Saturday, December 29, 2007

Back at it.......

I've decided (not sure why) to build another web site - IT Project Guide - in addition to this blog. One reason is to better structure information (resource links to people, tools, etc.)...www.itprojectguide.org.

More for my own sack of categorizing info then anything else.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

IA


and a link to the author's site: http://semanticstudios.com/publications/
It's always inspiring to see real genius...eye opening and encouraging. I now have a greater appreciation for Information Architecture and a reinforced understanding of what right looks/feels like.

Great List of Internet Marketing Blogs

http://www.techipedia.com/2007/internet-marketing-best-blog-posts/
great job by Tamar Weinberg

Sunday, December 23, 2007

State of MASystems

A short time ago I started a small - sort of - made up project - http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/search/label/MASystems%20Project

To some extent it was to provide an example how I would approach task discovery and management...to some extent to get my Martial Arts site going somewhere (a million dollar idea worth 5 cents). As part of the process I selected Drupal, CakePHP, etc. as the tech platform with some very beneficial results. The benefit?
  • deeper understanding of the open source community
  • GREAT appreciation of Drupal (IT IS POWERFUL!!)
  • GREAT appreciation of CakePHP! (POWERFUL - IBM, etc. are utilizing it)
  • MVC - Model View Control and what it really means
  • LAMP - better appreciation of the #1 platform for the internet
  • Understanding of what the service industry could be - give the product away and provide the service (take all the fish you want, if you want them cleaned and cooked - well, that's $1 an hour)
What did I deliver (still incomplete web site....oh well)
  • LAMP setup on my laptop (Ubuntu, Apache 2, MySQL 5 and PHP 5)
  • Drupal setup on laptop and website (v 5.5)
  • CakePHP setup on laptop and website
  • base sites via Drupal, base test apps via CakePHP
  • Multi-Site setup via Drupal (WOW! this is amazing!)
  • Use of scaffolding in CakePHP (another wow!)
  • Review of MANY Drupal Modules
It's amazing what you could learn when determined and open to new ideas and ways....sometimes when you're under strict time driven deliveries you loose opportunities...the real finding (read but did not fully appreciate Slack via Tom DeMarco)

Next Steps?
  • get more in-depth knowledge of Drupal, CakePHP, etc
  • refine my PM/Task approach
  • look for the next path
  • someday finish up the web site

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back to Excel

Starting a new project, to get out a plan quickly I used MS Project (I really find the entry easy, but the program itself is useless.....why?). MS Project, I find, is easy to use for initial entry and then drags you down with every other step.......when I do try to use it, I spend more time updating/maintaining it then working on the project.....OKAY - enough complaining. I've used other tools, mostly web based, including QuickBooks, etc. (see comparison)...but at the end of the day I'm back to MS Excel (no, not even Google Docs). You don't have the comforting tree view, but the entry, ease of update, ability to add uniqueness at any level and ability to display multi-dimensional data is just plain amazing. I still remember when Lotus 1-2-3 first come out...the simplicity, data depth, etc. was there from the start. I guess in some way this relates back the the prior post about Domain Driven Design - the PM tools are accurate, but wrong....anyone up for a deep PM tool discussion and perhaps development effort?

Domain Driven Design - another must read


Just started into the book and it's GREAT! So far the discussion has been about the need to understand the problem domain (business domain- whatever) and without doing so the results are at best correct but shallow. I still remember an old boss once commenting on a person's report - '100% Accurate but wrong'. The wrong job perfectly implemented - is still wrong.

Friday, December 14, 2007

SimpleDB....

http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html?node=342335011

'Gee son, I remember when there were database servers for each application....we had to walk up hill both ways to get to them....'

Amazon is taking the next logical step in providing DB functionality to it's existing file and computing clouds............simply amazing!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Project Charter

I'm sure all PM's know what a project charter is...right? According to wikipedia it's a'...a statement of the scope, objectives and participants in a project...' - is that correct? Just a statement? Unfortunately in many cases that's just what it is..a statement of intent that is soon forgotten. A charter provides the PM with the authority to 'get the job done' based on the conditions within it....a bit of a different perspective, but one that make the document a lot more meaningful. Once signed, the PM is responsible (yes, the PM is responsible) to fulfill the directives in the charter who's end result is the accomplishment of the given goals/objectives. Be careful what you present and what you agree to......taking responsibility is a lot tougher then agreeing to a statement. This is what the big paycheck is all about. You, the PM, have a responsibility to fulfill and deliver the goals/objectives with the best interest of your clients in mind.....put the Gantt chart down, forget about PMBOK best practices and put your priorities in order...deliver the added value that will ensure project success...and have some fun.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Amazingly Powerful

