This is an excellent book written by Mike Cohn who is the founder of Mountain Goat Software. The title of the book Agile Estimating And Planning says it all for estimating and planning of an Agile Project. It says if the planning and estimating is not done in an agile way, the agile project is not relevant to this estimating and planning. Without taking agile into account while planning and estimating of your projects, you cannot run your projects in Agile way.
Mountain Goat Software is a legendary, over 20 years old company engaged in consulting in process and project management. The company is a leading training organization for many global corporate. Mike Cohn has clientele ranging from small start-ups to a large number of top 40 Fortune companies. Mike is also a founding member of well known Agile Alliance besides being a regular contributor to a number of related magazines and a renowned speaker at a number of conferences. Mike has also written a good amount of books like User Stories Applied in 2004.
Agile Estimating and Planning talks of a number of important features like planning, estimating and scheduling thereby answering the questions like – What to plan to build and its timelines, sizing of estimations and when to do what with a quantitative answer to “How much?”. The book has 7 sections and 23 chapters. At the end of each chapter you will find a well organized set of key learning points from that chapter to be imbibed in real life scenarios. The book has intelligently taken care of global companies without being focused on a specific country.
Part 1 of the book focuses on importance of planning, problems arising out of wrong planning and how to set goals in an agile atmosphere. A good plan needs to be built in a crisp manner to make is agile planning. Whereas Chapter 1 explains above, chapter 2 talks about the difference between traditional, orthodox project approach where estimating and planning go usually haywire, thus resulting in project delays or failures. In chapter 3 we learn about the meaning of agility and the broad level significance of agile estimating and planning that is further explained to micro level in further chapters.
Part 2 talks in depth about project estimation, estimation sizing and estimation duration. Story building is well explained in chapter 4 & 5. Chapter 6 deals with story points with a fantastic explanation on planning poker. Chapter 7 further focuses on alignment of story points with estimations and thus reviewing at the end of each story point so as to go for re-estimating.
Overall a must read for all agile aspirants to experts so as to gain a great deal of insight on the subject.
The event ALE 2014 going to be in Kraków this year, is meant to be engrossing and engaging for all Scrum Masters and in addition for all developers who are working in Agile environment or strive to learn about the subject. The presentation that is quite important to attend is on the topic – Involving UX and Visual Design while working in an Agile Development environment. ALE stands for Agile Lean Europe. ALE is a group of professionals who are dedicated in building a unique Agile and Lean community all across Europe who learn to work in a most collaborative manner while having fun.
As we all know that product design is the soul of any web project or for that sake any project. It is very important to understand why simplification of UX is important and thereby building user friendly interfaces plays a major role in any web project. That is where the key role of visual designers and graphics in UIs becomes quite important. To achieve success in building user friendly interfaces, it is important then to learn why waterfall approach does not fit in for such kind of projects. It is not at all advisable to finish all UX related work before the beginning of visual design. In today’s world where project timelines are tight and require least rework with first time right kind of approach, lean and agile definitely play a major role to achieve this.
Whereas waterfall talks of different teams working on a project, Agile says the same in entirely different manner with a motto of one team working on a project having several roles. In ALE2014 during 20-22 August, the attendees are also going to learn about how to move from Waterfall to Agile, Building and using User Stories, Scope of user stories, using scrum effectively, learning about Kanban and how to use it in project management.
You can see a detailed program here.
A Professor of the Practice in prestigious Department of Architecture in MIT, Sheila Kennedy, has bagged the Inaugural Design Innovator Award presented to her by the Architectural Record Magazine. This Inaugural award is newly built program to recognize the increased contribution of women in the Design profession that is apparently focused and extraordinary in nature. Recognition in this category is based on the dedicated amount of work done by Sheila Kennedy in area of marvelous innovative initiatives taken in materials and new building categories.
Kennedy has proved a tremendous amount of contribution in her work towards intersections of architecture, innovative approach in public space and digital networks. Her work that has been recognized and awarded is towards state of the art contribution in the Public Ferry Terminal in Manhattan of the East 34th Street. Kennedy has been recently honored with this award in the New York AIA Design Excellence Merit Award for the year 2014 where her excellence has been recognized as Building of the Month for the month of October 2014. The award has been jointly sponsored by Culture Now and New York AIA bodies. The unique part is the digital fabrication technology used by Kennedy for this speedy construction. Technology used in this project is interactive sensing system wherein the control mechanism is on tidal flows that move in the surface of the river.
Scrum By The Book, a video presented by Per Beining is of around 40 odd minutes duration and is focuses on providing you a walk through of the basis of Scrum, its fundamentals and fundamental elements; and of course, the interconnection among all these factors. The video is beautifully built and presented with a superb kind of related animation so as to cover the most popular form of Agile Methodology – Scrum.
This 42 minutes of video is fully engaging and at no point of time lets you get disengaged from what is being presented. It clearly talks about Sprints, Sprint planning, Sprint Backlog, Spring Goal, Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team, Potential Releasable Product Increment, Tasks, Daily Scrum, Burn down or Burn up Chart, Definition of Done, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, Product Backlog, Product Backlog Grooming, Spring Cancellation and so on. Overall a very effective video and a must watch for all Aglie/ Scrum professionals/ enthusiasts.
Looking at the global verticals becoming interconnected by sharing similar kind of issues and in wake of sharing the challenges with online communities and trying finding out optimum solutions by joining hands with best of the brains, Ford Silicon Valley Lab has launched a global challenge for development community to find out the best of the solutions for challenges being faced at various levels in various countries/ cities. Innovation is the key to all challenges. Mobility is the key problem being faced worldwide whether it is connected to economical, affordability, environmental, social or global factors.
Who Can Participate In This Challenge:
a. An application development professional in the capacity of individuals
b. An organization with a team size of less than 50 employees
c. A large organization with a strength of employees more than 50
Whereas category a and b above are applicable to compete for the prize money, category c can participate to get a non-cash Large Organization Recognition Award, which in no terms is lesser.
What Platform: Developers are free to use and development tools on any platform. They can use Ford’s proprietary development tool OpenXC too.
Purpose: The prize winning (or recognition winning) application will become part of Ford Automobiles for deployment or further enhancement/ development. The application developed might also be used as an integrated tool with their any of the existing apps (Ford Sync).
Location: Developers belonging to any city across the globe may submit relevant app(s) for any locations mentioned for the contest – Lisbon, Los Angeles, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Shanghai, Johannesburg cities and the entire Argentina country. The competition/ challenge is specific/ unique for specific location depending on the specific requirements of these locations.
Duration: The challenge has started from July 15th, 2014 and is on till October 14th, 2014.
What Exactly is to be developed: Location wise requirements are as below:
Lisbon: Developers are required to develop an application that helps Ford in optimizing the delivery of their goods and services in a sustainable manner for cities having population within a limit of 600,000.
