Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘it pm’

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. 🙂

Advertisements

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

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 on Cloud Computing Risks

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 on What Is Agile Software Development?

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

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 on Taking Over the Loser Project

‘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!

Posted in Requirements | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘Forty five percent (45%!) of project costs industry-wide is rework’

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!

Posted in PM Basics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Highlights From Seth’s Blog

Should You Pursue PMP Certification?

Posted by iammarchhare on 19 August 2009

There’s an interesting article at Project Manager Planet titled “PMP Certification: Is It Worth It?

The gist of the article is that it is worth it if you are a practicing project manager.  Beyond that, it gets hazy.  However, if you are seeking employment, it is a checkbox on many employers’ checklists.

However, the lean employment market is causing a flood of PMP applicants and this in turn is diluting the certification’s prestige and meaning. “More and more individuals are taking the PMP exam who are not intending on practicing the principles, which has negative impact on the value of the certification overall,” said R. Thomas Nieukirk, Jr., director of Knowledge Management at CGN & Associates, a global business performance consulting firm with offices in the U.S., China, India, and throughout Europe.

Actually, I find this statement ironic.  Many PMPs do not intend on practicing the principles because many companies neither intend on supporting them or caring about them.  Yes, they will list “PMP” on their requirements, but when you actually talk to them about a position, you are gritting your teeth throughout the entire interview because it is obvious they don’t have a clue.

Some companies refuse to learn from their mistakes.  Projects are setup to fail because the product manager promised the moon in 3 months so they could meet some short term performance objective.  Testing is always shorted.  Resources are always stretched thin because they couldn’t set priorities.  How many projects do you think are successfully completed at companies like this?

Whether large or small, startup or mature, all organizations need to be in a cycle of continuous learning.  Look at the US automotive industry.  One of the companies has now effectively failed twice.  Whatever happened to the giant makeover that was supposed to occur after the 1970s?  Why did they not learn?

Companies that quit learning and quit innovating eventually die.  No government bailout can bring it back from the dead once it gets beyond a certain point.

Posted in PMP | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I Am Not a Specialist, I Am a Manager

Posted by iammarchhare on 14 August 2009

There is a rank in the Army called “Specialist”.  There used to be about 3 levels: Specialist 4th Class, Specialist 5th Class, Specialist 6th Class (pretty rare), but by the time I entered, they were phasing out all but the “Spec 4” class.  The numbers, if you didn’t catch it, reflected the paygrade, so that’s why they don’t start with “1”.  Therefore, a Spec 4 and a Corporal are both “E-4” paygrade and make roughly the same amount of money (with some variation for years of service, etc.).

In many ways, it parallels the business world.  You go to “boot camp” or “basic training” (high school) to learn general things, then you go on to “advanced individual training” (college) to learn your craft.  However, when you come out, you are still basically a generalist.  Sure, your job title is well defined, but you are only expected to have a general level of proficiency in all tasks.  As you evolve, you learn more about your particular function and become a “specialist” or “Specialist”.

So, why was the Army doing away with most of the Specialist ranks?  For one thing, a “Specialist” is not a noncommissioned officer (NCO).  Therefore, in many enlisted members’ eyes, the Specialist had no real authority (even though that wasn’t strictly true, but the attitude was still prevalent).  However, an even more disturbing factor was that the Specialist concentrated so much on honing their skills for their particular job specialty that they often, intentionally or unintentionally, neglected their leadership skills.

I used to joke that I was a jack of all trades and master of none.  There is a particular truth to that statement, though.  I have a broad range of experience, even within IT.  That means I know only so much about many different areas.  I am not a specialist.

However, that’s not really a bad thing.  I do know a little about a lot of things.  That makes me a better manager.  I can talk to a network guy about IP addresses.  I can talk to the tester about user interface issues.  I can talk to the developer about classes.  I have setup LANs in computer labs and businesses.  I have assisted with testing.  I have done quite a bit of programming.  I no longer am, if indeed I ever was, an expert in any of these.  To be a manager, though, I don’t have to be.  That is why I have the specialists, the subject matter experts, to help advise on technical matters.

I think people have a tendency to pigeon-hole others.  I have a certificate that says I am a “project management professional”.  Does that make me a specialist?  I hope not.  I would argue that there are unique skills for being a project manager, yet any “manager”, if they are to be effective, must be much more of a generalist than a specialist.  In spite of what some people seem to think (and, sadly some are PMPs), it takes no real talent or ability to plug an EVM formula into a spreadsheet and update it weekly.  It’s what you do with that information that’s important.  It’s whether or not the project is successful that’s important, and that may take many different skills and may even be different for every project.

Posted in Management, PMP | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »