Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘soft skills’

Webinar: PMBOK Guide 4th Edition Changes

Posted by iammarchhare on 15 April 2009

I don’t remember where I found the link, but PMCentersUSA and ConsultUSA are putting on free joint webinars on “What’s New in the PMBOK® Guide Fourth Edition“.  The next webinar is 12 May, but sign up now to ensure you aren’t shut out!

Disclaimer: I have no connection with either PMCentersUSA or ConsultUSA other than attending the webinar, and everything here is my opinion and not necessarily theirs unless stated otherwise.

Last week, I posted an article pondering whether or not it was worth it to purchase the new PMBOK.  While the cost isn’t that high, these days a person needs to think about building up emergency funds and paying down debt, after all.  Even if you have a full-time job, you really are a contractor in today’s economy.  You are hired “at will”, and PMs can be easy targets for layoffs.  People are lucky to do 20 years at one place, let alone get a gold watch out of the deal.  However, there is good news.  If you are a member of Project Management Institute (PMI), you can access the PMBOK online now.  If this was available for the 3rd edition, it wasn’t obvious to me, but this is a welcome discovery!

The answer?  A guarded “Yes”.  I say “guarded” because the conclusion of the matter of “What has changed?” is “Not much”.  People studying for the exam could probably attend this webinar on top of what they would otherwise study and get by.  Just for passing the exam, then, it might not be worth it.  However, enough has changed that I believe I can now justify purchasing it for the day-to-day reference it provides.

So, what has changed?  I’m going to state a few highlights of the webinar, but if you want details, I encourage you to attend it.  You get the slide presentation for reference after attendance as well, so even if you miss something, you have the slides to refer back to.  I’m not going to regurgitate the entire webinar, and obviously it wouldn’t be proper for me to distribute their slides without permission.

The organization of the PMBOK has not changed.  The sections and chapters are arranged as they were in the 3rd edition.  The main changes were put into effect to enhance consistency and clarity.

Specifically, they fixed the inconsistencies for naming processes by changing them all to verb-noun type of names.  The process descriptions were rewritten to be consistent throughout the various chapters of the PMBOK.

PMI also attempted to clarify project phases.  They not only added wording to to distinguish them from project management process groups, but also took the diagram found on p 19 of a single phased project and edited it for a multi-phased project published on p 21.

One criticism I have of the changes is that one of the “clarity” items was a change to the data flow diagrams.  There are now little bullets along the flow lines, and it just looks confusingly cluttered.

Corrective action, preventative action, defect repair and requested changes are now grouped under “change requests”.  This is a welcome change, IMO.

There are some difference in process organization.  Instead of 44, there now are 42.  2 were added, 2 were deleted, and 6 were reorganized into 4.

There is now an Appendix G on People Skills.  You know, the soft skills I’ve been harping on.  And no, I don’t recall being told that this was a change in the PMBOK previously, so I pat myself on the back.

I do have a nit about it, though.  It lists “leadership”, “motivation” and “influencing” as separate skills.  I have a military background, and for me the definition of leadership is the ability to influence others to do thus-and-such.  Furthermore, a leader has to motivate people to pursue the same goals.  Why these are separate is puzzling to me, but maybe I should wait until I get my own copy to pass judgement.

PMI is doing a phased rollout for the exams.  Changes to the PMP exam occur 30 June.  The CAPM changes 31 July.  The rest are 31 August.

PMI takes the stance that the PMBOK is only one source for the exam and for project management in general.  They believe that the change in the exam will not be a jolt to the system.  We will see, of course, as some of you may recall that the last change was somewhat painful.

All in all, I think it might be worth it for those who are not members of PMI to purchase the newer edition sooner rather than later.  However, if you are not a member, you really should reconsider that decision overall.  There are free webinars and other online materials available to members, and members usually get discounts at seminars and other events.

Posted in PM Basics, PMBOK, PMP | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Webinar: PMBOK Guide 4th Edition Changes

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.

Posted in PM Basics, Skills | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »