Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are there so few Project Management Tool users out there?

There must be a severe shortage of project management tool users in the world. It seems that every PM tool that I trial is followed by weeks of phone calls from the company...not emails....phone calls. Common sense tells me that, if they had enough users they wouldn't spend the effort ($$$) on personal follow ups - right? I'm not talking about small PM tool shops..I'm talking ALL PM Tool shops.

I'm assuming this is a reflection on the state of current project management, it's just not happening. Why? Good question. I see job ads for PM's everywhere. There's hundreds of books, websites (this one), classes, etc.........but if there's little use of some basic and good tools...could it be that:
  • the tools are not inline with what is needed?? (possible)
  • PM's are not aware of available tools? (low probability)
  • there's some mystery tool that ALL PM's are using - and not telling anyone about? (no..)
  • project managers are not project managing? (possible)
  • MS Excel is really the only tool needed (mmmmmm...maybe)
  • initial use is high, but long term use of any tool is low, people move back to the comfort zone of email..... (possible)
I have a suspicious feeling that the tools are not providing long term value (value = benefit - cost of use - cost of ownership).......as simple as that.
(image via: http://www.gamespot.com/pages/forums/show_msgs.php?topic_id=25752383&page=2)

Software Estimation

I'm pretty sure that I recommended this book before....but I'm reading it again, so I'll recommend it again. Great book on estimation, easy reading, good ideas and insights. A must read for any project manager.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moving Beyond SEI-CMM level 1/ Politics of Metrics - by Ed Yourdon

Good quick reads:
Moving Beyond SEI-CMM level 1
Politics of Metrics

What Can Be Done!

Watch the YouTube video - and then think of those things on any project that CAN BE DONE! (simple amazing - dedication + determination = success!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's a Mesh!

It seems the Battleship Microsoft is turning towards the clouds! Is this the first step towards abandoning all desktop applications? moving away from the OS world? probably not - they have to much invested. Could it be a hedge move? or spoiler for other companies (Amazon and Google) in their cloud efforts? No matter what, the future is looking bright for IT - again!



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Project Initiation - iterative?

Should the project initiation phase (via PMBOK) be an iterative process? much like the SDLC approach used in many Agile methodologies? We often rush through the Initiation and Planning phase to begin the project and often suffer the same issues as we would rushing through the requirements phases of development....so shouldn't we take some best practices from Agile and apply them to the Project Management life cycle? The initiation phase is where you would discuss the projects:
  • goals/objectives
  • scope
  • team makeup
  • constraints and assumptions
  • view of success and expectations
The typical - real world approach is where a high level exec has an idea and everyone rushes around to implement ASAP....what if we made the phase a bit more meaningful, reducing rework and missed expectations later on. We (PM's) need to ensure that time is spent understanding the business benefits, what the real expectations are, what success would look like, etc. - taking a few passes, most likely coming up with some very high level cost/time estimates, etc.....what is typically missing is a review with the person who initiated the project (aka level setting). The process of iterative project initiation should not be made to formal (to many docs/pages and no one will read them), but as with any other aspects of good project management - EFFECTIVE.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Project Artist?

PMBOK Process/Knowledge Grid

What is the difference between a Jr and Sr Project Manager? One takes the PMBOK (or for that matter any approach) at face value and implements it...the other uses it as a reference point and implements what works. Perhaps a the term Project Manager should be changed to Project Leader - not just doing the right job, but doing it right.

Why I want to be a Mule Rancher

Ever get tired of doing what you're doing and start to imagine a new career?
For some time, I've been contemplating Mule Ranching. What I know about Mule and Ranching can easily be summed up in one word: Nothing! But why let the details stop my dreaming....here's what I picture:
  • pancakes with the Mule everyday for breakfast
  • nightly Mule sing-a-longs
  • Mule adventures into the Rockies - fighting off Grizzly Bear and Coyotes together (mostly the Mule doing the fighting)
  • Mule trains to gold-mine country
  • Good pair of Mule skin boots
  • Mule round-ups
  • Sitting in a rocking chair watching the Mule Dogs herd the Mules for Mule milking (??)
Or well, so much for dreaming, now it's time to go to work......