So - another long night......but I feel that I've found the trail of the Ox. After setting up Ubuntu 7.10 I decided to take on the challenge of LAMP. Initially I was thinking that given the each of the Ubuntu install LAMP would be a single install package...and it is for the Ubuntu Server version, but not the desktop version....and I've come to clearly find out that not all install how to web articles are built the same...at the end of the night (early morning) everything was up and running including Drupal (why not - right?). All I have to say is that the LAMP combo is powerful. A complete OS, Web Server, Database Server and PHP interpreter running on a old desktop....with a CMS tool to kick in....open source proves itself again. A little bumpier then the Ubuntu install....but doable in a night and the potential of anyone wanting a complete web server having one for free is simply amazing and unthinkable not to long ago. I am impressed.....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gutsy Gibbon


Well the Ubuntu Linux distribution is nothing short of amazing. Took all of about 10 minutes to install and connect to the internet. I also installed WINE (Windows environment) and some windows apps (like NuSphere PHPed)........Smooth, solid, clean.....this is what an operating system should be and it's FREE! Beware MS Windows...........

Friday, December 7, 2007

PHP in Action


Great book - the author provides great info on PHP and more importantly objects. He takes a very practical approach to the use of objects in coding...a must read.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Can a Project Manager not be a Subject Matter Expert?

Can a Project Manager NOT understand the underlying 'subject' that she/he is managing? If you ask a typical PM looking for a job or looking for a promotion, etc. the answer is yes...because the PM manages the project not the actual work.....reality is something different though. As hard as some people try to justify a PM's ability to be isolated from knowing the underlying business (very important) or technology - the lack of that understanding adds risk to the project which if looked at would most likely out way the benefit of the PM's role itself. PM_Value = (Reduction_of_Project_Risk *100) + Increased_Project_Effectiveness + Increased_Project_Efficiencies...or something like that. So, if you're a PM that is working in a business you have no understanding of and in a technical environment that you have no grasp of....how would you be able to know what the risks are? which risks are most likely to occur with the highest impact??? Ask people? If you don't know the subject how would you know which people to ask? by asking other people? people who themselves might not know? Doesn't this lead to increased risks?

I've heard over and over that a PM should be measured by how successful the project was managed not how successful the actual project was.......gee......try to explain that one to a high level exec who just lost millions on a project but has a well run project and nice project plan...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Doodlekit! Amazing!


I read an article on TechCrunch regarding DoodleKit.....both of my kids easily set up web sites and continue to add to them (for how much longer....who knows....). It's an amazingly easy to use web site development approach with free hosting...built in tools, etc.......A MUST CHECK OUT SITE!
http://www.doodlekit.com/home

Judah Maccabee - Happy Hanukkah!


Somehow, somewhere, growing up I was told of the story of Hanukkah where Judah Maccabe defeated Assyrians who greatly out numbered him - AFTER- Momma Maccabe fed him and his troops (family) magical potato pancakes........when they cleaned out the Temple and found only enough oil for one day that lasted 8 all the success, etc. was attributed to GOD's define influence......great story - right? I still think it's the real one.......anyway, getting to the point:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Google Apps - next steps

Here's an interesting insight into where Google Apps is going:
http://www.yoursearchadvisor.com/blog/google-apps-presentation-ann-arbor

I've used Google apps for a small martial arts site: http://www.isshinryu-nj.com/
I found it easy to use - AND - free! There are some things I would like to see changed...but that's another story. The interesting item in the above post is the inclusion of project management within the new version.....similar to Microsoft SharePoint
SO - it seems PM is being rolled into the same environment that is being used to develop and deliver web sites.......makes sense to me. Times, they are a changing. Time for PM'ers to understand the trend and take advantage of it - no longer will PM'ing be a side dish and not followed...it's now being incorporated directly into the process....time for the PM vendors out there to develop a Google Social like interface before it's developed for them...a standard interface, rules, roles, etc. (sounds like PMBOK to me...hopefully more usable).

Friday, November 30, 2007

PHP framework - task ID 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 completed


Got the list of Content and supporting functionality completed. When thinking about look/feel - well basically it's what Drupal (selected cms) provides via a selected theme.......anyway, the site is starting to take form http://masystems.org

Sunday, November 25, 2007

CMS - next big step?


Content Management Systems (CMS's) have been around for some time, however solid, stable, common CMS packages are just coming to maturity. It provides another layer to the bare CPU and allows for non-Web people to create sophisticated web sites.....blah blah blah...same old spin - which is interesting in itself. Just as the OS moved people away from the chip/assembly code and a graphical interface with a standard set of office (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.) moved people away from the OS....a CMS is another layer in the system - but an interesting one. It allows for application of content instead of just creation and distribution (office products). A person can now develop a website, with Web 2.0 functionality, eCommerce and easy content update without the need of in depth IT knowledge. IT people can now focus on developing modules and add-ons to CMS's, extending their power and range...something that is in desperate need (Yes - Ms/Mr IT, back to the workhouse for you). From recent reviews, I see 3 mature CMS's: Drupal, Joomla and SharePoint (I'm not a Microsoft fan...but it is a GOOD product).