Mumbai: The application to be submitted for this city is covered under Monsoon App Downpour Challenge where the complete focus of the app will remain on improvement of mobility forces during the severe weathers.
Delhi: The challenge is named as SUMURR Golden Hour Challenge in which the main attention of the application is meant to reduce time for taking care of traumatic instances.
Chennai: Challenge in Chennai is named as SUMURR mHealth Challenge. The focus of the app has to be on providing information on health services to rural areas.
Los Angeles: The app challenge here is to develop Parking Lots 2.0 in which the main focus is to provide innovative and unique ways of providing outdoor surface parking lots.
Shanghai: The challenge here is to provide an app that provides a transformational assistance in improving mobility. The challenge is called Urban Community Challenge.
Johannesburg: Developers for this challenge need to develop accessories to improve mobility.
Argentina: The developers need to bring in an innovative app to define the future of mobility for the whole Argentina including urban planning, new mobility models in public and private arena.
This Dilbert video on Why Projects Fail by George Carr gives an entirely different perspective on why Projects Fail where the project management approach is not in place, your boss is not at all clear about what a project actually is, and how it needs to be handled. In that kind of scenario, in the name of project management lot of rubbish things keep happening that becomes a killer for the project itself. Projections, Project Design and Project mobility; all go for a toss…
Here is another excellent video by Jennifer, Director, ProjectManager.com on the top 10 reasons why projects fail. Most of the reasons, as project managers, have already known to many of us, that we have faced from time to time, project to project, customer to customer and organization to organization. At times we tend to forget these failure reasons of past projects and thus ignore to anticipate the failure signals in an ongoing project.
Google and Raven Aerostar started a project last year in which a final product had to be launched in February end this year. The product was nothing but a number of balloons, where one of that, named as Ibis 152, was launched in New Zealand this February. The purpose of this balloon was to travel in the stratosphere. Withing its first 120 days it has traveled around the Earth two times. The balloon during its travel is providing internet services during its presence in the remotest of the areas where there is no provision of internet availability so far. Its total tenure is defined as two years during which it has to keep travelling and providing internet facilities in the remote areas across the globe.
Agua Fria is a place in Brazil which is quite remote area and internet availability has been a big drawback there. The balloon while its travel over the Brazil provided internet via wireless connections to over 100 million people who had not tasted the butter so far. The successful achievement of the milestone has given further strength to Google’s mission of launching more such balloons that will fly in the stratosphere and provide broadband services through wireless connections in remote and rural areas. This is helping them in achieving more target audience who have never got a chance to work over internet, and also coverage of wider areas across the globe.
The science that works behind this is the phenomena of presence of multiple layers of wind in the stratosphere and each layer has its own direction and speed. Each of the balloon covers an area of around 40 kilometers in diameter to provide internet bandwidth. Each of the balloon is having its own powerful antenna with enhanced RF technology and similar antennas have been deployed at various remote locations in many countries. So while travelling each balloon talks to another balloon and the ground antennas thus making internet availability possible.
If you know about LINQS you must be knowing about the techie brain behind it, Raghvendra Saboo, 37. Raghvendra, an M Tech from IIIT (International Institute of Information Technology), Bangalore, India; has over 12 years of experience in software technology and he has worked with a number of global majors like GE Global Research, Tata Infotech, GXS and Oracle. LINQS is the brainchild of Raghvendra on which he started working on development of this mobile and web based application in Feb last year (2013), with a lean team of size of merely 4 members including himself and his wife and two freelancers. In June this year the product is launched and is reaching the wide horizons of its users. By now, the licenses sold are almost reaching to 4 digits.
LINQS is not required to be downloaded on a mobile as it is a browser based app and runs on the mobile browser. It works on the technology of Near Field Communication (NFC) tags and QR Codes. The company is reportedly expected to reach to its break even within 12 months of product launch. The product category is such that there are major tie ups with consumer durable companies in pipeline and being anticipated.
LINQS products are available online that can be bought in an easy manner. ICard, for instance, is a digital business card. The app (NFC and QR code based) is able to store digital business card on a simple tapping. Cloudbook, another important app, is a notepad or notebook where you can store number of your important notes, documents, pictures etc. that goes directly into safe cloud servers and can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. Another important and interesting app is Lost and Found tags with help of which you can tag your valuable product and find them in case they are lost at any moment of time.
When we talk of various project management methodologies in practice worldwide, few names that come to mind quickly are RAD, Scrum, Waterfall, and PRINCE2. Let us try to understand what are the key features of each of these main project management methodologies. Logically, if we see, project management in a way is a great source of learning along with what it is intended for. Each methodology, which is accepted on a global front, strongly approves its strengths in driving a project. Then, if at the same time, if various PM methodologies are in use worldwide, various organizations using different methodology and projects in all those organizations are leading to successful closures, it only proves that each methodology is powerful enough. Only different, it means, is in each methodology’s strategy in handling the situations in various stages of project management.
is the oldest among all methodologies. This orthodox, conventional and traditional methodology is most widespread and popular among various verticals of industries. Various phases include requirements, design, development, integration, code and process validation, installation and then maintenance.
PRINCE2 is widely recognized and established in terms of project management. It is a standard and a methodology thereby taking an industry on a different stride. PRINCE2 is official tool used by the United Kingdom Government. Extensive training is very important before adopting PRICE2 for project management in your organization. It is also important to understand its fitment in your kind of projects and the industry for which it is meant for.
SCRUM is an entirely different kind of project management methodology. It needs an entirely different kind of mindset and culture in the organization. SCRUM emphasizes on a formula – one person, one project; meaning that one team member remains dedicated to one project rather than working on different projects at the same time. Project Manager has to be a SCRUM Master.
RAD (Rapid Application Development) focuses mainly on customer requirements and aligning those with the delivery of an ultimate system to cater to those needs in the best possible manner. There are various models and techniques which are imbibed in this methodology.
For any of your prominent business application there must be running a number of jobs and services. To accomplish a particular result, you must be aware, how much time a particular job takes to arrive at the result. For all such job an analysis is must to conclude which are the top 5 jobs that take too much of time that impact on business and application performance. And thus the focus must go onto these top jobs for their enhancement and performance. There is an excellent approach of parallel processing and remote partitioning to increase an application’s performance with Spring Batch.
Parallel processing, as we all know, is the parallel execution of many processes on the server end. In remote partitioning you have a benefit of running your application processes on a cluster of servers rather than on a single hardware piece.
Let us try understanding what is refactoring, what is the process of doing refactoring, why is it needed or required and what the purpose it achieves or helps us in achieving. Refactoring is a process in which you change your software system in such a manner that although the external behavior of the code or application remains unchanged but the internal architecture or structure of your application is improvised to a large extent in a big way. Refactoring is a known term among Agile, Kanban, Scrum and Kaizen professionals.
