Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My view on Risk

(click to enlarge)
All risks are conceived at the start of a project, you will never identify them all and the majority will not occur - but the more effort you put into managing risk the greater probability of project success.......is this a true statement?
  • Does a project with an effective risk management process in place have any more or less risks then a project without? no.....
  • Does the cost assoc. with risk management provide for greater project value? no.....(it may reduce project cost OR identify what the project costs will be)
So - risk management does not reduce risks or increase benefit - it reduces costs (potentially) - so to have an effective risk management process, one needs to understand the cost of that process and ensure it does not exceed the potential costs of the risks being mitigated.
Effective Risk Management is when:
(risk management costs) + (mitigation plan costs) + (costs of risks that have impacted) < (costs that would have impacted without risk management and mitigation plan costs)....I think

Monday, May 28, 2007


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Project Management Social Networking??

Social Networking for the masses!
Very interesting! A social network for each project? Each Company? What level of chaos will occur? What will top management think? If there could be a hierarchy of social networks - so you can travel from one to the other as they're related (Mind Mapped Social network visualization??)!

In reading TechCrunch.com - I ran across Social Networking sites that you can setup for yourself (watch out MySpace.com). I ended up using Ning.com - and developed this site: http://itprojectmanagement.ning.com/

It's a brave new world out there!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What is project scope

Project Scope - if it's true that a project succeeds or fails at the start/inception - then one of the prime factors in that is the project scope. Many projects begin without a well defined scope and often varying definitions of it depending on who you ask. SO - to increase the likelihood of success - take the extra time to properly define the scope and communicate it out well. Thinking through it - a project scope should consist of (notice the mind map above...):
  • Deliverables
  • Boundaries
  • Impacts
  • Costs
  • Success Factors
Drilling down on deliverables a bit (as an example) - sub items to deliverables should include:
  • product list (HW, SW, delivery mechanism)
  • in/out list
  • quality level (no one expects perfection - state what the realistic goal is in some meaningful language)
  • training
  • artifacts - aka documentation
(you can click on the above mind map for more detail)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Project Manager Responsibilities

After reading 'The True Role of a PM on Agile Projects' from Mike Griffiths - I started to think about what a PM does (at least from my experience) and (of course) put a mind map together (above) - first draft. If you click on it, you'll see the detail. I'm sure I'm missing about 25% of the activities - and it's focused on software development (most of it could be applied in other efforts...). So, where I am a very big proponent of Agile, I have some doubt about the limited list provided in the article.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Being honest about what's to come........

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph - Thomas Paine

Perhaps, prior to putting a plan together to solve a major problem, we first need to address the emotional stress that it has caused and what the emotional road ahead will look like. Compared to walking around bare footed, leaving a trail of blood - working a few extra hours and eating a few less bagels isn't that bad. I'm pretty sure that the 'love and thanks of man and woman' isn't waiting, but the thanks of our clients and sponsors is. Most projects are not dealing with glorious causes, but the tougher the road, the more the knowledge gained and confidence built.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Impressed then ever - ConceptDraw

I was using NovaMind - but now I think I'm ready to switch to ConceptDraw - http://conceptdraw.com/en/. It took about 2 minutes to get use to it (once I was able to install it - all my own fault). The first thing I attempted was a mind map looking web site: ITProjectGuide.com. Right now I'm hooked on Mind Mapping and have been using it for proposals, approach documents, discussions, etc...and it really helps think through the ideas and expose gaps, etc. NovaMind was good - ConceptDraw is GREAT! I'm looking to get a demo of their Web Wave to test out the ability to design and layout websites. I think this company really got it right. There's other tools such as project planning, etc. As I try them out, I'll provide reviews. But for ConceptDraw MindMap - all I have to say it WOW!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

George Marshall

George Marhsall "organizer of victory" by Winston Churchill......I'm pretty sure I've written about George Marshall prior. When I think of planning, organizing, realizing scope of issue and understanding of ALL moving parts - I think of good ole' George. Where US Grant took warfare to the next level in understanding how multiple theaters of operation interact, coordination in a era of primitive communication, etc. - GEORGE took it to the next level in understanding economics, social implications, post-war impacts of war time industrial changes, etc. and coordination and planning in an era of primitive planning. Super Organizer? Master Project Manager? Yes. Fearless in his pursuit YES - facing Hitler, Stalin, Tojo is a bit different level then most of us have to face on a daily basis.

