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SMART Requirements July 9, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
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Edwin Ritter:

I’ve been ruminating lately on the interplay of the following : assumptions, requirements and expectations. Whenever we interact, being a good listener and confirming what you heard are key to meaningful conversations. Segue to a snippet of dialogue from a favorite movie scene :
Man: “You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman must be taken to a hospital.”
Woman: “A hospital? What is it?”
Man: “It’s a big building with doctors and patients, but that’s not important right now.”

smartWhich reminded me of SMART*. A quick search led me to this blog which captures what I agree with on the having clear, defined expectations and the big ‘R’ word, requirements. It should not always fall to the project manager to sort this out of course. Sponsors and customers can be SMART. Wouldn’t that be nice? Which implies process and management styles – a topic for a future post.

*Common definition for SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable and Timed

How often are your projects SMART? If you asked for that as a requirement, what are your expectations for a response?

Originally posted on The Practical Project Manager:

In my opinion, requirements are the most under-rated aspect of most projects. In an unbelievable number of corporate projects they are completely non-existent and in the vast majority they are really no more than a paragraph or two of high-level requests which are unlikely to be delivered on successfully. In a very few of the countless projects I have worked on I have seen adequate, or an attempt at adequate, requirements. These projects, without fail, are the most successful projects that I have seen.

Why the passion, you ask? Without clear, complete and agreed upon requirements there is almost zero-chance, yes zero, that the project will be delivered successfully. And when I say successfully, I mean on-time, on-budget and matching the desired scope. Sure, most projects will get delivered without good requirements but you will see project delays (possibly numerous), budget overruns, and final scope that doesn’t satisfy the customer…

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Fake Bestsellers, Concern Trolls, and Hidden Agendas June 26, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in E-Commerce, Trends.
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Edwin Ritter:

An example of the long tail with digital publishing. Several lessons learned here for authors to be aware of and worth the read. Article details the process and some publishing realities in a niche of a slice of a sub-topic. Also, having realistic expectations is examined here as well.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

boomLast Friday we were treated to a story from the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, where Tony Horwitz claimed “I Was A Digital Bestseller” then complained about how little money this made him, and how he would now stick with traditional, print publishers as a result.

Then this Op-Ed was held up – in outlets like Gawker – as another example of how writers have it so tough in this scary new digital world which is going to lead us all into penury.

Just like the story I wrote in January – Fake Controversy Alert: Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller – the key “fact” in Horwitz’s tale of woe doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Can you guess what it is?

Tracker2

Tracker1Boomwas published on January 29 this year. According to KND’s Tracker, before the Op-Ed, the highest rank it achieved in the…

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Memorial Day, 2014 May 24, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Miscellaneous.
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As everyone gets busy with family and friends this weekend, I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day. Memorial DayBe safe and remember those who served to protect our way of life.

Thanks to all those currently in active service!! We are proud of you and appreciate all you do for us. For those returning to civilian life, I hope your new normal works for you and those around you. Peace.

Ramblings about PMOs May 15, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
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In my recent past, I heard our company management question the value in having a PMO. My understanding has always been that the primary reason a PMO exists is to define and maintain standards for project management. PMO is the acronym for Project Management Office. The bottom line result in using a consistent set of standards and practices maintained by a PMO is reduced costs in delivering projects to the customer (internal or external). Often in establishing a PMO, the templates and supporting processes are tailored to suite the organization and culture. When done right, the value is easily understood and there is a proper balance of process, overhead and execution.

pmoroles

I recently came across two appropriate  graphics from another blog that show what a PMO does. A shout out here to the Project Management Files blog here as the source for these images. I submit they quickly depict visually what the PMO can do. The image above shows the PMO transitions involved with the queue of potential projects, active projects and the archive of closed/completed projects. There are many tools to manage these transitions. How to evaluate a candidate project for approval is related to ITIL and of course, the management style. Also related to my previous post on being data driven.

portfolio program project

Another value the PMO provides is with managing the project portfolio and programs. From the same blog, this 2nd image shows how the portfolio, program and projects are distinct. Notice how as a planning tool, this portfolio view can easily be used as a roadmap. In terms of communications with a project team, a PM group or PMO stakeholders, having this overview of projects and interplay among program and the overall portfolio should not be underestimated. It is a much easier discussion to adjust timing of any project and then sort out the impact later. Together these two images provide a great educational tool to ensure everyone understands how projects will be deployed/evaluated/resourced.

Im my journey as a project manager, I have contributed to PMO standards and practices in several organizations. I appreciate the value in having those standards and consistent process to drive projects. The value comes in everyone knowing (and, agreeing on) what is being worked on across the organization and when it will be delivered.

At least one management team did not see that. They had but to ask to find out.

