Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘program management’

Project and Program Management Key to IT Efficiency

Posted by iammarchhare on 11 June 2009

I attended a seminar last week in Columbus put on by CA called “Challenging Times Require Efficient IT”.  In it, they showcased the CA Clarity TM PPM On Demand solution.   If you have worked with Clarity before, it is basically just the version that they push for their Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.  If you haven’t worked with Clarity before, you might want to give it a once over if you are looking for an enterprise solution to PPM.  I don’t get paid for any endorsements, I just prefer their solution over at least one other.

Overall, it may seem like a strange time to invest in a tool.  However, curbing waste and ensuring your project portfolio is strategically aligned with your business goals can save you money in the first year, or so believes CA (note that isn’t a guarantee; they are just saying it can do so).

At any rate, the real attraction was the first part, “Why Project and Portfolio Management Matters More in an Economic Downturn”.  There wasn’t anything really earth shattering in the presentation, but I did want to hear what they had to say.  Without taking notes, here are my take-aways:

Gaining insights into what is going on with your resources answers the question: Are you working on what’s strategically important?  Strategies may need to change.  Ongoing projects need to be regularly evaluated to see if they are still meeting strategic needs.

The CIO really needs to be part of the change governance board.  Prior to the economic mess, there actually was an upswing in CIO participation on these boards.  The CIO is the one that can reach across the organization to get the right kind of input from other departments.  Without CIO participation, the other departments discount the board’s importance and so key decision makers are not present at the meetings.  After the economic mess, CIO participation is down from what it was, which is a disturbing trend.

A strong governance board and appropriate executive views into work allow projects to be killed earlier.  If they are not meeting the strategic needs or it turns out they are too costly, then the proper decision makers can kill it before it gets worse.  In a down economy, lessening such waste is a huge benefit to the company.

New projects are less likely to be started if they do not meet strategic needs.  Again, this reduces wasteful spending.

The last part was a demo on the On Demand solution.  Like I said, if you’ve used Clarity, the interface is pretty familiar.  I don’t know the costs involved, but having someone else worry about the infrastructure costs may be attractive to certain companies.  Obviously, a lot will depend upon company size and IT objectives.

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

Why the Role of Project Manager is Different

Posted by iammarchhare on 8 May 2009

Earlier I posted about “Why Being a Project Manager is Different” to differentiate PMs from managers.  However, from discussions with some companies over the past 2 – 4 weeks, I have come to the conclusion that many companies just don’t know what a project manager does.

In essence, project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.”  In my article, “What is software project management”, I point out that “Project requirements are the necessary deliverables of the project. Requirements are the answer to ‘what are we making’? [sic]”

Not only does the PM put together a plan that enables an end product, but the PM is also responsible for controlling the cost, schedule and scope of the project itself.

You would think that would be obvious, but you would be wrong.  How do you tell if an ad for a job or a consulting gig is looking for something else?  While any and all of these might be legitimate under certain circumstances, they should be red flags that lead you to question what is meant by them (because there is a good chance the company may not know what they are really looking for):

“Hands on” project manager: What does “hands on” mean?  I consider myself pretty “hands on” because I run the project.  I question people’s timesheets.  I ask them why things are taking so long.  I interfere and get them help if needed.  I do EVM calculations whether you ask for them or not (because it helps me do my job).  Do you want me to code?  Then you are not looking for a PM.  One thing I learned in the Army is that a supervisor doing the work distracts the supervisor from getting the job done right.  If you want a project lead, then why not ask for a project lead?  By the way, unless it is a series of very short projects, the team will almost surely eventually fail doing it that way.  You will still need someone keeping an eye on the forest while your “PM” is looking at the trees!

“Technical” project manager:  This one is similar.  However, it can be legitimate if you have junior people that directly report to you.  If you are wearing both the resource and project manager hats, then you will need extra time for mentoring/coaching, training, etc.  I’ve done this role, and it can be quite fulfilling as long as the organization backs you in both capacities.

Project/Program manager: This one actually may become the wave of the future.  Of course, the caveat is whether or not the company understands the differences and similarities in the roles.  In general, though, there is a larger push for project management to lead into program management.  Some “Sr Project Manager” roles are actually a type of program/project manager amalgam.  I throw this in as a caution that you probe to see if the organization you are getting ready to get involved in knows what the role means.

Implementation project manager:  I sort of hesitated adding this one, as it is a legitimate role on very large projects.  The problem is that I’ve seen it applied to very small projects, and it usually is not justified.  The main question to ask: Are there PMs overseeing the design and construction phases of the project?  If the answer is “No”, then this role is nothing more than someone to blame when everything hits the fan.  2 other important questions to ask are: “Who is responsible for testing and how are the bugs found in the field after implementation tracked back?”, and “Does this role also take over the maintenance phase of the product?”  The former probes into if there is feedback to the correct team (the ones coding).  The latter question tells you if it truly is a project management role, because maintenance never ends until the product support does.  Remember, projects come to an end, even while the product lives on.

I’m sure there are others that are out there.  These were just the ones that particularly stood out for me.  I’d be happy to hear what others may have been encountered.

Posted in PM Basics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »