Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘it project management’


Posted by iammarchhare on 15 May 2009

I have had to introduce Agile processes and techniques into various situations and environments, but I’ve never had the opportunity to go fully scrum.  That’s OK, as a methodology is just a tool to get you where you are going, but it would have been nice to actually go through an entire project using all of the core practices at least once.

Anyhow, I know there is a lot I can learn about it as a result.  If you are as unfamiliar with full-blown scrum as I am, I suggest you check out “Am I, or Am I Not, Using Scrum?” over at Scrum Alliance.

Posted in Agile, SDLC | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Scrum

Defensive Programming

Posted by iammarchhare on 4 May 2009

Remember when you learned how to drive, and you had to take a course called “defensive driving”?  You learned to anticipate problems on the road instead of racing down the road assuming nothing would ever go wrong.  By driving in a manner that would put you in the best position possible should something go wrong, you often avoided anything going wrong at all.

Software developers tend to be an optimistic bunch.  Write code for that?  No problem!  Want it in a week?  No problem!  Somehow, they tend to underestimate the power of a computer to do only exactly what it is told to do, whether by their own code, someone else’s they have to interface with or the compiler.

Agile development encourages people to do their test cases up-front.  I am in complete agreement with that concept.

There are problems with that, as there are with anything in life.  In “Developers Can’t Test for Toffee!”, Kelly Waters asks, “Why is it that developers can’t test?”  Waters pretty much states it is the “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome.  Developers can only test for issues they think of.  They are down in the bowels of the code, so naturally testers can think of scenarios the developers have not.

Waters makes a pretty good case, I think.  However, my experience is that most developers aren’t trained to think about what goes wrong.  I remember more than one post-mortem where I would ask, “Why wasn’t this accounted for?” and the answer very often was “I never thought that [condition] would occur.”

I guess I was fortunate in that I had a professor who insisted that code ran and produced the expected result.  “Code for the error conditions first,” he used to say.  “Think about what will happen, because it eventually will, when you get in some bad data.  Don’t assume users will input valid data.”

I began to call this concept “defensive programming”.  Anticipate the problems before the best case scenario is even written.

Posted in Risk Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Where Is the Time?

Posted by iammarchhare on 28 April 2009

I will keep this brief.  I’m a little under the weather.  You have that thing to do.  In fact, there are a lot of things to do, and there isn’t enough time to do them all.  Information overload.  Downsizing leads to wearing yet another hat.  The work still needs to be done.

As a project manager, you will be faced with time constraints.  No, not just project time constraints, but you will be faced with day to day time constraints.  You must be able to juggle many things.  How do you get them all done?

The short answer is: You don’t!

If you haven’t learned anything from The Dip yet, you need to prioritize what is important and what is not.  You need to stop or delegate what is unimportant so you have time to do your job.  This is very important in an economy where your job may have previously been done by 3 people.  Identify what each of those 3 people did that was important and discard or delegate the rest.

Ilya Bogorad wrote in a TechRepublic article on 17 April about “10 faulty beliefs that can doom IT leaders”.  2 of them should make an average PM think:  “We are a fast-paced organization”, and “We are under-resourced”.  Have you ever been anywhere in which the organization ever said “We are laid-back” or “We have too many people”?

Could the problem be that the important things are not being given the proper priority?

Posted in Skills | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Google’s Example of Being the Best

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 April 2009

What does it mean to be the best?  According to Seth Godin in The Dip, it doesn’t mean being just a little bit ahead of everyone else.  Many of his examples show that market leaders are often 3 times or more ahead of their competition.

Did you know that Google in August 2008 owned 70.77% of the US search market?  On Mashable: The Social Media Guide, Don Reisinger says “Google Understands What Other Search Engines Don’t”.

Market leaders do understand what others do not about their markets, which is why they are the market leaders.

Reisinger goes on to ponder, “Where are the growing startups like Wikia or Quintura?  Why haven’t Microsoft or Yahoo gained any ground on Google in the US?”  While he states a few hypotheses as to why, according to Godin this is normal if a company is going to remain the market leader.

Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are credentialed because they are the best.  They are required to have a mix of education and experience before they can even take the test.  They are the pack leaders.

However, you cannot stop there.  Once you are among the best, you must differentiate yourself as the best of the best.

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

Can Social Networking Replace Email?

Posted by iammarchhare on 14 April 2009

Last year, one of my favorite blogs LifeHacker asked the question “Can Social Tools Really Replace Email?”  That question has been somewhat on my mind lately.  Their question is based upon the New York Times article by IBM Social Computing Evangelist (how do I get that job?) Luis Suarez titled “I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip“.

I reported the other day how “32% of ‘Influential Churches’ in US are on Facebook” on the Church of God Perspective blog.  Adoptions of technology in churches can be slow, perhaps because of the top-down nature of the organizations involved.  However, there are financial and time commitment constraints that have to weigh in as well.  Is it any different in a business, however?  Most businesses these days are very conscious of their cash flow.  If they are not laying people off, then they are freezing new hires.

What can organizations do to make their members more efficient?  Is wading through tons of email really that efficient?  Sure, you can setup filters, but those are usually best guesses that try to predict certain types of messages.  When emails don’t fit the mold, this can backfire.

Suarez talks about an internal tool similar to Facebook where you can look up experts on particular subjects.  There are many other collaboration and ERP systems that have adopted similar types of directories.

With the churn of turnover in many companies these days, you can no longer assume Sally who took over maintenance of that Access database will be there tomorrow.  Who do you call now for your Access advice?  As far as you know, all the others on the database team are SQL Server experts.  You can either call each one, or you can try to chase down their boss to see who else might know Access.

Churches sometimes are small enough where you don’t have that problem.  However, even then there is what is known as the “tribal knowledge” effect.  What if an outsider needs counseling on alcoholism?  As in right now?  That person can try to find the email for the pastor or ask around (if they aren’t too embarrassed).  Perhaps they will give up trying.

These situations can be vital problems that need a solution.  The larger the organization, the more the need for an answer.  Email just won’t cut it.

Wikis, IMO, are far underrated.  Anyone who has used Wikipedia knows that there is a world of information right at your fingertips.  Even if you do not have an expert directory, you can put up articles, cross-link them, do searches and present a complete picture of information on topics in a manner that is difficult otherwise.  The best part is that if you allow participation of an entire group, the organization is organically grown, thus making it easier for people to find the information.

Now, I love email.  It can leave a trail of discussion that is helpful and I can organize it how I want.  However, it is in my private inbox.  No one else can see it.  If everyone keeps all of their “pertinent” emails, then server space can be eaten up quickly.  Yet, how does one know what’s going to be needed in the future?  Usually, one doesn’t, so the user just saves it off “just in case”.  If John deletes an email he later needs, he may ask Sally for a copy or vice-versa.  A discussion forum, though, is centralized.  There aren’t concerns about what to keep and what not to keep.  There is only one copy of the discussion, not 10 or 20.

Can these tools really replace email?  No, not completely.  Suarez seems to argue that email can become extinct, yet even he mentions that he still uses it for more private discussions.  His argument, though, is that in many cases a phone call or an instant message can replace even that.  There is a time for a phone call, and I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of IM.  Email provides a record that I can look up later, where I can jog my memory or copy and paste as appropriate.  I don’t see it completely going away.

However, how many conversations are tucked away in various email files that really are not private?  How many are you just Cc’ed on “just in case”?  How many would benefit a much larger audience?  That is where the beauty of social tools comes in.

Social tools, if used appropriately, can benefit any organization, whether for- or non-profit.

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