Refactoring is always performed in small chunks or phases. After each small chunk, you need to examine and ensure that the application system remains unaltered on its functionality front. Smart refactoring process is in which the bug fixes, existing feature enhancements and new feature additions are also taken care of during this. Eventually refactoring does not limit an application to just internal structure enhancements but also allows change in functionality, if there is a demand for it. Refactoring in fact makes it easier to incorporate changes in application in an easier manner and with least risk involved in it. Refactored code is also called clean code.
Refactoring is also sometimes compared to cleaning your kitchen while and after cooking. A larger kitchen caters to larger volume of dishes and consumers. when multiple dishes are to be prepared in multiple times for multiple lots of people, the cleaning and reorganizing process keeps happening during and in between each course. What it means is that in such a scenario, someone is taking care of all processes of cleaning and reorganizing in a regular manner. If this does not happen, the whole process would lead to a big disaster or a failure.
We have a number of mobile chat apps available in the market – or rather on internet market – Whatsapp, Line, Viber, WeChat, Facebook messenger, twitter and so on. Most of these apps support cross platforms so as to enable you to connect with your friends irrespective of the mobile they use and the operating system residing on their mobile – iPhone, Android, Windows, Symbian, Nokia S40 or the BB – blackberry. I am sure not all of the above apps would be supporting so large base of operating platforms mentioned above but one of these does – which is WeChat. It is among the top 4 recommended “best mobile messaging apps” on TNW. Almost similar recommendations are there for WeChat on tom’s Guide and a similar survey conducted on TechRadar during December 2013 showed it to be on number 3. Definitely the situation would have improved by now if a fresh survey by any technology firm is conducted. The reason for that is the unique and highly acclaimed features available in WeChat that we would see below.
Tencent Inc. came into existence in 1998, has, in last decade has become China’s top portal in Internet Services. Major projects undertaken by Tencent are under the verticals – Value added Internet services, Mobile and Telecom Services, and Online advertising. The fact that more than 50% of the employees of Tencent are engaged in R&D activities of the organization. Tencent pioneered in establishing China’s first Internet research institute in 2007 named as Tencent Research Institute with research campuses in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing. Tencent has acquired a number of patents in instant messaging, online payment services, information security, e-commerce, search engine, gaming etc.
The excellent features of WeChat are Voice/ Text/ Video Chat, Group Chat, Moments, Voice/Video Call, Stickers Gallery, Broadcast Message, Friend Radar, Favorite Message, Group Chat, QR Code Support, Shake, People Nearby, Walkie Talkie, Drift Bottle and many more. Definitely some of the features are unique and proprietary in nature, which would not be available in any other mobile chat app. This also shows the organization’s commitment to provide the best possible solutions and features to its customers in a regular manner. Enhancement, Innovation and Customer focus is the key to such kind of projects.
A fact to note is that the app was launched in 2011, it became a landmark by acquiring a huge base of over 300 million subscribers worldwide.
Have you met hitchBOT, the newborn hitchhiking robot who is onto its first venture hitchhike ride with a mission of bringing technology closer to people. The newly built robot that has a size of a 6-7 years old kid, is making his way across the whole country, Canada, with one ride at a time. If you want to know where is it right now, just go to its website and a real time tracker will let you know its current location. hitchBOT has over 5,000 followers on twitter who are keenly interacting regarding hitchBOT.
hitchBOT is totally dependent on people for its movement. It seeks one ride at a time to move from one location to another with a mission to cover the whole country. Its constituents include bucket, pool noodles, rubber gloves, wellington boots, solar panels and a chip based computerized brain. It is a robot from Port Credit, Ontario and has a mission of travelling the whole Canada, coast to coast, the whole summer, with an intent of making new friends, covering interesting places, having interactive conversations and capturing beautiful pictures and videos on its way. It is purely a Canadian research project. Its journey started from the coastal region of Halifax and was immediately became an attention for a couple, Anne and Brian Saulnier, who were heading towards Kouchibouguac National Park, hence becoming its first ride.
An initiative of Hamilton’s McMaster University, with David Harris Smith, an assistant professor there, is the man behind this whole project. hitchBOT is powered with multiple solar panels that can be charged from regular charging outlets. With multiple rides, hitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot is supposed to reach to Victoria finally. hitchBOT is enabled with GPS and 3G wireless connectivity to keep interacting with its twitter, instagram, facebook and other accounts for posting and updating its progress. People are crazy to have selfie with hitchBOT.
A large number of project managers who were recently surveyed by a UK based company for consolidating data for UK based project managers and thus using this data to drive out some conclusive results came out with stunning results. Only 28% of the project managers said they are happy where they are currently with the job profile they carry and are not thinking about a change in job. On the other hand a whooping 67% of project managers expressed their consent in not having a fair amount of satisfaction in their current job and profile and are looking for a change in job at a new place.
As per the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the latest release states that the salary in UK has acquired slowest rate of growth. In a parallel note released by Arras People, it says that the low increase in salaries specially in the project management industry has severely impacted on them. 75% of the project managers working in some of the excellent companies confirmed that their salary hike was far less than the inflation rate this year. Out of this 93% of the project managers are working in public sector organizations. Based on these figures, it is quite easy to rule out the level of disappointment and dissatisfaction among project managers in the United Kingdom.
Contrary to this, the demand of project managers is on rise and has upsurged by 13% as compared to previous year (2014 vs 2013). 68% of the companies have confirmed that the recruitment of project managers in their organization has put a positive impact on business growth.
This is an excellent video by Henrik Kniberg talking about Project Owner with a vision, Stakeholders, Development Team, User Stories, Capacity of delivering 4-6 user stories in a week by development team. This 15 minutes video is quite interesting and attention grabbing in terms of the information it provides on project management and the product ownership in an Agile Project.
Here is an excellent video from Jennifer, Director at ProjectManager.com which is quite concrete, crisp and comprehensive. A must watch for all project managers across the globe.
Basecamp Networks, a Georgia based development company has unveiled their latest product IntelliScout. IntelliScout is a web application that is closely integrated with Google Glass which is specially meant to assist Crop Scouts, Farmers and Agriculture community. Basecamp Networks has a motto of changing the idea of work through technology and that is what they emphasize on while working on their any of the projects. They believe in building ecosystems that are sustainable and smartly built. The core purpose is to make technology to work for real cause with real kind of solution.
So, the project makes it possible to look at a crop in real time irrespective of the geographic distances. In a hands free mode, once can take field notes, pictures of crops, videos, etc. and sharing it in real time so as to get engaged in a discussion. The crop scouts, who are more worried about the enemies of crops – pests, fungal infestations or rodents; are bound to get a lot of assistance from this solution. The application, IntelliScout, uses Google Glass for logging issues encountered during the surveys being done by crop scouts and sharing the real time data in real way in shape of notes, videos, snaps or any other form. The best thing is that it does not require a laptop, smartphone or camera.
