Long time back I read somewhere – A kingdom is as good as its king. If it comes to product/ service and customer, it could be redefined as – A product or service is as powerful as its customers. Your customer, whether one time or regular, whether small value or high value, whether a potential buyer or not; has one thing in common to pay you back – their feedback. Never underestimate your customer. A single positive line about your product or service can go as viral today on powerful social media and could create wonders for you. Similarly, a negative feedback could build a negative image of your organization and product (or service) in the minds of your customers and prospects.
Expressing your hunger for a feedback from your customer can be done in many ways – a personal note to your customer at the time of buying of your product or service or a few days after, a personal phone call, a small get together organization, a poll (but personalized) or a survey, etc.Don’t impose or predefine the length of feedback. Let it come out of the flow, person to person, the customer to customer. It could be a single word like “Wow” or a single line. Or it could be multiple paragraphs, pages etc. It could be about a single aspect of your product or service or it could be about the multiple aspects.
Try to categorize the customer feedback in various categories. It could be reliability, ease of use, ease of maintenance, availability, scalability for future needs, flexibility for existing needs, ease of understanding, ease of using, value, features, service and support; and so on.
Whether it is a product or a service that you are selling to your customers, it all matters most about it when it comes straight out of the mouth of your customer. Quality as such has no meaning how so loud drums you keep on beating on your own. Your product or service is, in a logical sense, should be able to win the heart of your customer. And if this happens, then nothing can stop it on reorders and new customers acquisitions provided you are capable to build “visible” customer success stories. Remember that your level of higher achievement comes through customer delight and not product selling. Product selling can be played with, but not customers’ words.
Once a customer says in public all positive about the product or service, that product or service owner has got a free of cost marketing guy with high influencing factor, without any much efforts. That is what is required. First you need to ensure your product is high quality. Use it yourself first in the same manner customer would be using it and then ascertain if you are able to fetch the same results as you are expecting it to deliver to your customers? Once you are convinced, throw it in the market and acquire customers. Inspire them to use it extensively and show your hunger for their feedback.
Once you have got feedback, with their permission, publish these success stories online – on your social media page, on your website, or whatever other best possible ways come to your mind.
To continue with previous articles on analytics, let us assume that we have a problem statement in place and relevant data for churning is available. Remember that the data for analytics is always voluminous as with a small chunk of data appropriate results can’t be arrived upon. So once you have this large data with you first thing that is required is data exploration. Data exploration is nothing but an exercise to get acquainted with various aspects of the data.
First to know is if you have all the relevant fields available in the data or not. If something is missing, an alarm is to be raised to get fresh data with complete fields. The second aspect is to know if the data in those fields is relevant and executable or not for driving out your conclusions or not. For instance, the data field may have data in text form while you would need it in numbers. So what field’s data needs to be converted to what form is essential to understand.
Data exploration basically to know what all is there in your data. Understanding of datasets, variables, and their business corresponding meanings. Remember that time spent here in doing this exercise is worth rather than creating confusions at a later stage. Understanding the data period is also very important. You must know if the data with you is of what period. Once it is done, ascertaining of the quality of data becomes a bit easier. At this juncture, you have to ascertain what data that you required is missing.
As we all know analytics is purposeless if objectives are not clear. There has to be a problem statement to start your exercise in analytics. Another critical aspect is the data. If you have a problem statement very clearly defined, but relevant data is not there with you, then the whole exercise can go waste. The data has to be substantially large in size in order to arrive at the right kind of conclusions and results. So basically we have learnt three basic ingredients for Analytics as below:
Once you have these three ingredients in place, you are ready to start your journey in analytics to draw out conclusive results in a very objective manner. At no point in time, you will be able to get hundred percent clean and complete data for your exercise. In real world whatsoever precautions, you take, you are bound to have some or the other shortfalls in desired data. That is why you have to take some assumptions. One thing to keep in mind is that higher the volume of assumptions, lower will be the chances of correct results. The results have to as near to correctness as possible, even though, the data might not be there in terms of perfection and completeness.