In working with SharePoint - a neat implementation comes to mind...creating multiple sub-sites, one being the target deliverables the other a site for the project team to use and collaborate with. So, not only is the CMS the delivery, it assists with the delivery..........duh......talk about ensuring high levels of communication and engaging project members. Training on the product as you use it to create the project....add another site for testing, etc.....all within the same CMS environment.....not only is the CMS another layer, it's the main interaction layer - once removed from the OS...the OS takes a back seat and becomes less significant.

PHP framework - task ID 1.3 and 1.4 completed

Task 1.3 - Select an IDE - this was an easy one, I had a copy of NuSphere PhpEd - a very good, easy to use IDE. I tried NVU prior and think it's VERY good for an open source (older) tool. There's also ZEND.....which I found to be on par with NuSphere PhpEd. End of the day, one wasn't significantly better then another and since I had a valid NuSphere PhpEd....it's the one.

Task 1.4 - Objectives: (somewhat defined in the initiation doc: http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=dc8s9cht_2ddw964&hl=en)
  • Stay employable by staying in touch with current web technologies (upgrade my knowledge)
  • Understand NEW web site creation approaches
  • Better grasp of PHP - especially OO
  • Understand strengths/weaknesses of various frameworks
  • Understand CMS's

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ed Yourdon's Web 2.0 presentation

I really dislike PowerPoint and presentation types of things.....but Ed Yourdon has put to much info into this one to ignore:
http://docs.google.com/TeamPresent?fs=true&docid=dd2trp3s_0tj8txc&pli=1

Hope you have time - lots of info and links.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

PHP framework - task ID 1.25 completed




Okay - so I did a lot of research into which CMS would work best with CakePHP and of the top two candidates, Drupal and Joomla, I've selected Drupal. I've actually worked a bit with both prior and even through I found Joomla easier to work with, Drupal seems to have better overall support and has a module for CakePHP (Drake). Joomla's CakePHP module, Jake, is available, but the seems to be less overall support, usage and updates for it......another one of those decisions. Here's an updated lessons learned: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=puDAkq4iYr86K6H-OlMlAAw and project plan: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=puDAkq4iYr846G03FVMT7bg
for those interested.

Monday, November 19, 2007

PHP framework - task ID 1.25 delivery - silly me


Part of the functionality I wanted for the MASystems.org web site was a CMS (content management system) - that would allow easy updates to plan content, etc. I forgot to include in the requirements, base plan and decision process of selecting the php framework. When I realized it, I had to determine if there was a CMS that worked with the framework (Cakephp) and how it would work. Luckily, there are smarter people out there then me and there are CMS's associated with the various frameworks (Seagull has it built in). After realizing my mistake, I updated the plan, lessons learned and will need to create another doc for the CMS selection process. I also decided that I wanted to install the CMS sooner then later in order to have a site where I can clearly document my progress, notes, etc.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

PHP framework - task ID 1.2 delivery

PHP framework - task ID 1.2 delivery

approach and learnings
It seems that there are a handful of standard php frameworks, but for the most part each php web site/application 'appears' to develop their own (either from scratch or using an open source framework and building from that). The php frameworks available range from base templates/common code to full fledged systems based on common development theories and practices, such as:
MCV - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_View_Controller
scaffolding - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaffold_%28programming%29
URL mapping - mapping specific pages to a directory
security - build in security modules
etc.

Here are some usefull links regarding php frameworks:

All the frameworks appear to be open source, some ask for donations and one (Zend) is tied to a commercial IDE.

Most of the php framework comparison work was already done here:http://www.phpit.net/article/ten-different-php-frameworks/
In addition to the comparison and reviews, I would add:
  • recent'cy - how recent has the project been updated - some open source projects go stale - no updates and the people supporting move on to another open source project
  • use by others - the proof is in the pudding (as someone said once) - check the sites developed with the frameworks and see if they are in line with what is needed
  • documentation/examples - make sure it's there and is useful
  • forums - check how recent they have been used and who from the framework team is supporting them (is it a team of one?)
  • directly tied to a IDE - even though it would be nice to have a built-in or easy to integrate IDE....I'd prefer not to have the framework tied to a commercial IDE (Zend), since I don't want to pay for anything (free is good)

Selection
After reviewing the various articles I could find regarding frameworks, how other large applications approached this choice (seems most selected to build their own - possibly based on an existing one), reviewing the web sites developed by the frame works, etc. - I narrowed the selection to 2:
CakePHP - seems to be more widely used (even IBM is using it)
SeaGull - the admin support is very CMS like....