The year long project by Basecamp Networks got over in March this year after which its testing began. Currently its deployment is in progress by means of building a global database of crops by mapping various crops being grown in various parts of globe.
Google X is a research division of Google Inc. and is currently engaged in a deep study of a human body and its connection with being healthy. The discovery is focusing on an inside out study of human body to understand how a perfect and healthy human body appears. The project is being termed as Baseline Study in which the research wing of Google is busy in collecting and studying genetic, molecular and cellular architecture based information from human body so as to arrive at a conclusion regarding the health patterns in a human body. These health patterns are termed as Biomarkers, also known as biological markers.
Once the concept of health patterns is captured in a right manner, will tremendously help in detecting and treating of serious unharnessed diseases and shall lead to a major breakthrough in medical sciences. Something which has never been achieved so far. This would help in ascertaining at a very preliminary stage about people who are prone to acquire chronic diseases at a later stage of their life, due to some inheritance in their genes, or some risky living patterns like smoking and drinking. If this diagnosis will happen at an earlier stage, it will help in mitigating the risk of loss of life or low chances of survival.
The research which started with 175 people whose tissue and body fluids samples will be the part of research, is being planned to increase to 1000 people for arriving at more accurate results.
When Facebook launched its IPO in 2012 under heavy expectations, speculations and rumors from investors, public and corporate world; it never knew the bad treatment it was going to get when the prices were reached to half in a period of 3 months. Keen watchers remained stuck to the movement of its stocks in the market. Either Facebook has remained as a secret planner for earning money without disclosing its strategies in advance, or the financial stalwarts have not been able to judge the weakness or strength of its scrip.
There is no doubt that after the launch of its IPO, Facebook had a bad period of struggle in the market. The projected inflows and earnings were not as per the agenda and even during a period of one year after the launch, Facebook’s earning from mobile advertising was not as it had anticipated. The speculations and rumors have been sidelined with the latest press release by Facebook where they declared their earnings for the second quarter of 2014. As per the results, Facebook has achieved to increase its revenue to 67%. Its weakest area of earnings through mobile ads has become now quite a strong piece of the overall revenue by having a contribution of 60%.
With increasing profit margins and its end users base, Facebook has become a top most ranker in terms of ad seller. With these results announced, Facebook shares price had a whooping jump by 5% and the current share price of USD 75.2 is almost double of the initial offering of USD 38 IPO.
It has proven and established its success on global front
It is independent of the project size, industry size or industry type.
The topmost priority of Extreme programming is customer.
It focuses on delivering what is actually required by the organization rather than talking about a delivery of big elephant with no clear vision of delivery date.
Instead of committing to produce everything it promises to produce what is the first need of organization. So once this gets delivered the next most important requirement becomes the first.
This way Extreme Programming never takes complete customer requirements in one go. It starts with outer periphery moving inwards.
It has proven its capability in providing a last minute change in the business requirement even during the time of delivery in a swift manner.
It puts a high emphasis on team collaboration and customer engagement in a constant manner.
Its simple mechanism has proved to be highly effective and productive.
It talks about least monitoring and high amount of self organization to produce highly efficient results.
The role of tester begins along with the developer and both go hand in hand.
Above with continuous engagement with customer promises to deliver any suggested changes with quicker implementation.
In continuation from my previous post on user stories, the basic fact about user stories remains established that it is a powerful mechanism to drive a project in a more promising mode. The results are more predictive in this way, quicker, and the whole game is played with a very low risk. Driving a new application development project based on user stories is not only interesting but high result oriented also.
User stories must be strongly depicted to provide low risk clue to declare the timelines. Release of user stories depends varies not more that 3 weeks and less than a week. While the development team starts working on a specific user story, it must be carried out in a most isolated state, with no interference, no other priorities and no alterations in plans. The developers must be very clear about the scope and boundaries of story. If a story is stretching beyond 3 weeks for its release, it needs to be fragmented into smaller pieces so as to arrive arrive within the limit of 1 to 3 weeks.
Similarly if a story is estimated to be released in less than a week’s time, it needs to be added to some other stories so as to lengthen the release time but keeping in mind that the combined time should not go beyond 3 weeks. A release plan contains release dates of a number of such user stories. Stories are always business process centric.
User stories are crisp, realistic, to the point, directional, practical, purposeful, resulting and have multipurpose.
User stories are a good alternative of business requirement document but are shorter and crispier than the voluminous size of the latter.
User stories have a huge amount of objectivity in terms of declaring or demanding a business feature or function to be fulfilled by the software application.
They are somewhat having a good amount of resemblance with business scenarios.
User stories are created by or with the help of experts in specific business area in a specific format and limited text. User stories form a solid foundation for test cases specially the acceptance tests.
Unlike detailed requirement documents prepared in traditional project management process, user stories are limited to only of length that is sufficient enough to depict the requirement in such a fashion that the overall requirement framework can be understood, and provide near to perfect timelines for its deployment.
The actual detailed requirement is understood at the time of its development and deployment by developers.
The latter part happens in direct interaction of development team with the business core user or the story creator.
Software requirement arises out of a business need. Someone from the business side feels that some critical business requirement can be met by building an application and shall provide some amount of automation and enhancement as compared to the manual process; and then desires it to be built by either internal software development team or an external/ outsourced team. A business requirement document is then prepared to provide ‘what is’ and ‘what needs to be’ scenarios.
‘What is’ cites the current process as it is – end to end as happening in the business – manually or in a legacy standalone system. Due to this critical business process happening manually a lot of effort goes into translating the manual business information into some kind of system to get some sensible reports and analysis out of this. The latter might also not be happening in an application; it might be drawn out through some excel sheet with the help of some kind of functions and queries.
This business requirement then is to be given to the project manager/ product manager/ development manager to discuss it with the business team and their teams so as to prepare a technical document basis which the development work begins. The two ends of the bridge need to be well connected and have a strong connecting factor in between having a 50:50 knowledge of both ends. He must be able to identify what exactly is the requirement, what does the technical translation intend to deliver and if there is any gap between the two in shape of a risk, like a vehicle starting from one end and after covering the 80% of bridge realizes some disastrous facts about the bridge.
Project management comprises of a sequence of action points to act upon in various phases of project by various stakeholders. The project initiation phase itself calls for a number of important actions that lead it to its next phase – project development and then project execution and finally project sign off. Let us have a look at following important steps that need to be taken care of during project management:
Understanding/ Brainstorming/ Strategizing
Drawing Project Guidelines
Establishing a Baseline for Project
Adjusting teams, resources and aligning
Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects team) is currently engaged in its 24-months project’s 18th month activities. The project is termed as Project Tango and the main derivative of this project will be a tablet with 7-inch display embedded with 3D-mapping and other high end technologies. Though there is still a substantial time of 6 months for the product to be launched in the market, the project is supposedly going as per desired pace and results. Project Tango is all about an extraordinarily powerful Tango tablet with its extreme high-tech specifications grab the top rank in the market.