So it is important to present your assumptions while presenting your final results. The process of churning of data in terms of using analytics tools might vary from problem to problem and person to person.
We discussed, in the end, about Analytics project in the previous post, from where we will take it further. If we look at the key steps of an Analytics project as below, we can very well correlate it with the project lifecycle where more or less the steps resemble with the various steps we following in a software project. Here are the various steps to be followed in an analytics project:
1. Problem Statement or Definition:
Understanding business problem well is the most important factor so as to ensure that you move in the right direction. Definitely like other projects, analytics projects also have tight release dates. Business problem will tell you what exactly is the issue that you are going to resolve in alignment with the business context. Your immediate task after understanding the business problem will be to gather the relevant data belonging to considerably large period. At times, when you are lucky, your customer will give you relevant data along with the business problem statement. But if not, then you will have to hunt for the data. Your customer’s business problem will need to be translated into analytics problem. By defining the analytics problem, you will be clearly able to state what you are going to predict at the end of this analytics project after building analytics model. A clarity or rather a customer sign off on this will be very helpful in later closings.
2. Data Crunching or Exploration:
Data familiarization and exploration are the next important steps to follow.
3. Information Building:
Once you have understood the data well, you need to go for some data modelling. This will be an exhaustive exercise in which you will identify the missing links and apply data modelling techniques. Your must be quite familiar with certain terms like values, outliers, variables, regression, decision tree, clustering etc. to master this phase of the project.
4. Data Modelling:
Once your data is in place after you have done some homework in your data crunching and data building, the next step is data modelling. In this phase, you follow a technique run-observe in a repeated manner. Here you will have multiple iterations of running a model, evaluating the results, perform some calibration and re-run, re-observe till you reach a satisfaction level of results desired.
5. Validation or Confirmation
The final set of shortlisted models (not more than three usually) now have to pass the validation process. Here you will put in a fresh set of data in the data model built to ensure that the model is not specific to previous data or conditions only and holds good to produce a similar kind of resultant.
6. Deployment and Monitoring:
Out of the final set of shortlisted models, the best one is chosen for deployment and monitoring the results. Monitoring of results is important to check the model behavior in real life scenario.
You have a stated problem to resolve that is and the problem statement relates to future. Then the best way is to study the past data, response, behavior and results. It might appear simple here but in actual it is not, else everyone on this earth would have become a great analyst. It depends a lot on the clarity of assumptions you make while bringing out your results or driving your analysis. It is also important to understand what data is required to do what kind of analysis. It might happen that your problem statement and the data you are provided with might not align to an extent to bring out a good analysis and analytics report.
Analytics is a science. It is a process of gathering raw data, churning it to get some business insights and help the business in decision-making. There are certain standard and well-established analytical techniques that are used solve business problems related to various business verticals like retail, distribution, medicine, services etc. Once you are through with the basic understanding of statistical techniques, which are very important to learn, you can then start learning how to build predictive analytics models.
If you want to become an expert in business analytics you must understand the important steps to be followed in an analytics project. There might be a slight variance in the steps depending on what kind of problem you are planning to solve, what all data is available and what tools you have on hand for your assistance. So one thing is quite clear here about the lifecycle of any analytics project:
Still it takes a lot to become a perfect analyst that we will look at in next few posts.
Look at the beauty of each game being played between any two team in the ongoing World Cup 2015 co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Each game is powered by predictive analytics that brings in a lot of thoughtful and intelligent analytics that you get on your TV screens or the wide screens on the ground if you are there. The statement holds quite good here that came a couple of months back about the death of business intelligence and birth of predictive analytics. It makes sense also. With BI, most of the time, the businesses were just doing a kind of post-mortem or rather an intelligent post-mortem but nothing so fruitful to make life more secured in a futuristic sense.
Predictive Analytics brings in some resultive analytics regarding the result or future. And this analytics comes in with churning of past data, environmental factors, and a lot of other relevant data. For instance a match between Australia and Sri Lanka in which Australia is batting first the first few analytics come as below:
and so on.