When it comes down to it, it's a base perception call. I'm sure out of the top 5 (add Symphony, ZEND and Prado) - all would work well...what moved me to Seagull and CakePHP were their sites, the sites developed by the products and the reviews. Right now I'm perceiving CakePHP to be the best for me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

MASystems Project - tasks 1.1 delivery

PHP OO - task ID 1.1 delivery
(link to doc: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc8s9cht_7c5c7n8)

approach and learnings
I started by searching the web for php object oriented (oo) articles, tutorials, etc. and found some good ones at phpfreaks.com. Years ago I developed in C and C++, so I had some familiarity with oo. I've also used activex controls and other 'like' coding practices when developing in VB. Below are some links to tutorials and books I've read. Interesting aspects of php oo:
  • you can access non-instantiated classes and use them as a repository of variables, constants and general functions
  • _call within a object allows you to capture method calls that do not exist and utilize the method name and passed arguments to call a valid method (logic to control logic? useful for revising classes and supporting prior versions used??)
  • inheritance is supported as well as all oo paradigms are supported (as far as I know)
Overall, I think at this point I have a good understanding of php oo and have a series of reference links and books for use during development.

links
http://us3.php.net/zend-engine-2.php
http://www.phpfreaks.com/tutorial_cat/19/Object-Oriented-Programming.php


books
PHP in Action: Objects, Design, Agility
Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly))
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Addison-Wesley Professional Computing Series)
Anti-Patterns and Patterns in Software Configuration Management

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beautiful Code - must read

Here's a must read book - I just finished the first chapter (very short) and I'm hooked. The book is a series of 'articles' by top programmers on how they approached specific coding problems and solved in an beautiful manner. If you're a hardcore programmer and really appreciate good/simple/eloquent solutions - this 'seems' to be the book for you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

MASystems Project - Step 5 - The initial plan




Putting the MASystem.org plan together....















Here's a link to the MASystems.org plan: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=puDAkq4iYr846G03FVMT7bg

The attributes were based on the prior article on 'Back to Basics - Project Tasks': http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/09/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-1.html

And the initial tasks list for this project:
http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/11/blog-post.html

As you can see I took the meaningful attributes - based on overall complexity, risk levels, etc. - for the most part the majority of the attributes. In addition I also added some additional tasks - every review you will find that you are modifying the list - adding more detail, uncovered work areas, etc.

Looks like an interesting project and a well-paced plan.....plan the work and work the plan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MASystems Project - Step 4 - Lessons Learned

It's never to early to start recording lessons from a project - there are many side benefits to a projects, a very important one is learning from it. http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=puDAkq4iYr86K6H-OlMlAAw

MASystems Project - Step 3 - initial risk assessment

Here's a link to the initial risk assessment......http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=puDAkq4iYr85PEa72lExnVw

Monday, November 12, 2007

MASystems Project - Step 2 - MASystems Initial pass at creating the tasks list

(click on image for full view)

via Google Docs: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc8s9cht_5d79wm4

MASystems Project - Step 1: develop the project idea

This is the first step in a new openly shared project - MASystems.Org. I will follow the standard PMBOK approach of Initiation, Planning, Execution/Control and then Close Out (even though I'm an avid Agile PM person - the base 5 steps are the same). Here's the Project Initiation:

Project: MASystems.Org - Learning how to develop a modern PHP web site.

Idea

Learn PHP5/MySQL through the development of a Martial Arts web site. The focus is on utilizing open source tools, object oriented development and leading edge development practices. The Martial Arts web site itself is of interest to me and something I have a level of knowledge about (SME), so the content and resulting web site should not get in the way of the focus point - Gaining a better understanding of modern open source web site development practices.

Value
The value is derived by my ability to maintain and advance my career as a IT Project Manager for the next (gulp) 20+ years.......

Approach
  • utilize open source development tools (don't pay for anything)
  • use OO programming approaches
  • understand how 'leading edge' developers work (frameworks, etc.)
  • Refresh myself on PHP/MySQL
  • understand how OO is implemented in the latest PHP (v5)
  • understand the various frameworks, template, etc. approaches to development
  • incorporate Agile approaches such as Test Driven Development (TDD), simplicity (KISS) and Refactoring

Assumptions/Constraints
  • Use the existing MASystems.org url/hosting (via GoDaddy) - which is currently being used to test various CMS systems (Joomla being the most recent)
  • Keep the initial delivery to defining the various martial arts systems, styles, existing martial arts web sites, and martial arts personalities (keep it simple)
  • additional phases should include ability for users to add to all aspects of the site and provide commentary
  • Use this as a learning experience, but keep the coding as minimal as possible (reason for use of a framework/template)
  • User Google Docs to document project, progress, etc.
  • Openly and honestly communicate......
    This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man. - Shakespeare
Google Docs: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc8s9cht_2ddw964

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Economics of Information Technology: An Introduction


