Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

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!

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IT: “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Marketing!”

Posted by iammarchhare on 10 April 2009

What are your more overlooked soft skills?

On 5 April, Seth Godin blogged in “The power of a tiny picture (how to improve your social network brand)“:

In the social group I run, part of my job is to pick the featured members. As a result, I spend a lot of time looking at little pictures. Here’s one person’s take on the things you can do to avoid wrecking that first impression:

…4. If you are wearing a hat, you better have both a good reason and a good hat.

Well, if you’ve looked at my profile, you can imagine how that got my attention!  What can I say, Seth?  I don’t have a good hat, I have several!  Well, I was up late anyhow, and a little punch-drunk, so we ended up with a short tongue-in-cheek email exchange.  To be honest, I really didn’t expect him to answer me.  He probably gets a lot of email, and he probably gets a lot of cranky email.  I hoped I wasn’t coming across as cranky (it’s hard to tell at 2 am).  Thankfully, he replied with an amusing email, so all is well in bloggerland.

You might be wondering why I reference a marketing blog so often.  Granted, Seth Godin has a “good” marketing blog (IMNSHO), but it is still “marketing”.  In many IT circles, “Marketing” is treated like the enemy.   HR?  Fine.  Customer support.  Great!  Payroll.  Even better!  But, Marketing?  About the only department that gets worse press than Marketing might be Sales, if you work somewhere large enough to warrant separate departments.

Let’s strip away the animosity, OK?  Sales people go out to sell a product.  If those products do not sell, then money stops coming in.  The money stops coming in, people get let go, contractors and full time alike.  However, sales people cannot sell something unless there is a perceived need.  That’s where marketing comes in.  They use various techniques to convince the potential customer they need a product.  Sales and marketing are pretty much 2 sides to the same coin (IMO, of course).

“OK, John,” I imagine you saying right now, “they are a necessary evil.”  Really?  Are you a “manager” (yes, project managers are managers)?  Then, go look in the mirror!  Say out loud, “My position is a necessary evil.”

Have you ever had to do any of these?

  1. “Sell” an idea to a customer or a project team.
  2. “Negotiate” scope on a project?
  3. “Entice” a potential user or customer that they need a specific solution?
  4. “Sell” a project to an executive board, change board or even to your own boss?
  5. “Present”, i.e., put on a dog and pony show, in order to inform and rally  company directors and managers to get behind an idea?
  6. “Negotiate” with a vendor over price, length of service or warranty?
  7. “Incent” a project team to desire a particular result?
  8. “Provide a vision” to a project team of how grand everything will be once the project is complete and the sponsor is happy.

I really could keep going, but I think you get the point.  You are a marketer and sales person both if you are a manager.

I’m not done yet!  We are all marketers these days, even if we are not managers!  We can no longer depend upon 20 years service and a gold watch at the end!  We are all contractors, even if we are working full time for a company.  We need to sharpen our skills to market ourselves for if/when we are faced with losing our current job.

Do you have an online resume?  That’s marketing.  Do you have a LinkedIn account (and if not, why not?)?  That’s “networking”, which is really another form of marketing.  Do you have a blog or website?  Marketing.  Do you really think potential (and sometimes current!) employers don’t check these things?  In short, you are marketing your most important product — You!

OK, this more or less wraps up a lot of what I wanted to say about soft skills.  Never forget that they are your most important skills.  I’m sure in the economic environment we are in, the need will arise to post more about them, but this is an IT blog, after all.

If you are in IT leadership, no doubt you can read a book or peruse a blog and become a technical expert in short order, but learning and improving soft skills are a little different.  What may work in one instance might not work in another.  Keep them sharp and honed, though, and you’ll be better able to handle the crisis situations as they occur.

I believe the saying is true that it is easier to learn the needed technical skills.  If someone doesn’t have interpersonal skills and cannot be a team player, then projects will suffer regardless.  In a similar vein, if IT leadership (or any business leadership for that matter) cannot sell their vision and their ideas, the staff will be going in conflicting directions.  Individuals must be team players, but leaders must be team builders.

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