlooked.  I really appreciated this slide.  It also shows how the risk of failure rapidly drops using Scrum.  This agrees with other presentations I have seen where quality is higher in Agile than waterfall methods.  Quality and risk of failure are often an inverse relationship.

One thing that cannot be stressed enough is buy-in.  This was mentioned quite a few times in different ways, but it is vital to have executive interest in Agile.  The team has to buy-in on Agile.  Old habits cannot be allowed to resurface, and the retrospective meetings (“lessons learned” for us old-timers) must result in the implementation of needed changes.

Having tools that can provide measurements automatically will free people up to concentrate on the tools.  John says, “Don’t skrimp [sic] on the tools.  You have to invest in the tools, especially when you are going into distributed development.  Post-It notes don’t scale out across time zones.”

There is a lot more to the presentation.  I only highlighted the parts I found interesting or have suffered past pain with.  I suspect part 2, which covers scalability, will be just as good.

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