Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is memory lose the answer?


I've been thinking recently about search results, AI, project management and other things (a few beers would have distracted me to thinking about a few more beers....but when you're out you're out) - and a thought came to mind that maybe it's the forgetting part of our memories that has caused the problems.  Not that memory lose is why there has been little progress, but that memory lose in itself, the need to lose memory, has not been taken into consideration.  I'm far from an expert, but part of our ability to progress is to forget; forget past problems, pain points, even correct conclusions...we even combine past memories into a single one.  It's sort of a house cleaning effect.  So, let's apply memory lose to search results.  When we google we often find old, out dated information and older information first - would it make sense to 'reduce' the ranking of pages that have been around longer, especially those with little to no change?  In regards to AI - the base approach is to record everything, build complex switches to find the answer and then highlight the path for the next request...what if the old answers are lost, new paths need to be found to new/perhaps-better (or worse) results...but at least different.  For project management - a very specific area - wouldn't past approaches, right or wrong, once removed make available opportunities for new discovery.  You basically remove the 'known' right answer (that might not be the right'ist) for hopes of discovering a right'er answer for that point and time.  Just some random thoughts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Read the feedback...

Will This Economy Finally Push the Toyota Way Into Software Development?
I like the feedback - I think agile had such a big impact because it was not corporatized...once it's incorporated into an unproductive company, it too will become another unproductive pushed down management fiasco......

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sometimes ignorance is genius

What are limitations? and how are they set? Some are physical, but the most impactful ones, the ones that affect us on a daily basis are often self-induced:
  • that's not how we do things around here
  • management (aka the man) said no
  • this is the best way
  • I need to get this done, no time to think about it
Experts are those that often don't know any better then those with real inspiration.  We often see the best results from new-hires because they are not pulled down by corporate culture, group-think and general noise.  Take a look at Cliff Young - an Australian marathon runner who was clearly out of his league, but won because he didn't know the pre-existing unofficial rules.....

My advice to succeed: Find out what the rules are and then go out of your way breaking each one....you're bound to hit gold.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why do project management improvement processes fail?


It doesn't take much to find someone/somewhere talking about how their project improvement process failed to take hold in company x....and wonder why.  Easy answer - when you jump on a crashing plane to try to save it - you often end up one of the victims.  PM's are often brought in to help stabilize and address failing projects and often the root cause of the failing project is a corporate wide issues.  While it's easy for the PM to focus on the specific project, group or 'specific' improvement area, the rest of the overwhelming issues remain, lurking, building up pressure until the PM and all the nifty tools and powerpoint communicated process changes get crushed.  So - what should the PM do?  ..... stay tuned

My Hero - Bill Murray


Is Bill Murray NYC's New Party Boy?
Showing up out of nowhere? Washing dishes? Hanging out and talking about sweet potatoes and Mexican food? A tourmented free soul? Carl Spakler sounds like he's having a good time that's all.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wow


Tilted Twister - Lego NXT Rubik's Cube solver

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

End of the database.....

Often times great ideas outlast their usefulness - and I think the time of the database as we know it is nearing it's end. I can still remember a time before databases - the time of the dinosaurs (aka main frames) and the various data store systems used...it seems those times are coming back (look at google or yahoo - here's a good short article:http://www.jonlee.ca/how-does-google-store-all-of-its-data/).  Let's take a look at the reason behind the emergence of databases:
  • disk space conservation (normalization provides for this)
  • common data access language (SQL)
  • easily exchangeable resources - DBA/DBD's (not cheap, but interchangeable)
  • common/standard backup/recovery (data security)
And the downside:
  • performance
  • scalability (I think they could scale hugely, but accessing would prohibit google size type of needs)
As with most great ideas, the original intention/benefits are often reduced through use of the idea in areas not intended or thought of.  I think a prime area where databases fail are large size websites where quick (very quick) access to massive data is required (not reporting or transaction processing).  Years ago large (considered large at that time) data stores existed outside of databases, standard summarizing was used to gather specific info, feed it into the database which would then be used for reporting....are we heading that way again?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Super Project Manager!

Systems are down, projects are failing, people are running in circles screaming! - time for Super Project Manager!  

When IT people (with a few years of experience) go out to decompress (aka downing a few beers) the subject of project craziness often comes up.  The time the main transaction system failed for no known reason (well, actually a recent release with a bug) or a data center went black (someone hooked up a toaster) or a major project failed (...that silly project manager never did listen to us...).  How often do you hear about Super Project Manager?? Not often...and...unfortunate.

Failures are one of our greatest teachers...and often ignored.  Part of a project managers responsibility is to provide ongoing improvements to existing processes including process used to respond to emergencies, failing projects and other risks that have impacted. Ask yourself, what's your process for these situations? Hopefully something better then all hands on deck, the blame game or duck-cover-and-roll.  Prevention is the best medicine - true - but be sure to have some base process in place THAT IS WELL COMMUNICATED.  Solid communication skills are key to resolving any issue (open and honest), stabilization is usually top priority and then focus on the problem (not the symptoms or personalities).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara for Project Managers



I recently watched The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara for Project Managers and as disturbing as it was, I found solid lessons......so, I took the typical route of creating a mind map of them (above and at: http://itprojectguide.org/main/mindmaps/Examples)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When you decide not to plan - you just did

I've been reading and hearing more about the idea that if you have the right developers you don't need to plan.  These high end developers are so good, follow cutting edges methods (Scrum followers are notorious for this) that the team guides itself and deliverers the highest potential value without the project management costs.  I totally agree that top developers following top methodologies add greatly to any project, but by not planning, you just did.  The team made a conscious decision to focus their efforts and attention on other risk areas (or decided to accept the risks).  They may not realize it, which is a risk in itself, but the decision not to do something is a decision.  What are some of the risks when this approach is taken..??:
  • not delivering the right thing
  • not delivering what was requested
  • not delivering timely (some other group/company makes it to market prior to you)
  • running out of $ prior to delivering anything
A team might decide that task assignment, time lines and detailed documentation is not needed (and if this risk area is not high I would agree), but a team that starts down a path without any clear objectives, idea of what success looks like or knowledge of how they are truly progressing is a team that's extending effort with a low probability of delivering any value.

