The Data Conversion Cycle – Now Available on

My new book, “The Data Conversion Cycle: A guide to migrating transactions and other records, for system implementation teams,” is now available on in both Kindle format for $4.49 and paperback for $6.99. If you buy the paperback version, you can also buy the Kindle version for 99 cents in what Amazon calls “matchbook” pricing.

When asked for the most common sources of problems for software system implementation projects, experienced system implementers and consultants always list data conversion among their top three. Converting from one production record-keeping system to another is a challenge because you not only have a moving target; you also have a moving origin, as records are created and updated each day while the project is in progress. This book expands on a series of blog posts on The Practicing IT Project Manager website. Originally written for my project manager following, I extensively revised the content for a general business audience.

This book was designed to be a resource for project teams comprised of not just project managers and IT specialists, but the people working in the business areas who own and maintain the data records and will use the new systems. The goal was to provide a clear model expressed in a common language for a cross-functional team.
The first six chapters explain data conversion as an iterative process, from defining the scope to mapping source system records to the target system, to extraction and loading, to validation. This methodology works well with Agile methods, especially those involving iterative prototyping. However, it can also be used with more traditional planning-intensive approaches.

I also include a chapter on incorporating data conversion into the project planning process and a chapter on risk management. The risk management chapter starts with the basics and goes into considerable detail in identifying risks applicable to data conversion. The book includes an Appendix with an example output of a risk identification meeting and the types of information to include in a risk register. There is also a chapter on measuring progress when using this iterative approach, and a Glossary.

As always, thanks for reading my stuff.

Does a Project Manager Have a Fiduciary Duty?

At Musings on Project Management, John Goodpasture recently posted his reflections on whether the project manager is a fiduciary. He asks the rhetorical questions, “At some point, some ox is going to get gored. And then who blames the fiduciary? And to what risk is the fiduciary held?”

It’s an interesting question, and it seems the answer, like most questions rooted in law, depends on jurisdiction. Note that this is not legal advice and I am not an attorney—I’m just some guy with a little knowledge of employment practices in a few countries. An actual labor attorney could fill at least ten pages with critical comments on the next few paragraphs before pausing to refill her coffee cup. That caveat aside here is my response.


In the US, every state but Montana has adopted the doctrine of employment at will. In other words: an employee can be terminated at any time, for any reason—with a few exceptions spelled out by law. That uniquely American principle aside, all employees, including at-will employees, are subject to the law of agency—they are agents of their employers. As such, they are subject to the general fiduciary principle, which centers on loyalty: the employee will not compete with their employer, solicit the employer’s customers, clients or employees prior to the leaving the company, use work time to further the employee’s own interests, or misappropriate confidential information or trade secrets of the employer by sharing that information with the new employers. There is also a duty to account for profits and to deal fairly with his or her employer in all transactions between them. Finally, there is usually a duty to disclose the existence of conflicts or adverse information to the employer, even if the employer is not harmed by the undisclosed adverse interest or information.

Donald TrumpNote that this fiduciary relationship is between employer and employee, rather than between subordinate and manager. Also, note that the duties constrain the actions of the fiduciary; they do not contemplate outcomes. While you can certainly be terminated in the general outrage over the impact a project might have on some power center of your company, that possibility arises from at-will employment, rather than the fiduciary duty. In other words: they can fire you, but they can’t sue you to recover damages.


In the UK, the terms of employment are governed by contract, whether explicit or implicit. In the event of a dispute where no contract document exists, the courts will decide what the terms of the contract are by reviewing the Employment Statement and other supporting relevant material. While you can be dismissed at any time, the employer must show that they have a justifiable, valid reason and that they acted reasonably, given the circumstances.

Under UK common law, the officers and directors of a company have a fiduciary duty to the corporation, while the employees generally do not. In the recent UK case of Ransom v Customer Systems Plc, the Court of Appeal found that the employee’s contract did not create duties equivalent to the loyalty required of a fiduciary.  In an ordinary employment contract, the employee and employer must have regard to each other’s interests, whereas employees are not required to subjugate their own interests, as is required of a director. Bottom line: you’re not a fiduciary and they can’t collect damages, and although you can be fired for a lot of reasons, most HR departments will overrule firing a PM simply because some senior person is pissed off.

Other Jurisdictions

The situation in Canada is similar to the UK, in that there is no employment at will and employment agreements prevail. While courts have found both employers and employee in violation of agency fiduciary obligations, in practice this has mostly been limited to self-dealing, soliciting former clients, and misusing proprietary information. While you can be terminated for misconduct, termination without cause generally requires notice and severance pay. So while you might be fired for pissing off some senior person, you’ll get a lovely parting gift. Australia and New Zealand are a bit more complex in terms of terminations, agency fiduciary obligations, and possible recovery of damages, but are generally similar to Canada, even though your parting gift will likely be capped.

In most non-English speaking jurisdictions, contracts are mandatory and employment is generally based on paternalistic principles. It would be shocking for someone to be fired for pissing off some senior person in the course of doing their job—no court would look kindly on the “because he pissed me off, that’s why” defense.

In closing: while you might be summarily fired in The Land of Trump, as you get further away, the risk diminishes considerably.

New PM Articles for the Week of January 23 – 29

New project management articles published on the web during the week of January 16 – 22. And this week’s video: neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains how to stay calm, even when you know you’ll be stressed, and minimize the downside.

Must read (or hear)!

  • Ryan Ripley interviews Steve McConnell on software estimation in an Agile context and strategies to avoid bad estimation practices. Just over an hour, safe for work.
  • Tiago Palhoto explains the use of relative and absolute estimates in Agile projects.
  • Farhad Manjoo reports on the growing call for massive government investment in the US robotics industry.

Established Methods

  • John Goodpasture reflects on the way we perceive risks and those who identify them.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Kristy Tan Neckowicz and Connie Inman on identifying and rescuing troubled projects. Just 30 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy goes into detail on the Project Charter: why it’s needed, what it should contain, and the benefits derived from having a good one.
  • Kerry Wills wants our input for his new book on an evolved competency model for project managers. A simple survey, less than five minutes.
  • Mike Clayton gives us an overview of PRINCE2 2017 – from what it is to what’s changed.
  • Atif Qureshi provides a beginner’s overview of the most common project management and product development methodologies.
  • Michel Dion offers criteria for judging whether a project is, indeed, a project.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly roundup of all things Agile, from Zombie Scrum to feature flags and Product Owner assessment.
  • Mike Griffiths follows up on his Agile DNA webinar and provides a link to the recording.
  • Natalie Warnert distinguishes between capacity and velocity and explains why the difference matters.
  • Andy Makar reflects on five lessons learned from teams new to Agile methods.
  • The Clever PM explains how to work with Service teams – the folks who spend the most face time with your customers – to gather information and drive acceptance.

Applied Leadership

  • Lolly Daskal suggests few things you can do to be perceived as a leader.
  • Ed Harrington explains how to get your team, your stakeholders, and yourself past negativity bias.
  • Nick Pisano offers an impassioned defense of empiricism and objective truth.
  • Coert Visser argues for a revival in the belief of the relevance of evidence.

Technology and Techniques

  • Evans Walsh points out the key steps to take when migrating databases.
  • Bertrand Duperrin contrasts the business cases for Slack and Microsoft’s Slack-clone, Teams.
  • James Clear offers the beginner’s guide to deliberate practice.

Working and the Workplace

  • Matt Kapko reports on LinkedIn’s ranking of the ten most promising jobs for 2017.
  • Johanna Rothman asks: do you hire for confidence, comfort, or capability?
  • Yan Lhert posts his remote worker manifesto: no more open offices for this night owl.