That is the beauty of predictive analytics where each and every bit of past data is churned in a very intelligent manner to bring out various meaningful analytics that are helpful in predicting the outcome or future of the business initiatives.
ICC (International Cricket Council) has partnered with SAP for cloud services and predictive analytics for the world cup 2015 being played in Australia and New Zealand. The services will stay till the end of World Cup 2015 in which SAP is using its HANA platform to capture and deliver real-time analytics, statistics, data and live match experience.
Five Learnings For Project Manager From Why Do Smart People Make Such Stupid Mistakes by Chris Merringtonbook review, Contract negotiations, Project management, Project Manager
Why Do Smart People Make Such Stupid Mistakes: A Practical Negotiation Guide To More Profitable Client Relationship by Chris Merrington is quite relevant to project managers as negotiation is something that they need to do day in and day out with various stakeholders to keep their project stay healthy and running. Let us see as per the book, if project managers make such stupid mistakes in their routine professional life. There are total 11 chapters in this 207 pages book having quite interesting scenarios and anecdotes. The author is a known speaker, consultant and is the founder of a firm named Spring 80:20 that works in consulting and conducting workshops.
Some key learning for project managers from Why Do Smart People Make Such Stupid Mistakes: A Practical Negotiation Guide To More Profitable Client Relationship by Chris Merrington that I could chalk out are:
It is a lot more to learn from this book for project managers though the book has not been specifically intended for them.
Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects by Jamal Moustafaev is a lovely hardcover book with an excellent and relevant cover. The cover is able to convey that it is mean for the project managers across the globe working on any kind of Engineering, Technology, Enterprise or Product related projects. In a nutshell, it promises to deliver a practical approach to Project Scope Management. A very useful and a must read for all project managers. The book was released in the last month of 2014 and hence is still not in focus for many project managers. It’s author Jamal Moustafaev is a well-known entity in the project management arena.
Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects by Jamal Moustafaev focuses mainly on subjective customer requirements gathered at the time of business analysis. This as per the book could become the key factor in killing the project if the requirements are not clear, crisp and complete. This could frantically lead to important and critical omissions during product development and hence would cause ambiguous feature building of the product. According to Moustafaev if these factors:
would in turn create a big disaster resulting into:
These are the very basic fundamental and core areas of project scope that are touched upon in the book Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects by Jamal Moustafaev in a very practical and guiding manner. In order to get out of this disaster, there is no way out unless some core touchpoints are taken care of right at the beginning of a project. An unclear requirement from customer will always lead to never-ending requirements coming up from the customer throughout the project so as to cover up the mistakes done at the beginning of the project. To handle such situations, a deep engagement of all stakeholders is very critical.
After highlighting the above key factors causing disaster in a project, the author guides explicitly the core focus areas in gathering project requirements and thereby defining the scope of the project. It emphasizes on verification and control mechanism on each and every step of the project so as to minimize the risks arising out of it at a later stage.
There is a lot more to learn in this 366 pages book Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects by Jamal Moustafaev that no project manager can afford to miss.
This is the replication of already running successful training mission for Airmen and Soldiers in North Carolina, where more than 250 have already been trained successfully. The program was initiated under the leadership of project management instructors Bill Flanagan and John Keane from Black Diamond Project Management team. Already trained project managers volunteering as a project management training instructor help in achieving this mission. The same has now been replicated by Chicagoland division of the Project Management Institute (PMI) where they have collaborated with Black Diamond Charities known as BDC, Illinois with a similar mission of providing project management training to veterans under the guidance of trained instructors.
Veterans – airmen and soldiers – based on their job training and lifestyle are more equipped to become successful project managers as project management, task management, and time management gels well with them as their natural stint. There is a lot of commonality in project management and military trainings.
An analysis report published six years back stated around seventy percent of projects fail in one aspect or the other in meeting their:
A project success can be factored on key parameters like:
Obviously if a project crosses its budget there could be various reasons some of them being quite weird. Budget could have outburst due to the scope finalization not handled properly in the beginning. This is one of the examples lying in a weird category but is actually among most usual happening causes for project failure.