A good leader (or project manager) will help set the focus, manage risks (ATM - accept/transfer or mitigate), monitor progress and adjust direction as needed - aka project management.  Things do happen on their own, and sometimes those unguided things are beneficial, but not all the time and most likely not as beneficial as they could have been.

That was a Wonderful Remark
I had my eyes closed in the dark
I sighed a million sighs
I told a million lies - to myself - to myself

-Van Morrison

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Developer's View of Project Management


I just finished listening to Joel and Jeff's StackOverflow podcast #28- some of which focused on their view on project managers...it's a common developer's view that PM's without domain knowledge are no better that note takers and low end coordinators.  They also went into how PMI and like organizations came about (an attempt by project managers to gain more control in order to get better pay)....overall I agree with them.  

MY OPINION
A project manager's main contribution to a project is the reduction of project risk.  Risk reduction can be accomplished by:
  • ensuring good communication among all team members (this includes sponsors, 3rd party vendors, etc.)
  • ensuring focus on identified risk areas
  • contribution to project risk scope from prior experience (post mortem #1 value)
  • time and budget monitoring
  • implementing basic project processes, including code management and testing (TDD as much as possible)
  • etc. etc. etc.
Given that, if a PM is assigned to a domain that they have no/little knowledge and/or experience with, they then become nothing more then coordinators and worse case inhibitors of project success and contribute to this overall view of PMs'.  For PMs' to gain a higher standing, WE need to ensure that we are assuming roles that we are capable of and since our skill set is mostly intra/inter personal area (communication), we need ensure that our soft skill levels truly compliment the given team.

UPS used to have all new hires start at the sorting line (from what I understand) and work their way up....I think this is the right model to follow for PMs to follow and one that companies need to understand in order to give prospect PM's the chance to gain and achieve those needed skills.

Friday, November 7, 2008

ROCKY BALBOA: IT AIN´T ABOUT HOW HARD YOU HIT

scrumy - for simple people.....


Great video and a well designed project management tool....for simple people like me. This is what a PM tool should be, easy to use and understand and replicates a real life activity (post-its on a white board)...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Capers Jones 2008 Software Quality Survey

As strange as it may sound - Capers Jones is my hero...he's yearly quality survey is a must read for any IT professional...
Caper Jones Software Quality in 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

it's alive!

Here's an interesting article from the RSA: One Sinowal Trojan + One Gang = Hundreds of Thousands of Compromised Accounts
I've heard the 'idea' of the internet being a living thing...which was recently discussed on Security Now...basically, a virus/trojan can be created and injected into the Internet that can self-mutate and exist for years! compromising systems and gathering confidential information...this specific one has been in existence for over 2 years and has compromised over 300,000 bank account. The basic response to this is:
  • stop trusting web sites (not a good outcome)
  • the government should do something (a worse outcome)
  • we need to focus more on security for any website we implement (I think the right response)
For each project that we're responsible for, we need to ensure some effort is spent on coding/testing for such security issues. Business buy-in is easy - tell them the impact/negative publicity if the site/system is compromised.......another item for the risk list

Thursday, October 30, 2008

..we have a launch...

The new ITProjectGuide.org website is up and running! http://itprojectguide.org/
Why?
The prior site was in Drupal...now I'm a Drupal fan, but I do have to admit that it was difficult to theme and even more difficult to work outside of the framework..I know you need to 'drink the cool-aid' when working with a given CMS framework (Drupal, Joomla, Sharepoint, etc.)...but I was getting tired of the cool-aid. The current site is in CodeIgniter, PHP/MySQL and jQuery. I did look into ExpressionEngine..but decided I wanted as much flexibility as possible...

How?
2 days of not so intense coding.......using a free css theme as a base and building the final theme and code in a quick/iterative process.

Lessons Learned?
  • It's not so difficult developing a site QUICKLY without a CMS
  • The look is important (that's what the web is - more look then functional complexity)
  • Php within a MVC framework (CodeIgniter) is the way to go, keeps the code clean/maintainable and provides a base to work from
  • iterative steps reduce time to completion
  • jQuery makes web interactive functionality a breeze
  • Don't forget any links into the site from external sources (don't use any standard 404 page)
  • Don't forget Google Analytics
Next Steps?
  • build out the admin section
  • wait, review metrics, adjust

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New IT Project Guide Website!


Introducing the NEW IT Project Guide website! ETA - 2 days!
CodeIgniter, Jquery, MySQL, Php

demo link http://itprojectguide.org/itpg2/main

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The problem with CMS's - the 'Jack of all Trades master of None' pattern

I've been using/trying different CMS's including Drupal, Joomla and Sharepoint (sort of a CMS) - and always run into the same problem....customization.   Customization in look and functionality - it reminds me very much of my experience with Crystal Reports when I first started to program in Visual Basic...I use to call it the most expensive free software around.

