Everything as a Service

Service StationI spend a lot of my time as a contract project manager mediating disputes between users of technology, such as the HR and finance departments, and the information technology folks. Now, you might think that these disputes have their roots in the different terminology and buzz words each group uses, but generally, they understand each other well enough. The problems arise from a difference in values: the functional experts want capabilities, and the IT folks want control. Functional leaders are focused on their business goals, while IT management wants to talk about process, tools, methods, and a lot of other non-revenue generating stuff.

Note that this misunderstanding is not because either group is at fault. They simply have different values. A lot of us IT geeks subscribe to the values in the Agile Manifesto, and we think they are so self-evident that everyone should embrace them, too. But the people responsible for repeating business-critical activities on a calendar schedule, like paying employees and creditors and reporting to governmental agencies, while absorbing the most recent acquisition or expansion, have other values.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

I work with a lot of global firms, constructed from mergers and acquisitions, and they all have a maze of solutions, cobbled together with a range of tools and technologies. And while the IT folks want to buy better tools, the business folks just want to be able to get back to work. Integrate the merged workforce, share information, pursue opportunities, manage risks, and comply with all of those governmental and contractual requirements. Usually in just about that order of importance.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Business users don’t want tools, or even software – they want services. They want to consume functionality the same way they do electricity, paying a monthly invoice based on utilization. They want it to work every time, although it’s certainly nice if the service improves over time, and even better if they have a voice in how it evolves. But they generally don’t want to participate in the hard work of design, development, and testing. They don’t want to buy a wood shop; they want furniture delivered to their door. Meanwhile, the IT geeks want to talk about product owners and features and delivering in increments.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

As I write this, Workday is upgrading everyone – all 900 or so corporate customers – to release 25. All the users logged out on Friday, and on Monday morning, they will log back in again. No IT departments will have to work all weekend. It will all just work, because it’s not software; it’s a service. And while the IT folks might have to make some tweaks to their integrations with other systems, or adjust a few custom reports with complex calculated fields, they’ve had at least six weeks to regression test and sort it out. And they’ll have six months to plan for the next non-event.

Responding to change over following a plan

Software-as-a-service, platforms-as-a-service, EMail-as-a-service, even identity management and single-sign-on-as-a-service. I’m not going to tell you that premises-based ERP is dead, or even in danger, but unless the IT department can figure out how to deliver services, rather than features, it will be difficult to get the funds to do the next major upgrade. The business folks will likely push for replacing that highly-customized, out of date software with a service. Before you try to argue with them, try to understand their values. To do anything less would be to do them a disservice.

New PM Articles for the Week of August 31 – September 6

SightseersNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 31 – September 6. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Julie Bort summarizes the myths and science of lies, liars, and a few ways to identify when someone is hiding something.
  • Scott Adams lists some of the “tells,” or involuntary actions, for cognitive dissonance, the human reaction to facts that conflict with one’s beliefs. Be careful, because you won’t be able to un-read this.
  • Coert Visser describes a 2 by 2 matrix, modest /arrogant and ignorant / knowledgeable, and suggests some strategies for dealing with the arrogant-yet-ignorant state of mind.

Established Methods

  • Moira Alexander shares her strategic alignment checklist for project managers, because it’s not just about being on schedule, on budget, and on the quality target.
  • Gary Nelson uses a woodworking metaphor for getting a project completed without cutting corners (or sanding them off).
  • Phil Weinzimer reflects on his interviews of Proctor and Gamble’s CIO, Filippo Passerini, who was so impressive that he rates an entire chapter in Phil’s new book.
  • Glen Alleman makes the case for using source lines of code as a measure of system and project performance.
  • And in response, Nick Pisano argues the case against using SLOC as a measure of performance. I agree with Nick on this one.
  • Matthew Squair looks at technical debt through his safety engineering and risk management lens.
  • BrenDt imagines the perfect project management tool; it’s just not commercially available, yet.
  • Kathleen O’Connor interviews Brian Manning, co-founder of Centric Digital, on the balance between project management and creativity.
  • Parag Tipnis finds the intersection of scope management and stakeholder management, where diplomacy is required to keep perfection from preventing progress.
  • Neel Patel reports on what the AI and security communities say about the prospect of software beating hackers in the near term: not likely.

Agile Methods

  • Pawel Brodzinski explains the effect that the Zeigarnik Effect has on context switching – one more reason to limit work in progress.
  • John Goodpasture notes with approval the role of the enterprise architect in Disciplined Agile Delivery.
  • Mike Cohn makes the case for budgeting, as an alternative for teams that don’t feel capable of estimating well.
  • Neil Killick argues for product management, as a long-term replacement for project, program, and portfolio management. He didn’t convince me, but it’s worth a read.

Work Isn’t a Place You Go

  • Alia Crum and Thomas Crum describe a three-step process for leveraging stress.
  • Michael Lopp wakes up in a panic at 4:00 AM to review his deadlines, work in progress, and commitments. Time to delegate! Well, after everyone else is in the office…
  • Bruce Harpham interviews podcaster Jeff Sanders, who focuses on early mornings, productivity, healthy habits, and personal development.
  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews “Growing Software: Proven Strategies for Managing Software Engineers,” by Louis Testa.


My Presentation at the CAMP IT Portfolio Management Conference

CAMP IT PresentationOn Friday, I presented my case study, “Getting From 23 to One: Merging Systems after the Mergers” at the CAMP IT Portfolio Management conference here in Las Vegas. The two day conference drew attendees from 15 states and Canada, with titles ranging from Executive Director of Execution and Governance to EPMO and PMO Directors. Many of the folks I met were with public sector organizations and higher education, although there were a lot of corporate types, too.

The case study analyzes the transformation of the HR and Payroll systems portfolio during my tenure at MGM Resorts International, following several intense years of mergers and acquisitions, while constructing three new resorts. I described how we applied a portfolio management approach to aligning with the business strategy, selecting and sequencing projects, managing enterprise risk, and reacting to major events. In addition, I talked about getting and maintaining stakeholder alignment, partnering with the procurement team, and lessons learned. I’ve made the slide deck available for download here.

Dave and Randy at the Coffee TableIf you’re sorry you missed it, organizer Randy Wimmer tells me they expect to repeat next year, here in Las Vegas. CAMP IT conducts conferences throughout the year, on a variety of IT subjects. Note: that enormous pastry on the left is actually a frosted hub cap. I backed away slowly, so it wouldn’t attack.