The Economics of Information Technology: An Introduction By Hal R. Varian, Joseph Farrell, Carl Shapiro
summary available through Google's Book Search - interesting points:
  • constant fixed costs and zero marginal costs (the first product costs the $ and each incremental delivery is near $0) - example given that a chip fabrication plant costs about $7 Billion to setup, etc. but each incremental chip only costs a few dollars.
  • every now and then a technology emerges where the components can be reconfigured to create new/various products - once standardization sets in (prior examples of standardizing gears, pulleys, electrical current (AC/DC), etc. - a 'recombination' effect.....internet boom was mostly about networking - TCP/IP........
  • the 'recombination' effect for the internet occurred much faster then prior technology revolutions - '...the internet revolution is minor compared to other technology revolutions of the past....'......maybe...or are we just at the beginning and what we have are limited amateur recombinations.....
  • open source allows for greater advancements because it provides a quick and low cost view of what works and how things are constructed (the amazing point that countless people from around the world openly work to create great systems such as Linux, PHP, etc.....the barriers of cooperative competition have disappeared).
  • 'market of one' - highly specialized products can be developed and sold to individuals at personalized pricing.....HW/SW configurations based on needs and available funding. Mass marketing is going away because we can learn what individuals want and can provide product and an acceptable cost
This along with Creative Destruction........is a lot to think about.......

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Proud of my Country!


I've always been very proud of my Country and have always felt that we - the US - needs to hold to the highest standards. WE should not become that which we hate. Why is any form of torture even being discussed to it's legitimacy? (clip from the Wall Street Journal) The only response is that the US does not permit torture of anyone! Interesting article from Politico (not sure which way they lean, but the article is good): Roosevelt was right: Waterboarding wrong

I would apologize for putting political stuff in a PM blog...but I won't.

Back to the basics - Project Tasks part 4.0: Let the games begin

link to 3.1 http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/10/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-31.html
Now you have a good pass at the list of tasks and details behind them. Most importantly you got to meet the team face-to-face (hopefully) during the task gathering and definition process. You should have picked up various clues, such as:
  • importance of each deliverable and the assoc. tasks
  • maturity level of all involved (not talking nose-picking here talking dedication, how they handle issues/risks, etc.)
  • what the developers consider the 'difficult' areas (you know, when you mention a task and they laugh and sweat at the same time)
  • potential other groups that need to be involved
  • past projects and issues (yes - the good ole' war stories) - history repeats itself
These cues should give you an idea of what project areas will need special 'attention', where the high-impact-potential risks are, who you need to schmooze, etc.

Once you string out the tasks, you'll most likely realize that they time-frame/costs exceed the sponsors expectations.....gee, that's a surprise. Don't worry, this always happens. After you look over your shoulder to see who else has noticed and take a deep breath, it's time to get to work. There's no 'formal' approach to right-fitting a plan, but the steps are consistent from project to project:
  1. recheck your work - chances are this won't get you much
  2. identify the tasks that are the most critical, will take the most effort and provide the most benefit to the sponsor...you'll usually end up with about 20% of the project
  3. make sure those tasks are well defined, if you have a background in the business and/or technology review them and see if the effort is in line with the task..sometimes it's a miss understanding of what is being asked...just sometimes
  4. think through some options...but keep them to yourself
  5. inform the sponsors that there are time line issues that you're working on - they'll expect that (those IT people always require more time then what is needed..........)
  6. gather the worker-bees back together and discuss the high level objectives of the project again, let them know the time line/effort (aka cost) exceeds expectations - wait for the moans - reinforce that the est. have to be real, so they don't just reduce them to get the go-ahead with the knowledge that later the time line will change.....
  7. come up with REAL options OR decide that the effort provided is the real effort to get the job done
  8. go back to the sponsor and see if they're willing to move time lines - add costs - reduce scope, etc. (PM 101)
Repeat steps 6-8 as often as needed. The most important aspect of this stage of the game is to keep the information and communication real. Don't just take a reduction in time/effort without HOW it will be done (or later you'll pay the price most PM's do). Don't take that ALL deliverables are essential - if they were then the sponsor would be willing to pay what ever it takes to get them done. Most importantly don't take your eye off those areas being contested the most...this is where the risk is the greatest.......Try to keep the sponsors away from the developers during the 'gaming' phase so they don't influence each other...keep the focus on the issues not the personalities. Once you're near the end of the gaming...get everyone together for a final pass prior to the execution phase. Have a project walk through...identify any missing tasks, keep on eye on reactions to make sure you haven't missed any critical deliverables/tasks or risk areas. Make sure to do it over lunch.....food makes people happy and gives them something to do while you're talking.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Joomla!

Open Source does work! This is an amazing CMS tool, created via an open source community and freely available. The base system is solid and there are MANY add on features. I took the usual route of installing and hacking to get it to work (I hate reading documentation) and had little issue setting up a base system, messing it up a bit and then having it work the way I want: http://masystems.org/

Here's some links:
Joomla!
info via WikiPedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joomla
OpenSourceMatters (base group?)