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Marshall)
As Chief of Staff, Marshall oversaw the largest military expansion in U. S. history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly equipped army of 200,000 men and, partly drawing from his experience teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, coordinated the large-scale expansion and modernization of the U. S. army into a force of over eight million soldiers by 1942 (a fortyfold increase within three years).

In about 2 years from 200,000 to 8,000,000 with modern equipment (industrial changes), financial backing (economic), backing of the people (cultural) and professional (training) - WOW! and we complain about a 3 month 3 person project and all the obstacles we have to overcome.

What was his approach? what made him successful? If we (ME) can answer that...then....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Evolutionary development of Project Management

At a recent conference, Capers Jones mentioned that IT in general is at a stage where doctors were in the late 1800's. - basically, IT (us) are killing more patients then saving and perhaps the patients would be better off without us.....mmmmmm. Is it true that IT's current evolutionary stage is at such an immature level? According to the Standish Group report, we are and with little progress being made in "saving the patient". Is the development pace so fast and the technology so 'bleeding edge', or the effort to create a website/program so difficult to cause such as level of failure? I don't see it. I see a lot of the same types of technology being implemented by various groups looking for the next great 'killer app'. So what is the issue then? and if we did improve our success rate would it really provide a clear business benefit? (some successful deliveries are still business failures). Just some thoughts to ponder.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Overall I have to give QuickBase a thumbs up! I've been using it on various projects for about 4 months now and it's provided the stability and flexibility needed to manage multiple clients and multiple processes. Developed in Ruby on Rails (as far as I know) and web based might cause some caution - but in many categories it overpowers MS Project. Quickbase is basically an application framework, with many base application templates - project management being one of them (there are various versions of it). You can establish you PM application anyway you want - adding/removing tables and fields as needed. The PM Application I currently have has the following structure:
Project - the overall project view (you can has as many active as you want)
Project Definition - what the project is about
Deliverables - what is being delivered
Tasks - the basics
Risks - the rivers you have to cross
Change Requests - what are they and what are the impacts
Issues - we all have them
Documents - those pesky things that are needed

You can setup/establish whatever project, task, risk, change request and issue life cycle you would like and add what ever fields you think appropriate. MAKE SURE you know what you want prior to adding - don't get caught in adding fields, etc. without having a good road map.

  • Easy to use
  • Very customizable
  • Many levels of email notification
  • Web 2.0'ish (supports high group interactions)
  • Security/User Roles
  • Base project templates to work from
  • Good (not great) support
  • MS Project interface - unless you positively have to - DO NOT IMPORT MS PROJECTS (they say they support them, but untangling what gets imported is more work then re-entering)
  • Time lines (Gantt Charts) a bit weak
  • Task Grouping - not native (no indenting like MS Project) - I created a Task Area and then Tasks to provide a sub task layer......could be much improved upon
I'll provide an update in a few months.....I realize there are many products out there like this, reviewing a few (demos) - I think QuickBase is overall the best for my needs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Leave your comfort zone

Comfortable with Windows? Thinking about Vista? Trying to forget about all the issues with prior Windows versions? How about Linux - or more specifically Ubuntu? I currently use Windows XP at work, Apple OS and Ubuntu at home - and I have to say Ubuntu/Linux is REALLY impressive. Comes with OpenOffice a complete MS Office replacement and many other applications (including MindMapping, which you would need to install on your own - FreeMind). Just wanted to post this (I think I mentioned it prior) because a new version has been released recently and it's receiving fantastic reviews.

