New PM Articles for the Week of February 17 – 23

Cherry PickingNew project management articles published on the web during the week of February 17 – 23. We read all of this stuff so you don’t have to! Recommended:

Trends

  • Dr. Harold Kerzner describes PM 2.0 as a replacement for the traditional approach to project management. Meaning, the stuff he’s been writing about for 35 years.
  • Mike Griffiths examines the prospect that virtual teams may be the next revolution in work, by reviewing past revolutions and evolutions.
  • Andrea Brockmeir, Vicki James, Elizabeth Larson, and Richard Larson report on the trends that will affect project managers and business analysts in 2014.
  • Elizabeth Harrin notes four ways in which project management (and work!) has changed significantly in the last ten years.
  • Saritha Rai reports on India’s $75 million Mars orbiter mission. The U.S.A. can’t make a movie about going into space that cheaply!

PM Best Practices

  • Jennifer Lonoff Schiff shares her tips for setting and managing expectations on IT projects.
  • Martin Webster explains how to get your team to the high-performing level. It starts with loyalty.
  • Patti Gilchrist addresses team building when your team is geographically distributed.
  • Steven Levy begins a series on calculating risk. Here’s part two.
  • Geoff Crane demonstrates how to put together a work breakdown structure, using “Saving Private Ryan: The Musical” as an example.
  • John Goodpasture warns that the excitability arising from our calculations should reflect the relative precision of our estimates.
  • John Reiling offers several key factors to consider during the buy-or-build analysis, when outsourcing is under consideration.
  • Marian Haus identifies several potential constraints on the project schedule, and how to address them.

Project Governance

  • Glen Alleman links systems thinking to assessing costs and determining what a project is worth.
  • Michel Dion looks at the governance differences between project-oriented organizations and those where projects run in parallel with routine operations.
  • Mario Trentim continues his series on implementing a PMO.
  • Ashley Smith reports on a survey that found corporate counsel and compliance experts expect the growth of data protection laws to impact their global businesses.

Agile Methods

  • Gil Broza lists his recommendations for preparing your organization to actually be Agile, rather than simply do Agile.
  • Shim Marom reviews a paper by Terry McKenna and Jon Whitty, on why Agile methods are not new, and why Agile is not going to be the last word.
  • Johanna Rothman concludes her series on the cost of delay, parts five and six.
  • Mike Cohn offers some examples of user stories for back-end systems, meaning those without human users.
  • Ritesh Gupta and Sharon Sharma tell how a Scrum team can address discovered value, meaning the requirements “discovered” as development progresses.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Stephen Weber from Less Meeting, who tells how to reduce the amount of time we spend on unproductive meetings. Just 44 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior interviews Agile coach and author Kamal Mangani on transforming large organizations that struggle to use Agile methods. Just 15 minutes, safe for work.

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of January 20 – 26

Dennis the NewsboyNew project management articles published on the web during the week of January 20 – 26. We read all of this stuff so you don’t have to! Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Pawel Brodzinski defines “the leadership gap,” and how to close it.
  • Tony Consentino reports on research that shows analytics will be a top business technology priority in 2014.
  • Mary Shacklett details how Cloud solutions are being used to reduce operational risk in five specific supply chain management cases.
  • Elizabeth Harrin follows up last week’s book review with an interview of Brigitte Cobb, author of get-things-done book, “Make it Fly.”
  • Michelle Symonds says we shouldn’t ignore scope and schedule, just to stay within budget.
  • Glen Alleman says that the key to delivering value is showing up on time, on budget, with the needed capabilities.

Communication

  • Dave Wakeman tells how to improve your communications by being more focused and conscious.
  • Cheri Baker shows how to be open to feedback, based on lessons learned from writing her first novel.
  • Steven Levy finds an interesting lesson on communication on Richard Sherman’s adrenalin-filled post-game interview, last Sunday. Go, Seahawks!
  • Brad Egeland concludes his series on delivering bad news to your client.
  • Tony Adams quotes Nietzsche on why people don’t want to hear the truth, and then explains why you tell them, anyway, in terms that matter to them.