If you're developing a website I would strongly recommend using Joomla - solid, easy to setup, easy to update, etc. Dev tools are meant for functionality - CMS for website management...keep them separate an use Joomla! for your cms!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Smartsheet.com...an interesting approach


My investigation into Amazon's S3 lead me to Smartsheet.com - the site seems to utilize S3 for it's data storage. Smartsheet.com provides an excel/spreadsheet interface (similar to Google Docs) that can be shared and contains certain functionality to send out email alerts....so, it's the primary PM's tool with added features and an easy approach to sharing, etc. At first I wasn't impressed, then I realized that Smartsheet.com is giving PM's what they use 90% of the time instead of forcing a PM to work in a predefined/standard tool such as MS Project, BaseCamp, QuickBase, etc. ENLIGHTENMENT! Genius! A simple, easy to use tool....a better hammer! Something that will provide quick and consistent benefit! No fancy mousetrap here.....

For those of you interested in a simple PM tool, that users will find very intuitive, a quick learning curve, etc. - I would suggest looking into Smartsheet.com.

Amazon S3 - amazing


I've been looking into Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is AMAZING...at least very interesting. Basically, Amazon is providing access to the same storage solution they use for their IT infrastructure. Your access is unlimited, you are charged by use and storage (minimal charge). Amazon provides base API's to this infrastructure that would make direct access limited - fortunately there are many third party products out there either utilizing it for their own use (SmugMug, File123 and DigitalBucket) or provide a simple user interface for you (JungleDisk). Here's a good overview of it via WikiPedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_S3
Out of all the third party tools I've looked into, two stand out:
  • File123 - utilizes Amazon S3 for storing users data, provides one of the best Internet storage interfaces and is simply a clean easy to use system. Included is a tool to add a 'network drive' like interface, so in addition to the web interface, you can browse your File123 files just as you would a network connected drive.......impressive.
  • JungleDisk - while JungleDisk does not have a clean web interface, the accessibility is the smoothest and you create and manage your own Amazon S3 account - so - potentially you can change from JungleDisk to another interface (even though JungleDisk does certain things that would make another tool difficult to use). Jungle disk sets up your J drive or provides a volume for Apple/Mac users, so once again you access via a network drive like interface. The nice part is that JungleDisk is a flat $20 and you pay Amazon directly for use/storage. (possibilities here).
I tried some other tools, such as Digital Bucket, but found issues with use or system generated errors. DigitialBucket's nice feature is it's ability to share files with others...something File123 or JungleDisk should incorporate (and might be soon).

Soon the days of needing a large internal disk or buying external ones (that fail) will be gone, Internet based storage is here.....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Back to the basics - Project Tasks part 3.1: How? Gathering the Details

link to part 3.0: http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/10/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-30.html

Ok, so now you have your first (perhaps) second pass at gathering your task list (part 3.0) - now it's time to dig into the details of each task. Part 1 of this series provided the attributes to be collected (http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/09/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-1.html)

Prior to meeting with anyone, take a first pass at defining each task's description, this provides the scope of what each task IS, it should contain as specific information as possible WITHOUT adding to much detail as to confuse the delivery (if you're adding a lot in the description chances are you're identifying that the task is actually two or more tasks and need to be separated out). In addition to the description make sure to provide the deliverable - a fuzzy deliverable description provides for fuzzy deliveries.

The most important step in this part of the process is getting the involved people - INVOLVED. Without the people involved in doing the actual work, at best, you'll take a wild guess at effort, missing tasks, etc. Make sure to listen more then anything else - good people will provide good information and identifying the potential resource issues now will GREATLY REDUCE overall project risks (it's all about the people). Get their input to the tasks, are there any missing ones? Get their input on effort AND duration (know the difference and ensure you understand which one they are talking about). Prod them to understand what needs to be done prior to the given task - do you have any missing tasks (the number two high risk to any project is unidentified work/tasks).

The end result of this process is the gather of more detailed information for each task, identification of any prior unidentified tasks and MORE IMPORTANTLY:
  • understanding of the people involved in the project
  • their buy in to the project (if people provide the info, the potential of them delivering is much higher)
  • a true time line (you have a starting date, predecessors and durations - string them out and you see the complete time line - pass 1)
  • if you listened you'll also have a good set of risks that need to be mitigated
Congratulation's - the easy part is mostly over - you know have a base set of tasks for your project, now it's only a matter of getting the time line to fit into the sponsor's expectations, taking a few more passes to better define and just getting the work done...........

