Impact of Project Communications February 25, 2014Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
Tags: closed loop, communications, feedback, hearing, listen, management style, project management, project manager
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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.
In 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.
- Listen to both what is said and what is not said.
- Build relationships with everyone involved in the project and across, up and down the organization.
- Set clear priorities with the team and obtain that list from the stakeholders.
- Collaborate with everyone as none of us is as smart as all of us.
- 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, 2014Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, User Experience.
Tags: application, e-mail, electronic mail, email, gmail, note, outlook
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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.
In 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.
Fast 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, 2014Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Miscellaneous.
Tags: blog review, overview, review, stats, summary
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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.
2013 Year End Ramblings December 29, 2013Posted by Edwin Ritter in Miscellaneous.
Tags: family, ramblings, transition
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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!
Google Ejects Android ROM-Maker Cyanogen’s Installer App From Play — Citing Developer T&C Violations November 28, 2013Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
Tags: applets, apps, smart phone
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Caveat emptor. Fore-warned is fore-armed. Whatever cliche you chose, do the research and check the reviews before you install this on your smartphone. Then decide.
Originally posted on TechCrunch:
Well that didn’t take long. Google has asked Cyanogen Inc. to remove its alternative Android ROM installer app from the Play store.
Cyanogen raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital back in September to turn its geek-beloved aftermarket version of Android into a mainstream flavour of the platform — with the ultimate aim of using an Android variant to compete with standard Android (and iOS) for consumers’ attention.
To kick off its mainstream market targeting effort, Cyanogen released an installer app for its CyanogenMod earlier this month — to make it easier for less tech savvy Android users to flash the ROM on their devices.
Ramblings on web design process October 26, 2013Posted by Edwin Ritter in E-Commerce, Project Management.
Tags: infographic, project management, Slideshare, web project management, web projects, web site design
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You know the phrase “It’s great when a plan comes together”? It strikes me as odd that we are surprised when the results of planning using a consistent process yields what we expect. That’s the purpose of a plan. Perhaps from experience we know that a plan and process don’t always match reality.
I found this infographic a while ago and posted it to Slideshare (shameless unintended plug). It is a useful visual to show the end to end process in plan, design and build phases of a website. From project to project, the actual timing can vary widely from what is shown. Factors such as scope and complexity, cost and resources will drive the actual durations. This graphic is useful in guiding the conversation with teams and clients alike. During status updates, it’s useful to ensure everyone understand which phase we are in. It helps set expectations and also show what’s next.
However, I’ve found that some phases are not optimized, like reviews and approvals. Reviews and approvals tend to take much more time than we expect. That makes project management interesting. How do you account for extended review cycles without impacting the delivery date? What makes it more fun is some client adding new features during the reviews. Call it scope creep. I’m sure they realize it will change the end date. Simple math, really. More features = more time.
Following the plan takes rigor and discipline. Flexibility also helps when reality hits. Keep your plan together. Sorting out the impact to the plan and getting everyone to agree can be a daily task for project managers. I always preface updates to clients with the phrase “I don’t make the news, just report it.” So, don’t be surprised. Expect the results you plan on.
It is great when a plan comes together. That’s why you use a process to make it happen.
Ramblings on positive change September 22, 2013Posted by Edwin Ritter in Behavior, career.
Tags: career, Change
Since my last post, I have gone through some changes. Changes in employment and changes in location. It came about fairly quickly, now that I have some time to reflect on it. I recently found a position as a project manager and am part of a web development group once again.
I am fortunate to have so many good people in my life. My family has been 100% supportive. I have great friends who wished me well and their help is only a phone call or email away. I have but to ask. That support makes the transition much easier.
Taking this new job required relocating out of state. Not something I had intended initially. For many reasons outside of my control, the job I wanted was not available locally. I have been solicited to work in many areas around the country but held out for an opportunity that was in my home town. Keep the other aspects of my life the same. Did not work out that way this time around. Over the last 5 years, I have had several career changes. Most of those were outside my control in terms of duration.
As for the work, it feels good to be back in many ways. Good to be working again. Good to be with an IT team that works closely with Marketing. Like any new job, it takes some time to get settled. Get up to speed. Learn the ropes. More shop worn cliches. There are some interesting challenges ahead. I firmly expect to have an impact and be able to help my new team. I already know they will listen. That makes things so much easier. In my first week, I have already established my skills and experience. Here the biggest change is people are willing to accept it. That has not always been true in the past.