What does your organization use? What is used to manage projects? Does it have a PMO?

Blog Milestone – 5 years and counting April 16, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Miscellaneous, Social Media.
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So the other day, I saw a note from the fine folks at WordPress concerning my blog. The note reminded me that I have been blogging now for five (5) years. Woot! A good run and I have no plans to stop.

5 years bloggingWell, to be accurate, it said I registered 5 years ago. No mention of how active I have been on the blog. A quick check of my blog archive shows I have had at least one post every month since I started with one exception. That distinction belongs to December 2010. That is the only month I did not post. So that makes 59 out of 60 months with a post. My style has evolved and is different now than when I started. Hopefully, it is improved and continues to get better. Writers always say the best thing to do is keep writing.  I refer to this as Hemingway did as fighting the white bull. The archive shows there is a wide variety of blog topics – personal interests, professional concepts, business practices and social media changes. 

There a few posts I am most proud of. In no particular order, they include :

  1. Diversity and Potatoes
  2. Puzzle and Mystery
  3. Positive Change
  4. 2nd Day of Infamy
  5. Re-entry

The all-time traffic leader by far is my ramblings on diversity (#1 above). More about that in a future post. I am in a much different place personally and professionally from when I started. I plan to continue on this journey and post further ruminations going forward. I hope you enjoy my observations and invite your comments. Which post is your favorite?

Here’s to another five years!

Making Decisions with Data March 25, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Miscellaneous, Project Management.
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How familiar is this phrase “We are going to be data driven”? I have heard this a few times in my career. Great concept and useful to manage a business if you are serious and use it consistently. However, when crunch time comes, and everyone’s nerves are worn thin, how many managers stick with the data vs. using their instinct to make a decision?

No one intends to make a poor or bad decision. Assumptions can be wrong; risks occur that are not foreseen. It happens.

The concept is obvious of course, but, one of the most effective ways to make a decision is to use solid data. What is not obvious is the process to define, collect and evaluate data to make an informed choice. Other real world considerations like time, money and deadlines may circumvent staying true to a data driven process.

Decision Matrix

Decision Matrix

All things being equal and when there is adequate time, the process I most prefer uses selected weighting on a set of criteria. The process is commonly known as root cause analysis as a decision making  method. Most refer to this process as Kepner-Tregoe analysis. It is named after the two people who invented the concept and today, their company is a multi-national consulting company. This method is one widget in the Six Sigma toolkit and is considered part of ITIL practices for problem management.

An overview of process includes :

  1. State the issue, problem, and decision to be made.
  2. Explain the use of the decision matrix technique to participants.
  3. Draft a matrix … with candidate choices positioned as rows and criteria as columns.
  4. Weigh the criteria, if required (e.g., 1-5 weight).
  5. Rate each choice within each decision/selection criteria (e.g, 1-5 score – do not rank here).
  6. Multiply the rating by its relative weight to determine weighted score.
  7. Total the scores.
  8. Review results and evaluate, using common sense and good judgment.
  9. Reach consensus.

Once complete, you have criteria and weighting configured in the decision matrix. When evaluating choices, the score helps narrow the discussion to the best choice(s). The discussions on reviewing the results can lead to animated discussions. Ultimately, the best choice comes down confidence in what the numbers tell you. I like to include a tie-breaker or ‘other’ category in the matrix and give it a small weighting of 5 to 10%. That allows a way to include intangibles discovered during the evaluation. Depending on the score for that facet, it can illuminate the best choice and help the team decide between two otherwise equal choices.

This evaluation process can be used for a range of  situations where decisions must be made. I have used this for vendor selection, candidate interviews and for strategy roadmaps. In the end, having data can confirm your choice and give confidence. Using this framework also minimizes biases and leads to an improved appreciation of choices you would not have considered otherwise. Having data is always good; having a process to make a choice with that data is even better.

What process do you use to decide?

 

Impact of Project Communications February 25, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
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One of the most important skills I find in project management is being able to communicate. It may sound simple and a bit obvious and yet can be a hard lesson learned for project managers.  My experience has shown that having the ability to hear and,  just as important, be heard, can make or break a project. The format and style used in those communications can be formal or informal, relative to the culture and management style of the organization. Regardless, that ability to indicate progress or raise issues quickly and get feedback keeps a project on track and moving forward.

Feedback-LoopIn fact, I prefer having a closed loop in communicating. I have found that the feedback loop is key to keeping everyone on the same page about a project. This works not only during execution but also for change management. Without feedback, you may not meet the needs of the client and/or stakeholders. That is a waste of both time and money for them and you. That can easily be avoided working in a closed loop with feedback.

