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.


New PM Articles for the Week of August 11 – 17

Balloon Above the TreesNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 11 – 17. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Pawel Brodzinski expands on Jerry Weinberg’s definition, as “a process of creating an environment where people become empowered.”
  • Mike Griffiths considers the limitations of graphical depictions of data, when the information we should be consuming doesn’t graph so well.
  • Ammar Mango plots alternative routes through conflict.
  • Bryan Barrow explains his alternative to Post-It Notes for facilitating a project planning exercise.
  • Michael Girdler extols the virtues of a good scope statement.
  • Roberto Toledo lists his guidelines for fostering innovation.
  • Bruce Harpham begins a series on regulatory project management.
  • Dovilė Misevičiūtė notes that most attempts to institute time tracking fail within the first few months, usually for the same reasons.
  • Rachel Burger spoils “Guardians of the Galaxy,” pointing out the project management lessons. You could have at least waited until the DVD came out …

Agile Methods

  • Kevin Aguanno compares use cases and user stories, and how each can be the right tool for the job.
  • Bart Gerardi explores Bill Wake’s acronym, INVEST, on how to improve the quality of user stories.
  • Mike Cohn reflects on the balance of specialists and generalists in that most Agile team, the sandwich shop.
  • John Goodpasture explores the need for a release sign-off when applying Agile methods. Because it’s not just about software developers.
  • Chuck Morton continues his series of comments on Peter Morris’ article in the October PM Journal. This episode: Agile is not a project management discipline.

Following the Trends

  • Albert Barron explains [whatever] as a service, using pizza. Yes, even your grandmother will understand this one. Admirable, Albert!
  • Marco Visibelli shares recent lessons learned that tell us how companies make (and lose) money on Big Data projects.
  • Rich Maltzman interviews Kim Marotta on how MillerCoors is applying a sustainability strategy to improve performance.
  • Matthew Kosinski interviews Workday’s Liz Dietz on their upcoming Higher Education product.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Rich Maltzman of EarthPM on applying sustainability practices to project management and the PMBOK. Just 49 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Thomas Juli about integrating personal happiness and focus with project success. Just 32 minutes, safe for work.
  • Glen Alleman links us to seven podcasts from Mary Ann Lapham and Suzanne Miller of the Software Engineering Institute on the principles of Agile development.

New Books

  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews “Project Management Workflow: A Business Process Approach,” by Dan Epstein and Rich Maltzman.
  • Henny Portman reviews Alan Ferguson’s new book, “Integrating Prince2.”