Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

A Gathering is not Productive

After what I considered a very successful project, the planned Lessons Learned meeting made me sit down and collect my thoughts. What did I want to share? What did I want to pass on to the organization that would make people think, ‘Ah-ha! Excellent idea!’?

That is what I was after. I did not want to dwell much on the negative aspects of the project, as I felt there were really very few. I wanted to remember those ‘genius’ moments where issues were quickly solved, dilemmas were smoothed over and hiccups were ironed out.

I assumed there would be others who felt the same, who wanted to add something to the body of knowledge related to these types of projects within the organization. What a dreamer I was!

Our gathering of minds, for what was supposed to be a project closure and lessons learned, went like this: hand in any artifacts, and now let’s celebrate…and that was about it. Our fearless leader did voice accolades for various people and groups, but the meeting fell well short of my expectations, which consisted of a deep, introspective analysis of the good, bad and ugly.

I was sorely disappointed. I am still mulling the lack of event over.

I realized Lessons Learned meetings may be something that drives me but few others, and I have to respect the personas of the rest of the team. I ended up sending in a revised document on all that I wanted to be archived, but I did not feel the release that I had expected.

The reason I do retrospectives is to ensure everyone has spoken out about their concerns, human resource issues and accolades for any and all parties. I want people to get ‘it’–whatever it is–off their chests. This is a surprisingly good way to release stress. Let your staff talk about the project, the bad first and then the good.

My team is happy, but my sponsor missed that golden opportunity to shine as a leader who has the vision to see the long term benefits.

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Project Closure: planning the end

Closing a project is, in itself, a project. Everything has to be ‘finalized’ in some way – every deliverable, every expectation. A recent client of mine was not really understanding the closure idea. This person was sure (s)he could just hand the product over to the client, and that was the end. But, you should use a formal process every time!

The end requires a process; a set of procedures that close out all the elements of the project. If there is software for example, there must be some way for the client to acknowledge that the product meets the requirements. So, an acceptance test plan needs to be created.

The closure process also requires a formal meeting that specifies the end is near and establishes a processes to finalize the handover or ‘go live’ of the software. At this point, you also obtain the final authorization signatures that signify the project is closed.

There is still more work to be done, however. In software, you or your team may have to hand over the source code, decouple your team members from the client office systems, hand off the documentation and maybe clean out your desks in some cases. Closure is when some of us get paid…or have to wait if there is some surprise ending.

If the product is not quite right, the testing is not acceptable, the development requires more tear down or there are support or service level agreements to maintain, follow-up must be defined, clarified and finalized with the client signatures. Done is when everyone thinks it is done. Clearly establish all stakeholder expectations for ‘done.’

What comes next depends on long term commitments, if any, and/or new projects waiting to be started. Do not let an old project keep rearing an ugly head because someone does not think it is ‘done;’ get it all finalized and approved, and disconnect as needed. Moving on requires focus on new projects, so don’t let old projects drag you back in. Closure is very important.


New White Paper Alert!

Check out our latest project management white paper discussing business cases. It’s free! Click here to read an excerpt of the paper, written by Global Knowledge instructor James Swanson.

IT Skills in Demand for 2010

A look at the skills expected to be most in demand for 2010

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.

– Henry Ford

There is much to be learned from the lessons of the Great Recession. Many of these lessons are as applicable to companies as they are to the employees that work for those companies. Keeping our skills current, either through formal or informal training, is one of those lessons. With that in mind respondents to our 2010 IT Salary and Skills survey were asked to assess the skill sets they anticipate their organizations will seek to add during the year.

The top skills to be added, according to respondents, offer no real surprises but appear as a continuation of previously established trends.

More than a quarter of respondents indicated their companies and organizations would look to be adding project management skills this year. Organizations that anticipate needing project managers are more apt to report that IT projects are coming back online, see the current times as an opportunity for growth, and tend toward larger IT staffs. Key industry verticals include IT consulting and related services, defense and homeland security, health care, and aerospace.