(Mule picture from:http://www.eviltwinltd.com/muppetlabs/oconnor/photo.htm - Francis the Talking Mule)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed

Worth reading article: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=8428

I think FDR said something like: Not only will we win the war, we will win the peace (or it could have been Truman). Something to think about - will the project you're working on do more damage if it's successful?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Google App Engine

The landscape is shifting under our feet...and it's excitingly good! Google has announced Google App Engine (good article via TechCrunch). This in some ways directly competes with Amazon's Web Services and what appears to be HP's first step into the mix (looking for that lost link). Hosting your own app server? Your company is growing and needs consumption based computing? Want to easily share openly available (aka open source) app blocks?? It's not around the corner, it's here.........integration - with outside apps - just moved up on the PM risk list.....

Monday, April 7, 2008

Who are you to judge?

It's easy to quickly pass judgment on a person's performance and capabilities - but the bigger question is, is how accurate and/or fair is that judgment? I'm typically a very binary type of person - good or bad - on or off - etc. (or not etc.)....but when it comes to judging performance and capabilities, there are often many factors to take into consideration. Why bring this up in a PM blog? Often a PM's is asked to judge a resources performance/capability in assigning work, determine change in project course, etc. Since there is no such thing as being completely objective (we're all humans), the most important thing is to be consistent, to know your own limitations and to have external data points (other opinions). I often find it useful to identify a base capable/productive person and then relate the others to that base point...be careful not to judge on the most recent occurrence, but on the historic trend (we all have bad days)....and be prepared to be judged yourself (judge - judge thyself?)
(image from: http://www.dca.gov.uk/consult/courtdress/annexd.htm)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I'm a Drupal Fan!

I hate to keep bringing it up, but I'm a big Drupal fan! Not only is the CMS solid, it's:
  • easy to set up
  • provides continuous upgrades
  • easy to use (well....that's all relevant - as easy as any other cms)
  • has a huge support base, so getting help is easy
  • has some commercial support, if the higher level is required
  • IT'S FREE (gotta love open source)
This most recent outburst is based on two things:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Task vs Issue

Recently had a good discussion on the differences between tasks and issues......and I had a difficult time explaining the difference...frustrating, mostly because I think the other person had some good points. My view:
  • Task = defined set of work, part of a larger delivery, assigned to a single/primary person
  • Issue = self contained deliverable, often smaller scale then a project, passes hands from person to person throughout the life cycle (developer to QA, etc.)
and the response? why not add more steps to the task so it's more like an issue and then handle the issues in the task area......

Some thoughts:
  • you lose the effect of the task time line, in that a task that changes status and primary resource stands still in time - the linking of task to task to show the typical think-do-test is lost since it's all contained within the same task (controlled by status)...but you could extend the task duration to accommodate the entire duration..right?
  • you lose specific action accountability - if 'thinking' should take 2 days, 'doing' 3 days and 'testing' 1 day - by changing status and person, you lose sight of what each actually took....that's why there's log history...right?
  • managing tasks takes a bit more time since they're connected with other tasks, part of a larger delivery, etc. and therefore have higher overhead...where issues should be about smaller deliveries where smaller overhead (aka effort or cost) needs to be applied to reduce costs.....so, a critical, system stopping issue shouldn't have the focus (aka overhead) to ensure it's done properly? and a task should cost more just because it's a task?
  • It's easier to track resources, resource allocation, etc. when tasks are used since all tasks are assigned specific resources, where issue resources are changed depending on the life cycle (developer to tester)....then how do you track resource utilization for maintenance/issue management?
PERPLEXING to say the least....maybe there shouldn't be a difference and the only reason we call them and treat them different is because that's what we were told to do.......WOW!...prejudice and brainwashing in project management.......very disturbing.

(image from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/union-generals/sherman/william-tecumseh-sherman.htm)

Simple amazing - YouTube Playlists

Just finished playing around with YouTube playlists, where you can create your own custom (to a small degree) playlist viewer: http://itprojectguide.org/?q=node/101

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

things I've learned from Zatoichi (for now)

  • If one of your senses fail, perfect the others
  • Never be the first to draw the sword
  • Eating doesn't have to look pretty
  • Don't just be good - be great
  • Status/Title doesn't make you any less a person then anyone else
  • Wondering around doesn't have to be aimless
  • If you have a sword (tool) make sure it's the best
  • The only long term relation is with yourself (your family)