The Project Management Institute lists 5 skills each project manager should have to be successful. The list includes the following traits:

  1. Listen to both what is said and what is not said.
  2. Build relationships with everyone involved in the project and across, up and down the organization.
  3. Set clear priorities with the team and obtain that list from the stakeholders.
  4. Collaborate with everyone as none of us is as smart as all of us.
  5. Convey the mission and project impact to it.

I agree with this list and also expect that stakeholders have similar skills. Their ability to listen and provide clear direction is a key success factor on every project.

Without feedback, how would you know you when you successfully deliver a project?

Email Ramblings January 20, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, User Experience.
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One of the oldest online applications that we still use on a daily basis is email. Short for electronic mail. You may have seen e-mail as a variation also.

PROFS email imageIn the old days, email was the primary tool to connect with another person after the phone. I look at email as an evolution on the hard copy office memo. Compared to the phone, email had the advantage in that you send a note whenever time works for you and the recipient reads it some time later. Checking your in-box for new email is a bit like opening Christmas presents or a box of chocolate as you never know what you are going to get. That may help explain why we check for new email so often.

I won’t segue about faxes. Never was a fan – too error prone, not always legible and non-secure. Focus and back to email.

Outlook email imageFast forward to present day and almost everyone uses Outlook for their work based email application. There are free email tools also (gmail, yahoo, etc.). Email as a tool has come a long way since the old days. For the average office worker, there are many features that go unused. Checking email is very easy from a laptop or mobile phone. In fact, so easy, it is expected that you are always current on reading your email.

Here is the point I want to get to: email is easy to use but not always an effective way to communicate. Over time, the impact has diminished. It is too easy for someone to say ‘I sent you an email’ when they see you in the hallway/cafeteria/bathroom or by office cooler/coffee pot/water fountain.

Great. You sent me a note. That explains everything. Now, it is my responsibility to read it. And, I may have to respond. So, I need to find time to catch up and read your note. Yours and 40 others since this morning. What I read it not always helpful. In fact, it may raise more questions than it answers. Worse, it confuses me and is not helpful at all. There are times when I take the note and walk to the sender’s office and say “I don’t understand your note, can you explain?” Not helpful.

Soon after email became ubiquitous, the behavior seen with memos was transferred online and also heard in reference to email. ‘Did you not read the email I sent?’ was a common refrain. Ditto the aforementioned ‘I sent you a note about that’. Or, the condescending ‘It’s all laid out in the email I sent’.

Here are a few suggestions when creating email:

1) Think about what you want to say. Be clear and don’t make me think about what you are asking for – say it and stop.

2) Use some structure. Email is free form text mostly. However, outline your thoughts. Also,  insert images or links to illustrate your point(s).

3) Be complete. If there is background, refer to it from a past note or meeting. Include a link to a site with more information.

4) Use the Subject wisely. Include something meaningful not whatever is top of mind.

5) Do NOT send me a note asking if I got your note. Assume I got it and chances are high that i did. Those days are long gone when notes are not delivered. If they are, you are using the wrong email address for me.

Email has come a long way but going forward, its’ usage will decline and we will interact using social media platforms instead. There are so many other choices available – blogs, wikis, portals the list goes on.  Some time in the not distant future, email will be done and surpassed by a tool with more features and ways to send and receive information. I hope our habits will change to advantage of what is available.

When that happens, send me a note about that, would you ?

2013 review of my ramblings January 1, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Miscellaneous.
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A nice feature provided by WordPress and an easy way to share this summary. Their stats helper monkeys prepared this 2013 annual report for my blog. How was your traffic? What goals did you meet?

Happy New Year!!!

Looking ahead, what expectations do you have for your blog in 2014?

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013 Year End Ramblings December 29, 2013

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Miscellaneous.
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A quick post to indicate that I, like so many others at this time, am reflecting on the year past. In this rambling, I want to mention up front that I end the year in a good place. I have work and am surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

This year saw several transitions. The first deals with my goal to transition from a contract to a full time employee.  Instead, that contract ended abruptly in April. Good people, solid products and a vision for future growth with an established industry leader. Score that as an opportunity missed due to mis-management by the client.

Another transition was going back into job search. Having a solid network of contacts and a great reputation, I felt my chances were good to land quickly. As usual, things outside of my control dictated otherwise. So, I worked on refreshing my coding skills. A bit like bike riding and fell back into the developing mind set easily. It also improves my value add and increases my expertise in working with software developers.

The final transition occurred after landing another contract gig as a project manager. I began commuting long distance as part of that change. Having tremendous family support made this transition easier. Could not have done this without them.

That’s the highlights. Much more detail in between these transitions of course.

Goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014. I hope you had a good year and wish you success in the new year.  Let me know how I can help and I will do the same.

Happy New Year!

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