Monday, October 22, 2007

QuickBase - 1 year later

  • I've been using QuickBase for about a year now AND I'm still happy with it. Is it the prettiest, easiest to use, stylish PM tool out there?? No. But it provides the basics and the flexibility that make it a very good tool. I was able to take their base PM application template and add release management, risk management, change control, root cause analysis and client specific fields easily. Intuit hosts (ASP) the tool and outside of a few outages (2 hours out of a year) - it's been steady and recoverable. There are groups dedicated to helping with coding advice, etc. For the more adventourous you could connect to QuickBase via open API calls - pulling/pushing data from databases, emails, etc. Some of the weak points include:
  • building multi-level task lists
  • create task dependencies
  • 'prettying' up reports, print outs
Overall great tool, very flexible and very stable.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to the basics - Project Tasks part 3.0: How? Identifying Tasks

link to part 2: http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/09/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-2-why.html

It's a target rich environment out there. Once you have your project charter and scope (to be discussed elsewhere), one of the next steps, and one most associated with project management, is creating your plan. There are various methods/approaches for this:
YES - I know the above list is not all specific to task identification, but the list is about methodologies that at least discuss task identification.....I think the two approaches most used are working with a group to identify tasks for a project and working alone.....and then hopefully getting input and feedback on the tasks identified. The method I've found most effective in capturing tasks is brainstorming (in a group or alone) and building a WBS (work breakdown structure) on a white board. (You can use some mind mapping tools - http://www.nova-mind.com/ is my favorite), but don't let the tool get in the way of the process. WBS, User Stories, etc. - it's all about the results - identifying as best as you can the tasks required to complete a project. Things to consider during the process:
  • don't get pulled into the details - not yet - keep it high level for at least the first pass
  • base the size of the task (duration/effort required) on the risk level assoc. with each, group culture, etc. This requires a high level of intuition which over time will improve. I've always used 2 week increments as a base - get the tasks to a level that will take about 2 weeks to complete each one - this is based on a 6+ month project duration. My feeling is that 2 weeks can be recovered if worst case the task does not completed at all and it's big enough to track (tracking to many tasks is as bad as tracking no tasks).
  • make sure everyone has at least a high level agreement to what the task is, use common terminology and use short/sweet/simple task names to identify them
  • make sure each task is associated with a hard deliverable - something like 'think about the design' without a deliverable has no meaning or value and will not really happen
  • think about, but not to deeply, the people performing the tasks.....don't get pulled into the details
  • make sure you have logistical tasks identified - not ordering servers, workstations, hiring people, etc. will drive the project in the direction of failure as quickly as any other missed task.
  • DON'T get caught up in the tools yet, not the project tools, development tools, testing tools...don't let preconceived 'notions' restrict this thinking process - if you never put yourself in a box you'll never have to think outside of one
  • time box the task identification process - you'll never identify them all and, like taking a test, the more you go back the more mistakes and less overall value will be added. Make the task identification process an iterative one, revisited throughout the project.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Capitalism - a new approach for IT


Most corporate environments today utilize the CIO role to oversee the IT infrastructure, provide IT resources for selected projects, guide them through current IT trends that could improve productivity and cut costs. Some CIO's see themselves as helping reshape base business models through use of IT approaches. In reality, in many corporations, CIO's perform a role similar to the Soviet's central planning committee role - determining what products to produce, in what quantity and fitting business requirements within those given products. The results are basically the same, potential business improvements through technology are limited or crippled, business managers are often fearful of CIO/IT involvement, potential gains are limited by centralized CIO/IT provided products. I'm not trying to associate CIO's with Stalin....but if the iron boot fits......Now what would happen if the 'wall came down' and IT needs were handled in more of a capitalist approach? Where business managers could obtain IT products (software, hardware, support, etc.) as they see fit and where a centralized CIO/IT group is more about setting standards and providing guidance? Each business manager has a given budget and they should be able to spend as they see fit as long as they can operate with in the given IT standards...they can purchase software from any vendor, prioritize their work load based on their needs and not centralized needs or constraints, etc. Various business managers could 'cooperate' by combing funds to gain better results, etc. The CIO/IT group could audit approaches and plans to ensure security, standard protocols, etc. are followed. Free market practices for internal business managers/teams? Yes! I think we would see some of the same results as we do in today's market place:
  • increased productivity
  • forced ownership and responsibility
  • results focused reviews
  • reduced costs based on market adjustments and competitive incentives
  • quicker and more flexible IT implementations
  • quality based on business needs
Maybe this is a simplistic approach or thought...or maybe it's why small startups are many times more productive then larger corporate environments (the CIO in a startup is usually just a title that someone gets strapped with to provided the required figure heads to investors).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World - Alan Greenspan


A Great Read! It's always fascinating (at least to me) when I read about how REAL decisions are made. For instance Paul Volcker taking the economy into a recession in order to control inflation - which (according to Greenspan) was the right choice, otherwise any other move would have been a short term correction and long term downturn. Great men make difficult important decisions based on long term gains regardless of short term impacts and have enough 'guts' (could use other words here) to stay the course. People who can see what needs to be done based on information at hand and understanding of impacts (everything is connected somehow) are truly amazing. This is a great reading book and full of information on how the government works and how past presidents behaved (President Ford being noted as the most normal of them all....)


Craig Newmark is the BEST!

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/here-are-the-answers-to-your-craigslist-questions/

Saturday, October 6, 2007

for $10.....


Result: website and analytics engine with images, slideshows, movies, books for sale
Cost: $10 (for the domain name)
Evidence: http://www.isshinryu-nj.com/ or http://isshinryu-nj.com/ for the group start page.

