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.  

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


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