When developing a web site in a CMS, the initial setup is easy, the entry/use of the built in and add-on modules are good, but anything 'out of the box' causes some significant work and work-arounds.  As with most other projects, 80% of the cost is implementing 20% of the project.

I recently become a CodeIgniter convert - and have been looking into Expression Engine, a CMS from the same person/group that brought use Code Igniter - Ellis Lab http://ellislab.com/.  The interesting thing about this CMS is that it's not all-consuming.  Unlike the others that try to be the entire website, Expression Engine is being geared  towards (especially v2 which is being built with Code Igniter as the foundation) an add-on...so, you can either have the cms manage the main site and utilize Code Igniter for those area requiring special coding OR have Code Igniter the main site and use the CMS for the static content areas (this is my interpretation).....WOW - keeping a tool to what it's good at and allowing integration with other tools...not a new concept, but one difficult to implement.

I'm looking forward to 'playing' around with Expression Engine more - getting ready for the 2.0 release - and seeing if the 'Jack of All Trades' pattern to disaster will take hold and bloat the Ellis Lab team's work out as it seems to have done with the other CMS's on the market.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Risk Management tool prototype


I have some time on my hands (aka unemployed) - so I started to play around with a Risk Management collection/prioritizing web interface: http://itprojectguide.org/PMBase/RiskPlace/demo/rp - take a look and let me know what you think.  It's a mock up (aka not working either - except for the usability aspect) - you can drag/drop the risks (left click on one of the risks) and drop it in a low/med/high or unassigned box or add a new one....all feedback is welcome

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The joy of simple

I was recently redoing a web site for a karate school and was reintroduced into what simple is.  I initially started with Drupal and spent about 3 days installing modules, modifying CCK (custom content kit or something like that), playing around with the theme, etc. and got nowhere but frustrated.  I rethought what I was trying to do and the type of site needed and realized that Drupal was an overkill and base PHP a little less then needed - so I went back to a PHP framework (Codeigniter) that I had an easy time picking up and using and found a simple them via CSS Zen Garden to base the look of the site on....and within 3 hours (not days) - I had the base site done and another day the site is up and complete: http://www.masystems.org/ a simple site that links to external tools (Ning for social networking, ZenFolio for pics and Blogger for news)...never use a tool just to use it or because you think it's the right one, use the right tool, the simplest tool - all based on the current and near term need of the project.  Lesson relearned!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good article on performance reviews

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122426318874844933.html

VERY interesting ideas.....

Blowing my own horn...


IT Project Management - RM (risk management) #5
IT Project Management - PM (project management) #10
YES! both open source apps in the top 10 list - sourceforge.net - search for 'project management'...both need work...but it seems some people are interested (which makes it more interesting for me)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

That's the way we've always done business.......

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aVXfypExIZ9M

Comment regarding the recent $400k AIG resort visit and plans for another upcoming one (on our taxpayer dollars - post bailout)............
This sort of gathering has been standard practice in our industry for many years, Liddy wrote. Let me assure you that we are reevaluating the costs of all aspects of our operations in light of the new circumstances in which we are all operating.

If nothing else - hopefully this is another nail in the this is the way we've always done it...response. Change and improvement does not come about in project management through non-change and non-risk taking actions. Compared to AIG - most of the push back a PM receives is not immoral or unethical - just a combination of CYA and lack of incentive.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cuckoo's Egg - by Cliff Stoll


About 10 years ago a saw a special on PBS about Cliff Stoll and how he traced an international hacker after finding a 75cent discrepancy in the Lawrence Berkley computer systems - just an amazing story. This is a true geek/hacker book for those technically inclined (even though there is little technology discussed). Highly recommended enjoyable read - recharges the batteries.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I agreee with Larry


Here's Larry's take on cloud computing....
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13953_3-10052188-80.html..
basically BS, but willing to join if it makes him some more $ (I guess he needs another sail boat). I think I said something similar (without the need to use the BS for more $): http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2008/08/something-new-something-old-something.html.
I think as long as leading IT (yes Larry is still up there I guess) promote sales-speech there will always be some BS line leading to some existing technology being sold instead of effort being spent on new ideas. I'd like to call it what it is...but who am I to recommend anything, I'm considering myself the first cloud-centric blog-a-matic project manager. Keep the tasks, risks and plans all in the cloud...I also have a Brooklyn Cloud Bridge to sell if anyone is interested.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

XP - my take


I recently read a post by Kent Beck in the ExtremeProgramming Yahoo group - http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/extremeprogramming/message/145397 (you'll probably need to join to read the entire post - which I recommend). My take on it is that - like all other revolutions (this one being one of process from traditional SDLC to Agile/XP) - the new becomes the norm and the norm become bureaucratic - making further drastic changes required. I've always seen Agile and XP initiatives as an attempt to deliver greater value by removing the imposed management overhead and miss-steps (such as thinking mediocre can replace exceptional with the right process in place) - and, unfortunately now that many Agile/XP practices/processes have become the norm, they are now the anchor....just my opinion.
Responsible Development is the style of development I aspire to now. It can be summarized by answering the question, "How would I develop if it was my money?" I'm amazed how many theoretical arguments evaporate when faced with this question. Responsible Development shares many practices with XP but the roots are different. Responsible Development's values are honesty, transparency, accountability, and responsibility. These lead me to pairing, test-first, incremental design, continuous integration, and so on because they support the values. - Kent Beck

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FLOSS - another podcast from twit.tv

I 'discovered' FLOSS on the twit.tv site recently and after listening to the latest about Drupal had to listen to the last 5 - ALL WORTH IT!
This podcast along with Security Now is worth the cost of 5 iPods and provides more info then any techie can consume weekly. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A truly interesting story

What the real truth is....who knows: http://www.itworld.com/print/53936
Everyone in IT knows of an admin that has had some 'personal' connection to the network - something that is often fostered and looked on as positive, but what if it gets out of hand? Or what if the admin REALLY does have the network's best interest in mind and the higher-ups are really impacting security going through CYA motions? Should there be a 'special' agreement between those in charge and those overlooking the network? Someway to put vital info in escrow to ensure the network is transferable? Some hot-button the admin can hit when higher-ups are indeed endangering the network? Thank goodness most IT people have high integrity and are mostly focused on solving issues otherwise the lack of mutual trust and transparency would surely impact every company every time an admin moves on (or is moved on).

