New PM Articles for the Week of September 14 – 20

Orange CountyNew project management articles published on the web during the week of September 14 – 20. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Kathleen O’Connor interviews Chris Krebs, a social science researcher, on an experiment in fostering innovation in higher education called “The Creative Disruptors.”
  • Adrian Fittolani details the Monte Carlo approach to prepare a distribution of likely project durations, based on a relatively small number of samples.
  • William Davis introduces us to Statistical PERT, a technique for creating estimates using Excel.

Established Methods

  • Glen Alleman notes that an understanding of system intangibles is required in order to decompose the work needed to create it.
  • Elizabeth Harrin interviews Christian Kotzbauer, Managing Director of Genius Project, on the future of project management software.
  • Bruce Harpham gives us the background and best practices for leading virtual teams.
  • John Goodpasture reviews General Stanley McChrystal’s new book, “Team of Teams.”
  • Gina Abudi lists three quick bullet points that can improve how you negotiate with others.
  • Kerry Wills explains the notion of “watermelon” status reporting: green on the outside, red on the inside.

Agile Methods

  • Johanna Rothman started a series on balancing resource utilization and workflow efficiency. Here are parts two and three; more are on the way.
  • Michael Smith shares some tips on scaling a software development team, gleaned from
  • Bernd Schiffer arms us with 17 questions and 8 techniques for use in a Sprint review.
  • Pedro Gustavo Torres explains pair programming, and shares some best practices.

IT Management

  • Deloitte CIO Journal has an interesting article on preparing for crisis, as opposed to disaster. It’s not just about natural events, but “nefarious acts.”
  • Janice Blake details the key considerations when contracting for software as a service (SaaS) projects.
  • Ron Rosenhead recommends a UK government report from the National Audit Office with some interesting insights into what predicts project success.

Work Isn’t a Place You Go

  • Liane Davey reviews stress: being aware of the impact and dealing with the causes.
  • Emma Bracy give us the short science explanation for why we need to unplug from our hyper-connected routine.
  • Peter Saddington notes that we need manage the time we spend learning and experimenting, in light of our limitations.
  • Karina Keith rounds up three blog posts that make the business case for taking a nap. I’m elderly – I don’t need no stinkin’ business case …

Podcasts and Videos

  • Craig Smith interviews Jeff Patton, author of “User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product.” Just 43 minutes, safe for work.
  • Harry Hall reviews his recommendations for creating accurate project estimates. Just 2 minutes, safe for work.
  • Ruairi O’Donnellan shares a list of six TED Talks relevant for project managers. Excellent stuff!
  • Kamal Ahmed interviews Demis Hassabis, head of Google’s machine learning business. Just two minutes, safe for work, plus some text not included in the video.


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 October 27 – November 2

Just OverheadNew project management articles published on the web during the week of October 27 – November 2. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • The second edition of Women Testers Magazine is now available. Not just for women or testers – this is some truly excellent content. Highly recommended!
  • John Goodpasture considers two views of “architecture.”
  • A Business Cloud News survey found that IT isn’t really driving SaaS adoption, and cloud-based applications are still providing data security challenges.
  • Andy Jordan concludes his long series on organizational risk management.
  • Johanna Rothman lays out an approach for tactical management.
  • Bruce Benson makes the case for getting into the weeds – researching the history, understanding past performance, and scheduling based on demonstrated capabilities.
  • Rebecca Mayville uses the butterfly as a metaphor for driving positive change.
  • Michelle Stronach recounts a sad story of how she took over a project in progress, from a well-liked, competent project manager who passed away.

Agile Methods

  • Kailash Awati describes how to apply the principles of emergent design to enterprise IT.
  • Glen Alleman shares his article, “Agile Program Management,” published in Cutter Journal. A long but excellent read.
  • Mike Cohn continues his series on sprint planning with the commitment-driven approach.
  • David Anderson notes that, as soon as organizations get used to time-boxing, they shrink the size of the boxes. Kanban (naturally) avoids this trap!
  • Don Kim believes that the Scrum team will only succeed if the Product Owner truly understands what is needed and can communicate it effectively.
  • Ravi Nihesh Srivastava proposes using Scrum to produce a high-quality technical proposal.


  • Bob Tarne summarizes keys points from a recent presentation by Tom Peters.
  • Elizabeth Harrin interviews Oana Krogh-Nielsen, Head of the PMO for the National Electrification Program for the Danish rail system, Banedanmark.
  • Bruce Harpham interviews Terry Schmidt, whose resume begins with his internship at NASA during the Apollo Moon landing program, on strategic project management.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Joseph Flahiff at the PMI Global Congress, on his new book, “Being Agile in a Waterfall World.” Just 30 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior rounds up with fellow Agilistocrats Richard Cheng and Dhaval Panchal to discuss Agile misconceptions they see in training classes. Just 15 minutes, safe for work.
  • Margaret Meloni shares an article by Roxi Hewertson, “Lead Like it Matters.” Just 3 minutes, safe for work.
  • Craig, Tony, and Renee interview Em Campbell-Pretty on the Scaled Agile Framework. Just 35 minutes, SAFe for work. Oh, stop rolling your eyes …

Pot Pouri

  • Linky van der Merwe tells us about the African Storybook Project, which aims to translate children’s stories into African languages and publish them on the internet.
  • Pat Weaver celebrates the 30th anniversary of the PMP examination with a brief history of PMI, the PMBOK, and the PMP credential.
  • Ralf Finchett shows the Project De-Motivational posters he’s been working on, and asks if we have any ideas. Wait until I take my medication, Ralf …
  • Kerry Wills finds the humor in Reply to All when “All” is the entire company.