4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of primary storage, HDMI 7 USB 3.0 ports, 1080 pixels display characteristics and the most aggressive Nvidia processor is what you would be getting in this tablet under progress with Project Tango team. Besides regular features of OS – Android 4.4, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth it will be supporting 4G; it will be having two strong cameras placed at specific angle of 13 degrees to bring in special 3-D effect. There is also a depth sensor at the backside of tablet.
The projected cost of Tango tablet would be slightly above USD 1,000 and the target audience of course would be high end gaming enthusiasts needing a real like experience in gaming. Tango tablet project is being led by Johnny Lee. Besides gaming, the tablet would be of high use where 3D simulation is of high importance such as war, disasters and strategic situations.
while there is a section of organizations, developers and project managers who have built a large amount of trust in Agile Methodology, there is another section of the same set of people who challenge Agile methodology, its unrealistic & unstructured process; and its most cumbersome part – governance. As per the critics of Agile methodology, governance of the practices is a big challenge; and they put valid reasons to vet their version. While the success and failure can’t totally put the credit or blame for this on Agile methodology for the same kind of projects running in two similar kind of organizations leading to just the reverse fates.
There are a large number of organizations who have adopted Agile methodology and have been able to drive and govern it successfully. The reason for this success as per the pro’s is given to the right adoption of methodology and framework whereby the basic principles of self assurance, self discipline, right adoption of practices lead to good amount of governance and self accountability on its own emerging out of self ownership of success. It is widely evident that Agile methodology is always in continuum and highly collaborative. This dynamism is always a bi-directional tool for gaining success. On one hand it provides quick and visible results and on the other hand it demands a regular review of deliverables. With such quick reviews, any hiccup in the path of success is tackled with an alternative action plan.
Such kind of collaboration provides quicker results, instant identification of problem/risk and its faster resolution.
In my just concluded post I tried to highlight the basic difference between traditional project management and project management with Agile methodology. The emphasis remains on harnessing over the biggest hurdle in any project which is ‘unpredictability’. This unpredictability can happen in any shape – customer, task, resource, team member, management, PMO, or any other stakeholder. It is not that Agile removes unpredictability. What it does is that it provides a methodology to adopt to reduce unpredictability drastically thereby improving chances of success.
When you have a higher level of predictability available with you with the help of insight or foresightedness you will be able to act in a proactive manner to build a stronger strategy to overcome risks. Agile methodology helps you in building smaller task cycles and thus embedding them with clear cut results of deliverables. All this happens in shape of iterations. Agile methodology emphasizes on incremental (or iterative) progress rather than the legacy waterfall approach in traditional project management. We all know that in waterfall approach, project teams have lesser chances of getting things ‘first time right’, specially in development. In Agile methodology, unlike traditional project management approaches, each aspect of project is revisited and realigned. In first go it might appear to be a more time consuming approach. But if you see the amount of energies and time required for exact alignment is always lesser as compared to the risk of derailment at a later stage.
When each aspect of a project – customer requirements, development plan, development etc. are visited frequently with a target of focusing more on the alignment among all, it provides a firm base to the project teams to move ahead in the right direction assisting them in achieving their goals within stipulated time frames.
If comparison is done on the basis of success rate between the traditional orthodox project management and project management with Agile methodology, it is more than 50% of gap between the two, worldwide. What it means is that when you adopt agile methodology to manage your software project, your chances of winning the game increase because the methodology itself drives you in such a manner so as to enable you and your teams to get geared to achieve your milestones in a timely manner. What was happening earlier when Agile was not introduced in project management was that the failure rate was pretty higher and on top of it the reasons for failure used to be so prominent and powerful that a firm belief used to build up to accept these failures with open arms.
Gradually companies and corporate world started realizing that acceptance will do no good to both ends. Some transformation was required to be brought in to get into the crux of reasons for failure and then overpowering these reasons to convert failure into success. What Agile brought in was ‘harnessing over unpredictability’. Unpredictability was the most prominent reason that used to cause failures in traditional project management. This unpredictability used to happen in various shapes and forms; and during various project phases.
Agile is not a magic. It is merely as systematic and disciplined approach to focus on ‘micro’ parts of an elephant (project) rather than focusing on the wholesome and thereby losing control over it. Agile is a good learning for any project manager to get over the devils of a project.
A successful project closure brings in lot of happiness along with it. A series of successful closures bring it in a much wider and broader manner. Internal happiness reflects everywhere and starts sparkling outside also. That is the magic of success.
If we talk of 5 Ps that come along with Successful closure of projects, it could be:
Profit is always a key motive for any organization. Profits in turn lead to multi-directional benefits. It brings in business growth, team expansions, more customers, more business, employees growth and overall increase in satisfaction.
Power comes in shape of management’s confidence, empowerment, distributed and decentralized authorities and so on.
Pride is an automatic infiltrator that not only gets into management room but also on each and every employee’s desk.
Possibilities in terms of more business, customer sustenance, low employee turnover, higher satisfaction and growth, higher level of acceptance of challenges by team, trust and bonding.
Philanthropy becomes an integral part of management and project teams.
Project execution is the phase where all battle work is done based on inputs and raw material received from initiation phase and for the outcome that is required for project closure phase. Project execution hence needs to be well monitored, well planned and well executed phase. The engagement and discipline factor needs to be at its peak during project execution phase.
5 prominent Ps for a project execution phase can be listed as below:
Patience is the first key for a project manager that he needs to acquire. This is important for project manager to address to various issues arising from various fronts.
Persistence is the determination with which a project manager is supposed to move towards his milestones as per the plan.
Perseverance is important for a project manager in order to keep his teams motivated so that each key member of the teams are aware of the important tasks in hand and their timelines.
Pain is important as it is a very well known fact that without pain there is no gain. Pain here could come in shape of failure of teams in meeting their committed timelines, sudden contingencies, failures, major deviations etc.
Politics does not mean hardcore politics that a project manager should have that too its dirty side. Politics for a project manager means to be a strategist, diplomat and a true leader.
Recently encountered a project management model chart in a book where the author has presented three stages of a project – Project Initiation, Project Execution and Project Results. In project initiation there are certain factors that go along with certain ingredients to build some kind of raw material for the project execution stage. Mostly in the initiation phase you gather all first hand information that needs processing during execution stage; and build your teams, and infrastructure to handle this processing and initial data.
Customer requirement, business needs, business aspirations, anticipated business results are all inputs given by the customer basis which the project plans are made with end results in sight. 5 Ps that are essential to be part of project initiation stage and that too in their best form can be listed as below:
Purpose means customer and business requirements on the basis of which this project has come into existence. It is very important to understand customer requirements, aspirations and goals that are anticipated to be met with this application being built to cater to customer needs.