Talk about Risk!

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/business/15street.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
WOW! Imagine having a project within any financial company at this point...how do you mitigate a risk of this magnitude? Makes the late delivery of a document seem meaningless - right? Not really. Projects will be canceled, initiatives put on hold - but that's mid/long term, from my experience most in-progress projects will remain in-progress - the real risk is team morale....
http://valleywag.com/5049763/lehman-brothers-it-guys-still-have-to-work-monday

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Project Management via Google Sites?


Does it make sense for project managers to use something like Google Sites (Ex: http://sites.google.com/site/pmtestmeade/) to manage projects? Instead of MS Project (anything is better then MS Project) or other desktop and/or web based project tools? What is Google Sites - Google Sites is an online application that makes creating a team web site as easy as editing a document.(http://sites.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=90447) For the most part it's a wiki like environment that includes gadgets like calendering, word/spreadsheet docs, photos, etc.....some benefits over PM specific systems:
  • it's free (always take free with a grain of salt, if it doesn't work it could cost you a lot)
  • easy, group updateable (but not pretty)
  • lots of neat gadgets
Downside?
  • does not have PM specific functionality, like task management (which might be a good thing, use the calendar or spreadsheet)
  • it's not fully under your control - what if the site is down or they go out of business (Google? - I'm assuming all other PM companies will be out of business prior to Google)
I think it's worth a try and some experimentation. If PM's can get along for years via spreadsheets (most do not use a given tool) and now the spreadsheet is available within a container of other goodies, I don't see why it's not possible....

Next steps?:
  • select a low risk project
  • play around with Google sites (learn how the thing works)
  • setup the basics like a home page, calendar and the file cabinet (for your docs)
  • invite others
  • see if the effort/cost + confusion + frustration > benefit
Let me know if anyone out there has used it for PM or if/when you try it out, how it works.

Sept 11, 2008


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11,_2001_attacks
http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020909/aintro.html

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Know thy problem

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/09/10/tc50-devunity-offers-browser-based-collaborative-coding/
Interesting idea, good panel questions (especially Tim O'Reilly - of course) - but what is the problem being solved? Widgets, gidgets and gadgets are all nice, but unless there's an issue being addressed and the solution is effective - it's merely an oddity or a short-term point of interest. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

IT Project Guide - RM - open source project management tool



IT Project Guide - Risk Management - beta version is now available for demo and download:
demo: http://itprojectguide.org/PMBase/risk/home
download: https://sourceforge.net/projects/itpgrm/

This, web based, project management tool was inspired by IT Project Guide - PM, a branch of dotProject and web2Project.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chrome is HERE!


http://www.google.com/chrome

It's fast, clean, fast...and did I say fast?  No issues installing, site rendering seems to be sharper, some issues with some tree-views....but it could be related to bad html coding (mine)...overall first impression...VERY VERY NICE (and fast).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

shifting sands

Once again change is coming...Google Chrome:http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/fresh-take-on-browser.html
Gee dad, in your days they had something called a desktop operating system..??WOW!
Anyone have this in their risk list?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Don't let email get in your way

When you have the need to communicate, do you feel email is easier? easier then text messaging? which is easier then phoning? which is easier then face-to-face? Why is that? Easy - it's less personal and less likely to require real thinking. An email is like a fire-and-forget type of communication, we know there's no one present to prohibit us from completing our entire thought (often short and one sided), no head shaking (in a negative way), no energy spent on personal relations ('how is your family?') and the most important aspect- we can ignore any feedback for some time (gee-sent the email and went to lunch, yep 9:30am a bit early, but I was working all night so I was hungry).

The overuse of email is a sure-sign of a project ready to fail or failing due to poor communication. Good communication starts with good relationship building - see the person, hear the person, know the person...if there is no way to 'get close' in a physical sense, make extra efforts with voice communication - make a video - STAY AWAY FROM EMAIL FOR COMMUNICATION. Just like any other endeavor - often you need to do the opposite of what you want to get the results:
  • face-to-face
  • phone
  • text-messaging
  • email
Think about your workday and realize that all the excuses about needing to email to save time (gee, I have so many meetings) are just excuses - prioritize and communicate. A project manager's primary job is to ensure effective communications are occurring....no excuses.