Root Cause Analysis

Dogs bark, babies cry, system crash....what are you going to do?? Root Cause Analysis (RCA) of course! There are many good reasons for RCA:
  • quality improvement
  • future risk mitigation strategies
some bad reasons:
  • blame (the name of the game is....blame)
  • CYA
  • planned litigation (why get to this point?)
and some required ones:
  • contractual
  • regulations
  • you're an RCA specialist
Prior to starting your RCA - I would recommend:
  • understand the goals of the RCA (and make sure everyone agrees)
  • set the limits of the review: time, cost, etc. - this should be based on the benefit of performing a RCA. If the problem caused $10 of damage and little likelihood of occurring again and the RCA is $1,000....I would think twice prior to proceeding (unless of course - you don't have a choice)
  • set expectations about the RCA: you will return with actionable items, no-blame - just quality improvement, time to report back, etc.
  • set limits of the RCA - I'm sure we can all trace any issue back to societal causes (do you blame the removal of the caveman dance for all problems you encounter??)
  • develop a standard reporting format - preferably a web based RCA so people could share and learn (hey - look Larry stubbed his toe the other day - we should learn from that)
Here's some more 'in-depth' RCA info (WikiPedia of course):

Monday, May 7, 2007

Mind Mapping - Nova Mind

As you can tell (prior posts) - I've jumped into mind mapping via a tool. Prior I used crayons and paper. I've been using Nova Mind - I picked this one based on a conference presentation from Ed Yourdon (who uses it) and I have to say - I AM IMPRESSED! It's not perfect (using on Windows XP), but the value that I've received from it is incredible. I've used it for work and school (going for my Masters at Steven's Tech) and just to think through things (the prior blog on My Project Approach - first draft). For what it's worth - I highly recommend giving it a try.

My Project Management - first draft - via Mind Mapping

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mind Mapping

I've been playing around with mind mapping for about a year now - at first I was treating it similar to hierarchy charts, but the more I've read and previewed other mind maps - the more I started to 'open up' my use and gain additional benefit. Mind mapping is credited to Tony Buzan - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Buzan. I've tried using a few different software mind mapping tools and even Visio, but up until finding NovaMind found them to be more prohibitive then helpful - and for the most part used the ole' paper/pen routine. So far I've used it to describe components in a project, Project Management Traditional (I know - should be Agile) life cycle and Metrics capture. I've been reading how to apply to managing an actual project...but I'm not there yet. Mind mapping for mapping ideas makes sense to me - and has helped me dramatically - mind mapping for a structured process..?? I think it's using a light bulb to hammer a nail in, I could see why a software company would want to try it ($) - and it's potentially an interesting approach, but personally I don't think it's a good fit. For coming up with project ideas, project gaps, risks, etc. - YES - but managing work....
I highly recommend you try mind mapping - open up think freely - start with paper and pen, don't limit yourself to the computer interface (especially in the beginning) or be frustrated by the software out there.

Tony Buzan suggests using the following foundation structures for Mind Mapping:

  1. Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
  2. Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your Mind Map.
  3. Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  4. Each word/image must be alone and sitting on its own line.
  5. The lines must be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
  6. Make the lines the same length as the word/image.
  7. Use colors – your own code – throughout the Mind Map.
  8. Develop your own personal style of Mind Mapping.
  9. Use emphasis and show associations in your Mind Map.
  10. Keep the Mind Map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

...it's the size of the fight in the dog

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. - Mark Twain

A must read story: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/05/02/hero.dog.ap/index.html

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Capers Jones

Also at the IT Metrics - Software Best Practices Conference in Princeton, NJ was Capers Jones who gave a talk on quality (actually two talks) - here's an older version of the presentation he provided:
Software Quality in 2002
Lots of numbers and facts. Capers has been gathering metrics for PublishYEARS - it's amazing! The biggest finding - the #1 way to improve software development quality - formal inspections. FORMAL INSPECTIONS, starting with requirements and continuing throughout the lifecycle of the entire SDLC. Simple (and as difficult) as that. (there's no WikiPedia article on him...why?)