People include project manager, project teams, PMO, customer, management and other stakeholders. Very important to understand purpose of each and their expectations.
Passion is something without which nothing can be achieved.
Problem or the risks anticipated need to be taken care of in your risk management system so that project goes with least risk.
Plan is obviously going to be the vital organ of the whole game and ultimately a deciding factor.
If you feel, as a project manager, that the battle is won if you have identified and set your goals (your means yours and your teams) and you have formulated strategy to win over each goal, you are probably half right and half wrong. Half right if you have also a concrete plan for execution and half wrong if you thing that is the end of the road, and the beautiful work done so far is good enough to get the things executed on its own, and will draw out results, timely and in favor.
Logically, and in reality, once the goals are set and strategies are formed, there is lot more to do to get these dreams turned into reality. Right strategies formulated need to be executed in right conditions and environment so that the desired results in stipulated time are extracted. First and foremost important factor in execution of strategies is “Resources”. You need to be very clear on resource requirement to make your dreams come true. Right sizing of team, selection of right team members, and other resources is very important to arrive at.
Once the teams are in place and timelines are set for various milestones, nothing can be achieved if infrastructure is not in place. Hence it is important to identify right infrastructure requirement and put it in place before the teams are required to star working on a project. The role of a project manager for complete project is as important and critical as the role of individual team manager for their respective teams and roles.
A bird also has a capability, capacity and strategy to build a nest for its offspring. Well in advance it starts accumulating right stuff required to build its nest so that the delivery of eggs takes place in a right manner with least amount of risk to the life of newborns. A much earlier built nest has a higher amount of risk of getting damaged by the time the bird is ready to lay down its eggs. So is the case if the nest is half built and the time of delivery of eggs is reached. That is the difference between strategy and right strategy.
To build a right strategy in place a project manager needs to have a clear definition in front of him. What do we mean by definition? Definition is the definition of customer, customer requirements, business, business requirements and the resulting time agreed upon with the customer in terms of during and final deliveries. Once these definitions are clear to a project manager – it becomes easier to formulate a strategy for team size and composition, resources, logistics, individual team’s and for that sake each team member’s goals, deliverables and risk strategy.
A right strategy will be sustainable and capable to handle risks perceived. A regular review and control mechanism also needs to be in place and has to be considerable part of the strategy formulated. Adherence to strategy is important in terms of attaining goals set otherwise it will have no meaning. After all a kingdom is as good as its king!
There are numerous teams working on numerous projects all across the globe. Every project manager has its own way of handling a project. There are certain project management theories and practices that have been evolved during last two decades and few out of these claim to deliver hundred percent of success rate in project management, execution and closure. For any project there has to be a basis on which its foundation is laid. The basis for which a project team is formulated is customer and business requirements. Customer need not necessarily be an external agency and business requirements need not necessarily emerge out of an external business.
Well, when needs arise, a project also evolves leading a path for formation of project leader, project goals, project teams, project methodologies, project milestones, project stakeholders and their roles, project sign offs and closures. When a project manager becomes owner of a new project, his first role is to ensure that the goals for project are well defined with clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities along with timelines. When we talk of a well defined goals for a project, following things come into mind –
Business viz a viz Solution Sustenance
Risk Tolerance embedded in the business solution
Customer and business aspirations are nothing but the requirements which need to be clearly captured, approved and analyzed. Technical solution proposed must be rock solid in terms of sustenance and its capability of catering to changing business needs. And last but not the least, the solution built to cater to these customer and business needs must have been built taking care of all risks perceived.
The whole game of project lies into three keywords – Goals, Strategy and Execution. Once a project manager is clear about these three puzzles of a project, the whole scenario turns rosy provided he doesn’t lose his track till the end of the game. Goal setting is a good term but prior to coming to this stage it is important to understand the actual goals and its limitations. To understand it well a project manager needs to understand customer requirements as clearly as a crystal. If customer requirements are not clear, it will lead you to a wrong direction of goals setting and hence wrong strategy & execution.
That is why it is emphasized time and again to document customer requirements very clearly and in a structured manner but don’t hand it over to your development team before getting the complete document cleared, vetted and approved by a top level customer representative. Once the requirements are cleared from customer end, the internal project team needs to analyze it in terms of technical review which is based on these business requirements. A comprehensive technical document with clear cut specs is formulated which again is circulated and discussed among technical stakeholders of the project for finalizing the specs and move ahead for changes related to database, structured queries, coding etc. Obviously all this is not started, which is a part of execution, unless based on clear cut goals a concrete strategy is not formed and formalized.
The strategy would carry a number of milestones with projected dates and teams responsible whereas during the execution review meetings, team would be presenting the actual achievements against the projected ones.
Broadly speaking there are two categories of project managers based on their functioning style. Each style has its own way of functioning and that way of functioning has its own pros and cons. Both functionality are much evidently existing in the real world and both kind are having their success and failure ratio in their respective projects irrespective of various other factors and not majorly on the basis of their functionality.
Firs kind of project managers are quite attentive (rather quite aggressively attentive) in catching others attention and vice versa. They keep their senses intact while thinking rather than the mere facts and figures. They might seems to be carrying a good amount of their sixth sense functioning well. They do not give very high value to logic and intelligence and rather seek lot more beyond merely logic and intelligence. Such kind of project managers do not get on to the same subject more than once.
The other kind of project managers look more deeply into facts and figures (or rather see only into this area). For them logic and intelligence is on top of the list. They don’t get involved in stories so easily. For them reality of facts is more powerful rather than well cooked dreamy stories.
Recently am reading a book titled as The Devil’s Gate: An Impossible Journey by Deepak Kripal. In this book there is a very interesting story about a dog who fell in love with a demon who was not as bad looking as other female demons. The demon also reciprocated and both decided to spend their life with each other. Meanwhile the father of demon decided to call all male demons to select the best among them to get his daughter married to him. Dog comes to know about it. He also decided to join the contest. the contest was to sing the best song and whosoever makes others dance to his tunes while singing a song of his choice would be eligible to marry demon girl in question.
The demon girl requests dog to not to join the party as she knew that dog is not at all a good singer and if he would sing there in the party, he might sing so bad that her father might get him killed there and then only. Dog agrees to it and promises that he will not come there – bade her goodbye – and both promise to remember each other forever, wherever they live and with whomsoever.
while the party is on and each demon is waiting for his turn to get the hand of girl demon by singing at his best, some got quite enthusiastic for the performance given by them and were quite hopeful. Suddenly the dog joins in and tells demon father that he wants to marry his daughter. Demon father gets very annoyed and warns dog that if he fails to sing best of all, he will be killed by his soldiers. Dog agrees, closes his eyes, and starts singing a love song keeping demon girl in his mind, but while singing keeping his eyes closed, he was almost sure that he will be dead by the end of his song.