(image via: /www.buycostumes.com)

Friday, August 29, 2008

The problem with problems

Just a few random thoughts - regarding problems:
(Photo by Filip Pizlo)
  • most are not clearly understood prior to trying to solve
  • don't over react
  • a problem has a good chance of providing new ideas (the wheel was invented because delivering hot/fresh pizza was a problem for Pizza Hut)
  • don't under-react
  • problems are the reasons for plans and processes
  • make sure you learn something from them or at least have a cold beer once they're resolved
  • don't point fingers and waste time on blame (save that for when you're having the beer)
  • turn the page upside down when looking at problems (old trick I use)
  • banging your head against the wall helps sometimes

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Digital Bill of Rights

(via TechCrunch): http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/08/25/what-we-need-is-a-digital-bill-of-rights/

As much as I don't like government getting involved in ANYTHING - there is a reason we have them around (outside of being able to make fun of the slimy politicians). Regulation is needed to protect us from the 'open market' that will eventually push the boundaries of digital rights and privacy until the internet is no more then a commercial and all of our activities are closely monitored (yes - I'm more afraid of infringement from big business then from big government).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Backlash...a risk worth noting

For those project managers out there who concern themselves with p0st-launch risk...here's one:
Ning Shuts Down Premium Developer WidgetLaboratory
What really happened will probably never be known, but it's something to track especially if you're a PM involved with an open API initiative. Mediation planning..??..
  • clearly defined rules of use
  • consistent/transparent communication
  • potential compensation for users impacted

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What is 25% complete?

I'm working in a shared project management tool environment and recently saw the 'addition' of 4 new task/issue statues:
  • development 25% complete
  • development 50% complete
  • development 75% complete
  • development 100% complete
I understand the desire to 'understand' how far along the development effort is, but in my opinion - this is just another example of someone putting a number to something that they obviously don't really understand. What is 25% complete? what is complete? Who makes that determination? The use of completeness is an sure indication that the project is jeopardy of not being successful....how can I determine this? Any project manager or developer of any skill level, will not volunteer this type of information - so, it must have been put in place based on the customer's request to understand why the project is late or why they're not seeing any results. THIS brings us some insight into one of the prior questions: Who determines what complete is? The real answer is the customer - the person putting the $ on the table for the delivery. If that's the case then unless the task is 100% complete then it's not complete (the customer isn't going to say...gee my burger looks 25% complete)..there's the old story of a developer taking 2 days to get a task 99% complete and another year to get the final 1%...
Don't get yourself in the position of reporting something as 25% complete - understand what the customer is expecting as a delivery and ensure that you provide timely/accurate/meaningful updates. There's no such thing as always delivering on time...the dissatisfaction from the customer is usually in not understanding what is happening and not seeing any positive movement (a good PM needs to manage expectations).

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm nearing the end of this book - which is basically a compilation of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character with the special inclusion of a audio CD of one of Feynman's talks..(you really get more into who this person is when you can hear him). EXCELLENT reading about a real person who excelled in his field (worked on the atomic bomb, get a Nobel Peace Price, Space Shuttle disaster, etc.). Some take a-ways:
  • understanding and memorizing are two different things
  • if you can simply state the problem, solution, etc. so the average non-involved person can understand - it probably means YOU understand
  • once you can 'visualize' the system, solution, etc. without working through the details - then you can declare some level of competence in the field
  • being able to work with others in mapping a solution that does not involve positioning, politics, etc. is a sign of a very healthy relationship
  • have fun in what ever you do
  • never be intimidated by what YOU think other people are thinking about you (WHO CARES)
  • opportunities are all around - be ready to recognize them

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Politics And The English Language - George Orwell


At this point it's difficult to write without thinking how badly I do write:
http://www.ourcivilisation.com/decline/orwell1.htm

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

DNS hack - test your DNS NOW!

http://www.doxpara.com/?p=1162

It's one of those REAL threats to your security....thanks to Dan Kaminsky action has been taken prior to the announcement and a test for security provided - click above for more info. Just some proof that there are responsible people out there - and those people are doing A LOT to ensure the internet is usable and safe (not big business - just a typical tech head)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Something new, something old, something cloud.....

here's a link to another article about the 'new' approach to computing - CLOUD COMPUTING! http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2008/tc2008082_445669.htm

WOW! Software leasing, consumption based computing, ASP, etc.....sorry, it's been around for a while - and if you broaden the definition just a bit, it includes any web site....if anything, I think this is a sign that innovation in IT is slowing dramatically down. Where - or more importantly what - is Web 3.0? Why isn't mobile internet the norm instead of still a nice to have? Why is security still lagging? Hopefully, after summer break the deep thinkers will be back in innovation mode and start churning out some new ideas (what comes after blogging, twitter, wiki's and other aging thoughts?)

(image via: http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/cmmap/education.html&portal=cmmap)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

the future is here! twitlive.tv

http://twitlive.tv/
Simply amazing!

OpenDNS


Use OpenDNS

Another find - via Twit.tv (Leo Laporte). OpenDNS provides a filter for unwanted (aka porn) and phising sites so that your entire network is safe (great for family networks). Seems some companies are using it also - reducing the need to manage DNS's internally. I'm not a network expert, but this approach to where you/your-family can venture seems to make to much sense.
http://www.opendns.com/welcome/intro/