Security, especially cyber-security, has gained significant interest recently in light of numerous attacks against company systems including the botnet discovered by Herndon, Va.-based NetWitness Corp. According to an article published by Computerworld on February 18, 2010, this attack affected at least 75,000 computers at 2,500 companies and government agencies worldwide. This skill set is in high demand in the aerospace and defense sectors.

There is also a trend toward larger firms needing security specialists, but it is not as pronounced a trend as it is for project management. Firms looking to add security are seeing projects coming online and generally view conditions as ready for growth.

Virtualization and cloud computing are being promoted as green technology, which has quite a bit of buzz around it at the moment. One-fourth of respondents indicated this is a skill they plan to pursue.

There is a significant, positive relationship between the status of IT projects and the pursuit of virtualization. Those who indicated IT projects were coming online were 20% more likely to say they would be adding virtualization. Interest is strongest with VARs and IS integrators and those in IT consulting and related services.

Three out of four respondents who thought that business analysis skills would be on the table this year reported that IT projects were coming online now and these skills would be needed to assist in steering this process as the year unfolds. This skill set is twice as likely to be found in larger departments with 250 or more IT professionals (31.1% vs. 15.7% for departments of fewer than ten employees). This knowledge domain is more apt to be needed in the pharmaceutical, biotech and consumer manufacturing arenas than it is defense or aerospace.

Other twists
Interestingly, one in five respondents reported their organizations would not be adding skills this year. Not surprisingly, this group was significantly more likely to report that IT projects have not yet begun to resume. Concurrently, they are more likely to report that business conditions are stuck in the mud and have not seen any traction so far. This scenario appears to be more likely in the Midwest and Northeast than it is in the Western and Southern regions of the US.

Looking down on the list you see business intelligence and predictive analytics. These fields gained significant attention in 2009 when IBM purchased leading analytics software provider SPSS for approximately $1.2 billion. Although only 12.5% of respondents overall reported interest in this area, the conversation changes significantly when viewed by job role. As can be seen in the accompanying chart, the importance of predictive analytics changes depending upon who you talk to. If your conversations include time with analysts and business process types, or department heads, then you may want to brush up on your knowledge of the BI and predictive analytics space.

Even when the economy is going sideways, the fundamental truth to obtaining a better career position is to keep your skills sharp, even if that means studying on your own until the next opportunity for paid training comes along.

Do you use a Checklist?

In many professions, checklists have become a common standard, according to a new book called The Checklist Manifesto. The author, Atul Gawande, writes that as today’s jobs become more complex, checklists that outline proper procedures are a way to decrease errors and mistakes.

The book focuses on the checklists used by healthcare professionals for complex procedures…surgeries, blood transfusions, etc. Gawande found that over a three month period with 8000 patients in hospitals around world, the use of checklists decreased death rates by 46%!!

Your projects may not literally be life or death situations (even though they may seem like it), but they can still produce serious consequences when not done correctly. The PMI PMBOK Guide’s Process Groups and Knowledge Areas provide a checklist of sorts for use during a project’s lifetime. But I’m sure that some project managers have their own checklists that they use to help them. Do you? Tell us about it!


PMs get High-Tech with Holiday Lights

Two project managers local to Cary, NC, where Global Knowledge is headquartered, were in the area paper today for their extreme holiday decorations.

Denny Cole, a project manager for IBM, and Al Love, who owns his own project management company, worked together to string more than 17,000 Christmas lights and 3,000 feet of wire around Cole’s property. They then synchronized the lights to flash along with two songs from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Onlookers tune to shortwave radio station to hear the music.

Cole plans to increase the scope of his project next year.

Check out the News & Observer video here.

Work Breakdown Structure

Check-out Global Knowledge Instructor Samuel Brown as he explains the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This is his YouTube debut!

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