Surprisingly when he opens his eyes, everyone is so mesmerized and dancing that he gets amazed. Demon father calls his daughter and marry her with the dog.
Just a signal to a Project Manager – if he has the same art of making all stakeholders of his project dance, on his mute tunes by singing at his best!
Our friends and enemies are not aClways where we expect to meet them
An excellent line that fits well when we talk about software coding and testing. A coder build the code based on the requirement. Definitely it depends a lot on how well a coder has understood the requirement before he jumps into the ocean called coding. A wrong direction in the ocean will of course lead to a different direction than the one that is targeted for. The same is correct for coding. If the customer requirement and ultimate goal is well understood, the coder will be able to swim in the right direction and produce desired results.
Same goes well for testing also. Once coding is done and unit/smoke testing is done by coder, it is handed over to the testing team. The matter regarding leading wrong direction and undesired destination as mentioned above, is true for tester also, as it is for coder. A tester has to be careful enough not only to seek holes in where he perceives them to be available most, but also at other hidden and unanticipated places where a tester perceives them to be least.
I have become a big fan of Saga of Wealth by Cassia Cassitas and there is already a post on my blog about Two Excellent Project Management Learning from the Book Saga Of Wealth
Lesson 1: History is made with numbers. If you pay attention to them, you will find the answer to everything you wish. They will teach you the secrets about things and people
For a project manager both numbers and people are crucial and important. Numbers means deliverables, milestones, timelines, deviations, timely closures; and people means teams, customer, management, other stakeholders. So if a project manager has to have a successful career, he needs to have successful projects and a successful project not only means timely closure and sign off but beyond that. A project where customer becomes so delighted that he openly becomes a brand ambassador of your commitments, deliverables and right attitude; in such a way that it start getting you more and more business; there is nothing like it.
Lesson 2: In the business world, an investment is considered “covered” if the borrower’s cash flow is sufficient to return as much capital as the capital loaned. On the other hand, if income is sufficient to pay only the interest on the loan and if new loans are needed to pay off the principal, the investment is considered speculative.
So what is means is that in the world of project management a project is considered as successful if the customer’s business requirements automation in the product are met so significantly that the business either starts getting higher business equivalent to the amount invested in the product development or the people become so efficient and productive equivalent to that amount. Definitely one thing is sure that the return of investment is never overnight but over a period that is well thought of by the investor.
Ghana, with a target of transforming the country to a completely middle income nation has initiated a project titled as e-Ghana Project that comprises of a number of intensive Information Communication and Technology (ICT) related sub projects with a total estimated investment of around USD 100m. This e-Ghana Project actually is in fact a component of World Bank’s e-Transform Project. e-Ghana Project’s main sub-projects are e-Education Project, e-Health Project and e-Justice Project. The initiative speaks a lot about the substantial motive behind this project. A country that takes an onus to optimize and enhance pace of health, education and justice for its people; leads to a remarkable future.
The e-Education project basically is to provide high quality of education to the most neglected and ignored youth of the society. The focus is to create a database of all youth of Ghana with the level and quality of education status of each. The target is to bring all to a dignified, widely recognized and high quality level of education.
Similarly e-Health Project is to make all the medical facilities of the nation highly technology, information and communication equipped. For this three medical institutions have been identified for pilot run, which are – Zebilla District Hosital, Wa Government Hospital and Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. A huge transformation is being anticipated once these three locations after deployment of intensive and highly effective ICT facilities.
Similarly for e-Justice Project the main focus is on making justice system of the country highly effective and efficient.
Ultimate goal was not to save $5 million when City of Tyler decided to start this six sigma project but to run it successfully and close it in time. As we all know a six sigma project is always time bound and has to bring results in financial terms. Lean Six Sigma is a one step ahead version of Six Sigma that is a combination of Lean and Six Sigma. Basically Lean Six Sigma focuses on elimination of Mudas (or wastes) in a process thereby improvising to a level of enhanced performance. Mudas or wastes can be in terms of defects, money, time, resources, inventory or non-optimized steps in a process. So here, in the city of Tyler, a city in Texas, the United States; Lean Six Sigma was deployed to manage multiple volume of projects running for various purposes and various lengths.
The complete effort returned a saving of an amount of USD 5 million by focusing on identification of Mudas and their elimination from the process. The senior public relations expert of Tyler, Serena Butcher declared complete satisfaction for the results achieved from this Lean Six Sigma Project. The overall target of identification of wastes in all aspects of Mudas and thus achieve their target of saving time and money, ultimately gaining in efficiency and deliveries.
Whenever a project gets initiated there are certain teams that come into place, there are certain guidelines that are chartered out and there are some milestones that are identified as major benchmarks to demonstrate the appropriate speed and progress of the project. But prior to that first few things that come to the mind of a project manager can be listed down as below:
- Final Goals: It is important to understand what is the ultimate goal that customer wants to achieve.
- Value Addition: What is the value preposition you are adding to the customer beyond his expectations. There must be some value addition to bring in the customer delight.
- Audience: Who are your audience who would need a constant broadcast of project updates from you in appropriate intervals. Understand very clearly the amount and frequency of information required by them rather than deciding on your own.
- Top Management: Definitely you are not required to engage top management for day to day activities of your project but a top level bird view is important for the top management to updated regularly. Also a timely raised alarm in case of any irregularity is also important in that aspect.
- Risk Management: Identification of anticipated risks, review and mitigation plan.
- Team Empowerment: How do you plan to empower your teams so as to keep project going in a desired pace rather than getting hiccups for the sake of requirement of approvals for small entities.
- Resource and Finances Management: A proper charter is very important.
Recently finished reading this 380 odd pages fantasy, young adult, paranormal fiction novel Secret of Omordion by Nande Orcel released by Abbott Press in October 2013 and the book has been doing well. Though the book is not technical, nor is it written about project management and quality assurance; but there are certain golden lessons hidden in the story of Secret of Omordion.
The story is about 5 teenagers who belong to Dokami clan supposed to hail from various planets and settled on Earth, though the count is not very limited. These five teenagers – Atakos, Cristaden, Fajha, Zimi and Zadeia put on different locations in the country but are gathered at one place – a boarding school – for 10 years – away from their parents – so as to get trained to groom as great warriors and fight against the enemy powers continuously fighting against their country to defeat them and overpower the country.
These five teenagers though initially are not aware about their powers inherited being belonging to Dokami clan, start believing in themselves, once they are chosen for this special mission and gradually start discovering their special powers hidden within them. So is the case with project managers. One has to believe in himself once has has been chosen for a special mission of handling, managing and succeeding in a project. Once selected, tighten your belt and start the journey of your special mission with full blow.