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peak Performance

What is peak performance? and why does it matter in IT/project management? If you do a google search, most of the results have to do with gyms, clothing lines and sports stores...(so much for Google remaining relevant). Peak performance in Wiki is about a ski company in Sweden...well, here's my understanding. Peak performance is: the highest possible, positive output obtained in a specified field by a planned approach in specific time frame. My, very amateur, understanding is that a well trained athlete reaches peak every 10-12 weeks of an extensive training course (2-3 months prep time prior to a boxing match, 2-3 months prep time prior to a bicycle race, etc.). So, what does this have to do with IT and project management? This goes back to what makes projects successful - understanding the most critical component - people. Plan all you want, buy all the fancy, top of the line hardware/software, hire the best consultants, stuff the kitchens with bagels and pizza - but without the most critical component - PEOPLE - nothing much/good happens. And if this is the most critical ingredient, we also need to understand how to get the best performance from them (aka people). The good ol'e Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing plays right into peak performance - there has to be a specific 'peak performance' cycle that needs to be considered for projects. If peak performance does play into a project's ability to succeed - which I'm more then sure it does - then instead of 'bending' people/peak-performance-period to fit the project deliverables and time-line MAYBE just maybe, we need to ensure that the project timeline fits into the teams peak performance timeline. For instance - let's stay with the 10-12 weeks and the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing idea, then a typical project or phase of a project should not extend this period of time....perhaps this is where Agile approaches (sprints) get their biggest benefit from...10-12 weeks of work (peaking out) - 2 weeks of downtime - and back again...
If those 'dumb athletes' understand this - why don't we? There's a lot to understand (here's a good/okay article: http://rhinofitness.ca/articles/article_periodization.html via Rhino fitness - also where the graph is from). Next steps? someone like a Capers Jones - needs to do some serious research..but gut feel is that this is another area of required understanding for project managers.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

what ?!?!? - is this a real explanation?

Amazon Explains The S3 Outage and Downtime Last Weekend - http://www.centernetworks.com/amazon-s3-downtime-outage
Sounds like jibber-jabber to me......now I have better insight into why I get certain looks in meetings

Friday, July 25, 2008

Microsoft + Yahoo + Google + Apple = my 2 cents

Not being a great business person, or ever having run a large corporation, or really understanding (caring) about corporate politics or knowing how the stock market really values companies - makes me the perfect person to provide an opinion on the Microsoft/Yahoo/Google happenings.......

First off - my views on each company (perhaps I'll get a job offer from this):
  • With all the negative press about Microsoft - I still credit them with providing a stable, widely accepted operating system that made PC's usability by the masses (300 million people can't be completely wrong). Bill Gates is a business genius and a real techie....
  • Yahoo - is the starting point for me - I use Yahoo mail for years and have been very happy. Their ability to combine content and services is outstanding (one of the few to survive from the ole' days)
  • Google - well, they're Google - something like 90% of all searches start there - people easily associate the Internet with Google....and making Billions of $ from providing searches to other people's websites is pretty incredible....
  • Apple - highly innovative, usability focused (most of the time), the current hip standard (7% of the market now...??)
(now checking email for job offers)
Here's my 2 cents:
  • at the end of the day all will disappear and new mega-companies will emerge.
  • any corporate/directional decisions made will have minimal impact to me.
  • the open market where consumers decide, based on at least a 100 variables (chaos theory), will determine what happens and the decisions made by the big corporate honchos will never be able to be based on any predictable model that can determine that
In other words: Who Cares, where's my pay-day and lets see what's coming around the technology corner

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

applying markup language to emails

(tried to use <, but needed to change to [ for the sgml to show up)
[rhetorical-question]
Would email communication improve if there was some form of applying a markup language variant (SGML) that is set by the sender, but uniquely interpreted by the receiver?
[/rhetorical-question]

[statement]
Out current high level use of email to communicate has in many way negatively impacted real communication. The ability to non-verbally communicate (outside of some useless/silly varying happy face icons) is completely removed. The subtle wink, smile, change in tone, etc. are completely removed. This leaves interpretation open and up to the receiver (often predisposed) to determine and introduce their own cues.
[/statement]

[rhetorical-question]
Solution? Video? Audio? [sarcasm]Happy Faces?[/sarcasm]
[/rhetorical-question]

[statement]
What if there were some base (10-12) tags that could be inserted by the sender and uniquely interpreted by the received - even to the degree where the receiver can vary based on who the sender is [example](gee..Sue is always a kidder...raise the sarcasm indicator for anything from her...)[/example].
[/statement]

[statement]
The key to this is how the receiver implements his tags...allowing [question] tags to be italic and red, [sarcasm] tags to be blue [sarcasm](or ignored if one does not understand sarcasm)[/sarcasm], etc.
[/statement]

[question]
Anyone with a million $ to invest?
[/question]

Monday, July 21, 2008

To Gantt or not to Gantt

In developing a project management package - there comes a time to decide if you're going to include a gantt chart......it's tempting to put it in so as to get, potentially, more people to download and use the tool (aka ego boosting)...reviewing the Ed Tufte discussion on gantt charts kept me honest - NO! no gantt charts. The tool (which I think at best should help communicate within the team and not replace any real project management responsibilities, remove any level of communication, etc.) will include a list of deliverables and timeline to each step in providing that deliverable...but no gantt chart. Tools and processes enhances a solid mature team - that's it. Tools/process DO NOT:
  • make up for poor management
  • improve people's abilities (other people do that most effectively through one-on-one training/mentoring)
  • remove the need for a solid manager
  • reduce major risks
  • ensure timelines, quality, etc.
  • make people communicate better
Tools enhance - that's it! Gantt charts, project management triangles, excess reports, heavy documentation, restricting processes, overcomplicated tools are the signs of poorly implemented leadership/management ideas.

William Shakespeare - To be, or not to be
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end


(image from alternative film guide)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IT Project Guide - Risk Management


Houston - we have lift off!
The alpha version of IT Project Guide - Risk Management is now available for demo:
http://itprojectguide.org/PMBase/risk/home
and code available for your use at:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/itpgrm/

Please remember to:
  • install CodeIgniter php framework (codeigniter.com)
  • modify the database.php and config.php files located at /system/application/config folder - modify the base url and database
This is a 'rewrite' of the IT Project Guide - Project Management system (that was based on dotProject and web2Project) - this new version is brandy new code based on CodeIgniter and jQuery frameworks.....