Going forward, more changes will be dealt with. In both the personal and professional facets, I will have good people to work through any and all changes that come my way.
I am most grateful for that and hope that never changes!
Tags: coding, deployment methods, lifecycle, management, process, project management, projects, software, software development, software development lifecycle, software development teams, technology, tools
In my last post, I covered my recent efforts at software programming after a self-imposed hiatus. As a follow up, I wanted to talk about the development cycle. More specifically, the software development lifecycle. The most traditional development method is the Waterfall method. As it’s name implies, the lifecycle flows across phases with the result being a finished product that is tested to satisfy design requirements.
Deployment methods I have used include Waterfall and Agile among others and hybrids of these. As shown in the image, there is a feedback loop with testing that can introduce new/revised requirements. That starts the cycle over again, from the beginning. From my experience, there are two phases that seem to get short shrift. One or both of these typically get compressed due to project constraints and are sacrificed in order to stay on schedule. Those phases include Design and Test. What I have also found is that if you accelerate either of those, the project will reap a short term benefit. But, ultimately the project will not stay on track. Instead, the project will re-visit one or both phases, which causes waste, and any gains in time expected are then not delivered.
As a programmer, I admit I have squeezed several phases. My advice – whatever process you employ, don’t cheat it. Having a solid design ensures requirements are addressed and adequate testing provides confidence for success at launch. Whatever method you use, adhere to the diligence in each phase and then keep progressing forward. Each phase should be sized according to the project goal. Changes to existing code base can be minimal and have little design impact. Great! Testing should then focus on regression impact to ensure everything is working with new changes integrated cleanly.
Does your mileage match mine? Comments invited!
Ramblings on coding once again June 18, 2013Posted by Edwin Ritter in career.
Tags: coding, CSS, eclipse ide, HTML, java, java complier, jQuery, oracle java, PHP, programmer, Python, Ruby, software, software development, software development teams, technology
I learned a long time ago that being good in one thing can limit your career. I did not limit myself and have worked as a software programmer, system administrator, project manager and supervisor. I quickly learned that moving into each new role requires a change in focus and leads to new insights as to how teams interact. In each role, I have always worked with software development teams in one capacity or another.
Over the last two months, I set a goal for myself to re-new my skills (and learn new ones) in software programming. The web is so good at providing learning resources and somehow, I found my way to the CodeAcademy web site. It tracks your progress and also awards badges and points, like a video game.
The first day, I ‘earned’ 68 points and getting back into coding was easier than I thought. I started with a HTML refresher and quickly re-gained a developer frame of mind. While the tools are different since my first job, the actual coding is similar to the bike riding syndrome. I then began using the site every day and started a consecutive day coding streak.
Each day, I learned more about HTML and moved on to CSS, Java and gained insight into working with jQuery, PHP, Python and Ruby. I find an affinity to the server side apps of PHP, Ruby and Python.
My recent daily learning regimen using Codeacedemy has just ended. I worked my way through 1000 exercises over a consecutive 60 day period. On weekends and holidays, it took a concerted effort to find the time to code. During this streak, I also installed Eclipse IDE, created an account on JSFiddle and reviewed Oracle Java training also. Also a bonus, my MAC OS provides access to the java complier and Ruby via the command line as they are built in to the OS. The command line brings me back to the old days….<insert favorite old soldier story here>.
I’m not done yet and there is always more to learn. My intent here is to keep improving my skills. Having always worked with technical people, I understand the software development process from different perspectives. I also know that being able to ‘wear different hats’ is a positive and makes me more marketable.
Now that I am riding the coding bike once again, I am comfortable working on these applications as part of a development team. I also bring my experience and perspective as a project manager, supervisor and system administrator to the table. I continue to code and to learn about syntax intricacies and improving on my skills.
If you have programming skills, you may be aware of the site I used. For new programmers, it is a good place to consider – especially, since it is free. I like the Eclipse IDE (also free) and have also used DreamWeaver in the past. Oracle provides a good overview with Java also. Everyone builds their toolkit over time. I am refreshing mine and adding new ones.