No project will be away from ups and downs in its journey through various phases. Only way to handle the tough situations is by discovering the special powers within you to handle these situations and emerge as a clear cut winner.
In my previous post – NFC Project At City Stars Mall Cairo: A Step by Step Walk Through – I gave an oversight of this pilot project that had to be deployed on 2 floors of City Stars Mall in Cairo, Egypt for 400+ security guards attendance, shift management, real time control room management, prompt action for shortfall, supervisor patrolling, incident recording and reporting to control room with video/photos streaming.
The software and hardware requirement is mentioned in the previous post. Deployment was as below:
RFID wall mount tags had to be fixed on inside and outside the building. RFID enabled ID cards were issued to all guards and supervisors. Each tag while fixing on individual location was configured for the first time with location id, tag id with the help of app residing in Nokia 6210 Classic NFC phone. Similarly one card was issued to each guard with appropriate configuration of information of guard id, tag id. The desktop app had all the information of guard shift schedule for the month, guard details etc. similarly the location id had further derails in the master regarding floor, patrolling sequence etc.
Each guard had a duty position for static guards. First tagging was done on NFC phone lying with the supervisor at the time of entry from any of the entrances of the mall and then once posted, the supervisor used to take a round to tag the location tag and guard tag once again to ensure that the guard is posted at right location.
Similarly process of patrolling plan, actual patrolling, incident recording etc. was deployed successfully.
I was in Cairo for a period of 15-20 days to deploy and sign off this NFC based pilot project in one of the most renowned malls in the heart of Cairo City – known as City Stars Mall. City Stars is a two blocks 8 story huge building.
Project Requirement: Around 400+ guards coming in various shifts were having manual attendance, patrolling and monitoring system which was wasting a lot of time and confusion. Another reason for this pilot was that one of the guard’s body was found in one of the emergency exit area after 4 days of his death during which he was being assumed as an absconder. This attendance, patrolling, incident recording/reporting and monitoring was required to be automated in a way that a real time dashboard would be available with the centralized control room so as to manage the whole show optimally.
Software and hardware requirements:
Nokia 6210 Classic – NFC enabled, data enabled
RFID Tags – wall mount
RFID Cards – ID cards for guards and supervisors
Control Room – Desktop application with internet to get real time data.
What is a NFC phone – NFC is near field communication. An NFC phone is basically an RFID reader that can read RFID tags/ cards and with its data enabled, it can transmit information in real time to back end team.
With the help of above, the pilot was done successfully on two floors of the malls in flat 15 days.
I will explain the execution and deployment process in next post.
In my previous post we talked about three basic elements of large sized software projects and how to manage & control the first two elements.
Correct understanding of Project Scope
Optimized coordination among various teams working on the project
The first two elements being correct understanding of Project Scope and Accurate Project Costing & Scheduling. We also learnt how these two elements discussed in the previous post are tightly inter-correlated overlapping each other to some extent but success of one does not ensure the overall success of both. An equal amount of attention and focus is required on both the components in an independent manner. Similarly even if you, as a project manager, are able to control well over the first two elements, the third – Optimized coordination among various teams working on the project – is usually a cumbersome task bundled with a large volume of hurdles which are mostly invisible and hidden in nature, emerging all of a sudden from nowhere.
Most of the delays happening in a project’s timelines come out with this root cause that either one of the team did not complete their tasks in time, thereby creating recursive impact on the delays; or the coordination among teams who had to work on the project in a sequential manner did not plan in such a manner so as not to lose time during the handover-takeover phase.
Such hiccups are usually overcome if there is a regular review of tasks planned and tasks completed on a daily basis. Probably Agile is the answer to overcome this bundle of hurdles in an effective manner.
Three main challenges that usually go unnoticed in larger software projects could be listed as below:
Correct understanding of Project Scope
Optimized coordination among various teams working on the project
Everyone who has worked on a software project would agree that once you get more into day to day firefighting in managing a derailed project, the overall broader and wider view of project gets blurred and hence goes of out of focus. Though you feel that the efforts being put in the project will get it back on track but in reality it gets farther away from the tracks and hence increases gap exponentially rather than bringing it back on track. Team sizing and project scheduling depends on accurate project costing. Oversized team does not ensure accurate adherence of project timelines. Rather if by mistake you have taken more than required number of members in teams, logically it should result into earlier closures of project milestones. It does not.
Project costing also depends on correct understanding of project scope. If scope is not understood well, it might result into a weird project scope that further results into wrongly sized teams and project timelines. Even if you have bene able to understand project scope well and get it documented & vetted by relevant stakeholders, it does not guarantee still that you will be able to form right sized teams and build your project schedules with equal correctness right from the beginning. Usually the learning comes along with the project progress.
I will talk about Optimization in team coordination in our next post…
Logically roles of the three teams – Project Monitoring, Project Evaluation and Project Audit are sequential and slightly overlapping in nature but there are differentiating factors ensuring a need of separate teams to conduct these separate activities. Project Monitoring is the process to analyze the project growth and find out any gaps so as to bring the derailed project back on track by taking proper measures to mitigate the risks encountered. Project evaluation on the other hand is the assessment and evaluation process with a purpose of finding out major learning points so as to ensure proper sustenance to upcoming projects and ensuring that risks encountered during the current project do not recur.
Project Audit is the process of assessing the completed project in terms of legal and regulatory compliance in terms of financial transactions – mainly expenses and income entered in the books of accounts. It necessarily happens once the project has completed and signed off. The main purpose of project audit is to ensure management and other stakeholders about no irregularities taken place during the project and if there are any, that come to notice of the team, then a proper analysis and mitigation is ensured.
Basic purpose of Project Audit is to focus on the long term goals of ensuring acquiring a learning from each project and ensuring no repeat of same kind of mistakes.
Unlike constituents of Project Monitoring Team, where the members of the team are from internal management, the members of Project Evaluation Team comprise of members from external stakeholders also. The main reason for this difference is that whereas monitoring is the sole responsibility of internal management, and hence respective key members have to ensure its consistent progress; in case of project evaluation there is a process of assessment of shortfalls and the remedial actions taken in case of shortfalls.
Project Evaluation is the process of assessment of achievement of project goals, team efficiency, factors that impacted on project adversely, relevant other factors responsible for non-achievement of project goals and also the assessment of mitigation plans. Overall purpose of Project Evaluation is to ensure that monitoring process is foolproof and in case of any gaps found in the monitoring process, how to ensure that there is no gap left.
Whereas Project Monitoring periodicity is more frequent depending on the project methodology adopted, project evaluation is usually planned with longer periodicities. For most of the projects it happens at the end of the project. In some cases, there is a mid-term evaluation and then the final evaluation. In project monitoring, the emphasis is more on finding stopgaps and their remedies. In Project Evaluation it is more of accountability, Impact analysis and financial gain/loss.