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Hero - Tom DeMarco


Project Management is not about technology it's about people.......

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A long night.......

Sometimes you just need to dig in and get your hands dirty to really understand what you're dealing with. I spent a LONG LONG night last night understanding:
CodeIgniter MVC and jQuery (including ajax-forms and simpleTree)

Here's the end result: IT Project Guide-Risk Management

You'll probably not notice much (and potentially nothing if I'm working on it and break something) - but behind the scenes there's a lot of MVC, ajax and CSS (no tables) going on. I think I gave myself a master's training course in heavy duty coding. Some take aways:
  • MVC does force you to be a better programmer, even during the initial investigative/hacking phases
  • CodeIgniter is solid...and has a great forum and support community (a big plus)
  • javascript is javascript no matter how you dress it up - jQuery will make you life better, but the underlying javascript will remain problematic and buggy to work with
  • well planned css does make development and design changes much easier (do away with those tables)
  • not everything works as planned (lots of problems refreshing the tree menu) - but there aways seems to be a way to get what you want done (even if it involves some serious banging of the head against the wall)
  • small changes with instant results is gratifying (aka good programming) as opposed to some tasks in project management (aka waiting by the phone for a developer to let you know when the system will be fixed)
Anyway - it was a long long very good night....next steps: potentially moving from the IT Project Guide - PM (project management) tool to IT Project Guide - RM (risk management) - basically a complete rewrite

Monday, July 7, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Great Advice from the trenches

The proof is in the pudding - OR - you're successful endeavor should reveal what steps should be taken for the next success (info directly from:http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/03/how-to-build-a-web-app-in-four-days-for-10000-say-hello-to-matt/):
Tips on working wisely
Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind if you’re focusing on building apps quickly:

1. Limit meetings to one 10 minute chat in the morning and one 10 minute wrap-up at the end of each day. Meetings are the best way to kill productivity and crush creativity so keep ‘em short.

2. Get people away from their machines at lunch. Go for lunch together and maybe throw the frisbee or play Wii. The excitement and creativity will quickly deteriorate if you don’t have a break during the day.

3. Simplify the site and app as much as possible. Try launching with just ‘Home’, ‘Help’ and ‘About’.


I highly recommend reading the rest of the post...if understood, it'll save you from years of reading many project management books

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CodeIgniter Book

I've been 'focusing' on the CodeIgniter PHP framework - possibly looking to rewrite the IT Project Guide - PM tool with it. So, as usual I Google around for info and buy books (Amazon of course). It always seems easier reading and experimenting from a book then from a webpage (must be the age I grew up in- like working with a $10 chemistry set making some skunky smelling smoking thing). The only book currently out for CodeIgniter is 'Code Igniter for Rapid Development'. Overall a good book, some great insight into CodeIgniter and some interesting background on the author of CodeIgniter: Derek Allard. The major downside to the book is that it's a little choppy in delivery and does not (at least more then half-way through) provide complete examples....but, a good source

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Workout time

I'm into exercising a bit...and ran across Men's Health Belly Off program. Good work out (aka lots of pain and agony) and well done sub-site. Video, meal plans, more video, podcast and print outs...nicely done overall approach and GREAT content. It's summer time - drop those keyboards and get a movin'!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Project Management Tool Review - plans

I've been trying to review all the project management tools I could come across....and most recently I've been reviewing some open source ones (since I'm trying to get some ideas for my own open source project management tool: http://sourceforge.net/projects/itpgpm/).

Here's the list to date: http://itprojectguide.org/PMToolReview

I've either signed up, reviewed demos or installed (when possible) the open source versions). If anyone has any they would like to add with a short description please send a note.

Friday, June 27, 2008

It's easy to predict the past


I recently had a conversation with a global-warming type person...where he described how scientist have developed climate models that can now accurately predicate weather patterns for the last 200+ years (a validation that the model will work for 200 years in the future)....my response....(not politically correct perhaps) was that it's easy to predict the past. Then I started to think that this is the same thinking used for project planning...we use tools to predict the future based on the tool's ability to accurately predict the past. MS Project, if used to track past task, resource allocations, etc. is a good example of a tool to accurately predict the past...but not a good one for future looking events...why? Chaos theory? Most likely.

As Mr Einstein said We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Looking in the past we ask 'why' did something happen - looking in the future we should be asking 'how' can we make it happen. Different questions require different thinking, tools, etc.

What's the answer....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Agile: Is, Is Not, May Be - by Ron Jefferies


When Ron speaks (and he's speaking loud and clear here) - people need to listen:
http://www.xprogramming.com/xpmag/jatAgileIsIsNotMayBe.htm

Best part:
Agile Software Development has as its highest priority the early and continuous production of working software. This is Agile's primary measure of progress. - Ron Jefferies

It doesn't get any clearer then that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

PM Framework - CCC


According to Wikipedia - A framework is a basic conceptual structure used to solve or address complex issues.