Using Google Apps, Google Analytics, Flickr, Amazon and Youtube in 5 hours I was able to put together a relatively decent looking point-of-presence website with some items (books) for sale where I receive a commission. In addition I can add up to 200 users, share calendars, various types of documents, etc.......First thought across my mind was - big deal....BIG DEAL?? A few years ago, putting a website together with the above could well have cost a lot more money (the $10 again was to register the domain name for a year)....and for a decent looking site A LOT MORE MONEY! Yes - web development is indeed a commodity, like toasters, PC's and opinions - everyone will have one for nearly free. Those who depend on simple to moderate website development better find a new trade. Website and basic business system (docs management and scheduling) for $10...??? WOW!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's all there waiting to be heard


Wondering where you can get an education on XP, Agile, etc.? Would you like to know what the top people in the IT field are saying? It's all there, everyday, just waiting.......websites, user groups, blogs.....here's some links:




It's there, mostly for free.......if you truly consider yourself a member of the IT community it's time to belly up to the bar and take a sip

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

WhoDo?


http://whodo.es/sessions
I think this PM tool site is still cooking. The interface, approach and language were all confusing. The inclusion of help messages just added to my confusion. I realize I'm simple....and maybe the tool could be to complicated for me.......but I am able to sharpen pencils and find pizza places so maybe - just maybe - it's not all me. To many screens to flip through, adding tasks to milestones...??? minimal data to enter, less being displayed and no apparent organization throughout the site. Overall score F. (Even though I sort of like managing project through milestones).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Back to the basics - Project Tasks part 2: WHY?

(link to part 1: http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/09/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-1.html)


WHY? Why do we put effort (aka cost) into task management? Because our boss tells us to? PMBOK demands it? What else would a PM do? I think the reason is to reduce risk to the overall project AND if the effort in managing the task(s) is not equaled or exceeded by the benefit (reduced risk) then they should not be tracked. An example of this is managing tasks around putting computers on everyday so programmers can do their work...seems pretty meaningless to track this - right? (hopefully all agree) - HOW MANY TASKS of similar nature do we actually have in our plans? What if our team, by nature, tests code to a point where it's a very high level of quality prior to reaching QA - ALL THE TIME. Do we need to enter a task for unit testing? The time to enter, update, time to discuss with developers, etc. could be substantial (a 3 month project with bi-weekly project meeting where 15 minutes is spent on this for 5 people adds up to about $3,000) for a task with no real benefit.

So, my answer to WHY is simple: To reduce risk. Task management:
  • ensures understanding of deliverable scope and benefit
  • understanding of effort/resources to deliver
  • helps in tracking and communicating delivery timeline
  • uncovers predecessors that may not have been identified prior
  • allocates people
Task management reduces risk (reduces cost) - delivery/completion of the task delivers value - different sides of the track.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ubuntu - new Beta


http://www.ubuntu.com/testing/gutsybeta
I am totally sold on Ubuntu, great operating system, great approach (open source), solid product overall!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back to the basics - Project Tasks part 1: WHAT


(click for full view)
Let's take a step back to the basics - what is a project task. From Webster.com: 1 a: a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time b: something hard or unpleasant that has to be done

National Direction - ?

What are we doing and where is our leadership?


http://icasualties.org/oif/WndByState.aspx



StateWoundedDeathsTotal
ALABAMA46564529
ALASKA10315118
AMERICAN SAMOA37643
ARIZONA62088708
ARKANSAS42352475
CALIFORNIA29194043323
COLORADO45752509
CONNECTICUT22228250
DELAWARE431356
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA20323
FLORIDA12641571421
GEORGIA813116929
GUAM21627
HAWAII12020140
IDAHO26029289
ILLINOIS10341351169
INDIANA58781668
IOWA31445359
KANSAS36042402
KENTUCKY43063493
LOUISIANA55076626
MAINE19420214
MARYLAND 38970459
MASSACHUSETTS 45063513
MICHIGAN 9061441050
MINNESOTA 48356539
MISSISSIPPI 25045295
MISSOURI 65168719
MONTANA 21021231
NEBRASKA 21943262
NEVADA17232204
NEW HAMPSHIRE17119190
NEW JERSEY41967486
NEW MEXICO25431285
NEW YORK13121641476
NORTH CAROLINA72490814
NORTH DAKOTA831497
NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS257
OHIO11471611308
OKLAHOMA 46161522
OREGON 44964513
PENNSYLVANIA 11811751356
PUERTO RICO 18032212
RHODE ISLAND 10011111
SOUTH CAROLINA 35649405
SOUTH DAKOTA 11317130
TENNESSEE 53482616
TEXAS26593503009
UTAH22421245
VERMONT9218110
VIRGIN ISLANDS9615
VIRGINIA641106747
WASHINGTON82578903
WEST VIRGINIA19020210
WISCONSIN52976605
WYOMING9311104

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