Project Management Metaphors

  • Bruce Benson finds lessons for project managers (and their managers) in a slightly confused “war on dementia” public awareness campaign.
  • Nicole Scrudato explains why project management is like a trip to Las Vegas. And to those of you planning to come here: thank you for supporting our economy!
  • Tim Walker explores diagnosing and treating a bad project manager.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews blogger Jared Easley on overcoming self-doubt, and how he “got” Seth Godin for a blog interview. Just 41 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Dr. Emad Rahim, who explains how to identify stakeholders. Just 25 minutes, safe for work.
  • Peter Saddington shared a video depicting a conference call in real life. Just four minutes, safe for work, but too accurate to be anything but depressing.
  • Barry Hodge shared a video by Marie Forleo on how to improve your communication skills by inserting an “intentional, awkward pause.” Just six minutes, safe for work.

Agile Methods

  • John Goodpasture expands on a recent comment by Mike Griffiths, detailing traits of good (and bad) product owners.
  • Adrian Fittolani reflects on making the practice of Scrum evolve, and recommends a few good books.
  • Peter Saddington shares a badly distorted view of Agile, derived from listening to consultants and reading Gartner Group reports. “The Sluggish Manifesto?”
  • Christian Vos explains why you need a definition of “done” at the sprint and release level in Scrum.
  • Wayne Grant explains how to get to a definition of “done,” at the user story level.

Pot Pouri

  • Shane Snow finds wearable tech devices all share the same problem as early MP3 players – they all suck for different reasons, because they’re not about what users want.
  • Scott Berkun reviews Tom Standage’s book, “Writing on the Wall: The First 2,000 Years of Social Media.”

Enjoy!

Getting Enterprise Software Development Requests from Speculation to Articulation

In my experience, most scope creep in enterprise software projects manifests as “feature-itis.”  This is the demand for some custom feature to be added to packaged software, by some stakeholder.  In many cases, the requested feature / behavior / report is required by some authority, internal or external, and driven by compliance.  These generally (but not always) qualify as “Must haves.”  In other cases, closer inspection reveals the request to be a variation of “We’ve always done it this way.”  These generally (but not always) end up in the business process re-engineering pile.  And in still other cases, it’s a desire for something completely new.  The stakeholder wants a capability they are currently living without, because they believe this project is an opportunity to get their wishes fulfilled.  When asked why they need this new capability, they speculate about what they could do if they had it.  Consequently, I refer to them as “If I had” requirements.

“If I had a boat, I’d go out on the ocean.

And if I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat.

And we would all together go out on the ocean –

Me upon my pony on my boat.”  — Lyle Lovett

Now, don’t get me wrong: there are a lot of good innovations in the “If I had” category.  But things haven’t changed much since 2002, when Jim Johnson of The Standish Group noted that only 20% of software features are regularly used, and over 60% of features are rarely or never used.  Even today, most of the business value derived from any premises-based software or SaaS implementation comes from the most common or high-value-added use cases.  So it benefits the organization to focus scarce resources on those high-value cases.  That doesn’t mean we should stifle innovation; far from it.  We simply need to ensure the selection process is sufficiently rigorous.  And one the best tools for driving that rigor is enforcing the use of user stories, so common in Agile methodologies.

“As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so that <benefit>”

Re-structuring the requirement as a user story forces a more specific articulation.  It also makes the proposal less about the person proposing the change than about a role.  This allows the proposed requirement to be better (and less emotionally) evaluated for business value.

  • Articulating the role helps drive the conversation about who benefits.  Will the beneficiaries be the people who will bear the incremental cost and risk?  If not, are their interests important to overall success?  I remember writing a massive audit report for one project that was run once and never used again, since the stakeholder left the organization and no one else cared.
  • Articulating the goal or desire helps drive the conversation about how to achieve it and keep it in operation.  The cost of delivering and maintaining the new capability is largely a function of the solution chosen.
  • Articulating the benefit drives the conversation about the business value that will be derived from this proposal.  Saving ten hours a week is significant, but at what labor cost?  If accuracy will be improved, what cost savings will be realized?

As practicing IT project managers, we want to guide our project stakeholders who are practitioners of other arts and sciences to effective solutions.  We don’t need to match their level of subject matter knowledge; we simply have to facilitate their ability to articulate their requirements.  Of course, I doubt Lyle Lovett could re-phrase his wish for ponies and boats as a user story, and even if he did, I doubt you’d want to sing it.  But some desires are better sung about than added to a development backlog.