Here's my first attempt at creating a project management framework: CCC
  • Constrain - stop any additional damage from occuring
  • Control - gain control over the situation
  • Correct - put corrective measures in place

Seems simple. When project issues arise a project manager first needs to 'stop the bleeding', then gain control over the situation and then correct it. For example:
Issue: Scope Creep - a very typical occurance
  • Constrain via putting a stop to any changes to the plan or to what the developers are currently working on.
  • Control by communicating that all changes need to be communicated through you (the project manager)
  • Correct by putting proper Change Control in place (a weekly meeting where the project sponsors review the change requests and determine if the additional costs/time/etc. are justified.
I think good frameworks present the obvious in a simple way....the above is a set of steps often used by PM's during the course of any project, but at times forgotten when things are 'getting interesting'.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

CodeIgniter

I've been looking at various PHP frameworks (yes, I have time on my hands) - and finally found one I can really understand. It's the standard MVC (model/view/control) structure - has some helper apps and most of all GREAT TUTORIALS!. The frameworks I've looked at in some detail are:
  • Seagull
  • cakePHP
  • Symbol
  • Froop
  • CodeIgniter
My approach in review was to:
  • perform the basic google search - looking for reviews/comparisons
  • looking at wikipedia for any info
  • looking at each frameworks: intro, install, tutorials, forums and sites developed
I even downloaded them and gave them a test......end result was that within 45 minutes I had CodeIgniter downloaded, installed and tested with a small program....pretty amazing for a complex framework.

For a project manager, the selection of any technology - especially a critical project component - should be included in the planning. Don't rely on what has been done - focus on what could be done and what tools are best suited for the people performing the work. It's been stated by others that tools don't ensure success, but they help getting there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Firefox 3

Download Day

You can't teach a pig to sing......

You can't teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the pig. - source? unknown.

I was recently reminded of this old saying. A project manager's primary responsibility is not to provide singing lessons, but to evaluate if singing lessons were required, will have affect and will provide benefit....but sometimes you don't realize this prior to annoying the pig. Oink, oink little pig!

(image via http://www.sacatomato.com/2007/03/oink_hug_a_pig_for_national_pi.html)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Form follows function

I'm of the opinion that form follows function (aka - keep the fluffy site look away)....here's some forms that tempt me to change my mind: http://www.webdesignerwall.com/trends/2008-design-trends/

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Face Time

Communication...yes, communication. The most important ingredient in a successful project. I know I've been down this road before...but it never hurts to go down the right road again. I was just recently involved in a face-to-face, multi-team meeting which took place in the same room at the same time and the amount of progress made in those 2 hours far surpassed the prior 4 weeks of email and phone communication. Is it the fact that humans (yes us) require a high level of interaction to effectively work? Being close to someone reduces the instinct of focusing on something (anything) else? That people need proximity to realize and execute base nurturing instincts? Take it from the Duke:
  • you can't buy a person a beer over the phone
  • you can't easily shoot a person (or intimidate them) via email
  • you'll never realize how much riding a horse 12 hours a day makes you smelly and mean unless you're near someone (hopefully you'll realize then)
  • and you can't have a good knockdown bar fight looking and typing at a computer (time to go have some fun)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Work with people you trust OR work with people you trust

There is no truer statement in software development then: it's the people who make the project successful...not the process. A major issue arises when you work with people that you can not trust...I'm not talking about concern over lending them a dollar for a soda..I'm talking about trusting them to do the right thing, get the job done, provide truthful information that can be acted on, etc. The worst position a project manager can be in is where the pm can not trust the people on the team. If this occurs it's time to change the team or change teams.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Inspirational words from Teddy R.

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

Get your motor running.........


I first heard about Yubico - Yubikey on twit.tv SecurityNow!...every time I look at the thing I think of a ignition key...plug it in and start your work type of thing. It's basically a plug in keyboard with intelligence if hooked into an OpenID provider. Multi-point authentication:
  • Something you have (Yubikey)
  • Something you know (user ID/password)

Simplicity and perfection...I highly recommend you listen to the SecurityNow podcast discussion this solution with one of the Yubico owners: http://twit.tv/sn143

Monday, June 2, 2008

Yes - I'm famous

When I sent an email around about setting up the pm took in SourceForge, someone (not to be named) asked if it meant I was famous....well, I guess it does mean that (in a way).
https://sourceforge.net/projects/itpgpm/

All I need to do now is figure out subversion and how to use with NuSphere.........

another desktop replacement - Adobe

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/06/01/adobe-combines-online-word-processing-file-sharing-and-meetings-with-the-launch-of-acrobatcom/

I tried it and I LIKE IT! It's still has some rough usability issues, but it's more then another nail in the coffin of desktop applications.....

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Open Source Project Management - ITProjectGuide-PM

ITProjectGuide-PM v0.1.0 is now available at: http://itprojectguide.org/PMBase/demo
User ID: demo
Password: demo

Changes from initial release:
  • moved from Mootools to jQuery for javascript framework
  • cleaned up user interface
  • cleaned up html coding
  • corrected some bugs
This weekend: implement security (hoping). I'm still waiting for SourceForge to approve the project so I can post the code there. If anyone is interested let me know and I'll post it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creativity


A somewhat uninteresting article:http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-unleash-your-creativity

An somewhat uninteresting site (where the image came from): http://www.mindhacks.org/

My take on creativity:
  • the biggest barriers are ones you put in front of yourself
  • don't get stopped by failure
Be brave move forward

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's Here!


The very initial version of ITProjectGuide's Project Management Tool!
http://itprojectguide.org/PMBase/demo
User ID: demo
Password: demo

Based mostly on Web2Project which was based on dotProject..changes specific to ITProjectGuide-PM (or PMBase...still deciding on the name):
  • removed many extra fields (in my opinion) including costing and contacts and departments
  • removed the gacl (general access control layer) tables and code - lots of them. Security is wide open at this point...have fun
  • corrected some errors
  • created new theme (very simple and based on Web2Project)
Basically, I got use to the code and did some clean up. Once I fully test I'll release on Source Forge and start to make more modifications....including:
  • simplified security
  • risk management
  • deliverable management (check list)
Let me know what you think.

(image via http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/5/14/172047/342)