Some other reasons could be:
Mostly this happens if:
If we look at top three reasons causing project failures, those would be:
The seventy percent project failing six years back still holds good though there are many new terminologies and organizations have evolved during this period that claim to deliver ninety percent success in your project.
PMO or Project Management Office is basically a controlling and administrating agency for Project and Project Manager portfolios. Following are the roles of a PMO:
Have you tried the new series of OnApp CloudPODs released by Webair. When you are a part of corporate or enterprise cloud solution team and are looking for tools that accelerate the deployment of the cloud with a considerable pace then you must try OnApp CloudPOD. The solution not only accelerates the deployment of cloud but also enhances hardware performance thereby increasing your customer service performance metrics. Overall if you see, it gives you a complete Cloud Management Solution bundled in for tackling all cloud-related issues in one go. Webair is a well-known entity in Cloud Hosting solutions, Cohosting, colocation, manageable and managed solutions. With already so much available under one name, an addition of CloudPOD has empowered its hosting services portfolio to a greater extent. The just a two-week old launch has been well acclaimed all across the globe.
Basically, CloudPOD is a wide range of cloud package solution that aggregates the cloud management software from OnAPP with the three other essential components of cloud – hosting, hardware and connectivity – to provide an optimized solution. The new CloudPOD from Webair lets cloud service providers implement the OnApp clouds solution of their own choice, which can easily go hand in hand with the pre-configured Dell hardware suited for enterprise cloud solutions. This way Webair’s CloudPOD solution provides a completely synchronized solution in terms of performance, network and infrastructure. It suits for all sizes of clouds – ranging from a starter and going up to the large enterprise sized ones.
Currently the benefit is to the customers in New York, Montreal, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles to manage their datacenters in these vicinities where Webair is able to provide hundred percent network uptime.
Unification of Apache YARN and Apache Mesos resource management solution is available in the newly launched open-source Myriad project. Myriad is the first ever produced resource management framework. The beauty of the product is that while on one hand your enterprise, cloud and datacenters services and applications are running and alongside, on the other hand, it can run Apache YARN jobs. As we know that there is a beautiful product from Mesosphere called Mesosphere Datacenter Operating System (DCOS). DCOS exhaustively manages cloud and datacenter resources. We also know that Apache Hadoop is provided by MapR Technologies Inc. Myriad is, in fact, is a product jointly from MapR Technologies Inc. and Mesosphere.
Myriad, available on GitHub is an open source project tool empowered to consolidate big data while running other services in the datacenter. It manages to consolidate all this in a manner so as to create a single pool or resources which help in increased utilization and higher efficiency in operations. There is a clear-cut optimization visible with improved results. This is probably a superb answer to the issues so far being faced in running big data jobs by Hadoop developers where it had to be run on dedicated clusters. By running them on dedicated clusters these resources used to stay in isolation from other services, jobs, and applications running in parallel. This is obviously a major drawback causing lower server utilization.
The issue has been overcome by bringing in Myriad that allows both Apache YARN and Apache Mesos to run alongside, as a single pool of resources whether it is big data jobs, applications, services or scripts. When YARN and Mesos are run together, Mesos collaborates the distributed and isolated resources in a single pool thereby increasing CPU, memory, storage management in a big way.
To break the deadlocks arising in a project, a product manager needs to learn and master an art of breaking those deadlocks. One of the manners to do that is a compromise. A compromise in a deadlock situation can break the deadlock and things can start moving further.
When it is a clash of egos, it becomes difficult for the two opposite ends to bend down and accept defeat. It becomes a kind of war between the two and even if both know they are wrong at one point or the other, neither of them still will agree to it. This kind of clashes can happen in various teams working on a project. For instance, it can happen between the two teams – Testing team and Development team, where both want to provide their correctness. If there is a flaw in the product, that can be overlooked by the testing team for the time being at the time of iteration closure, though can be taken care of at the time of final release, it all depends on testing team to document it and release the iteration. But usually it does not happen and that is one of the major reason of iterations getting delayed.
At this kind of juncture, it is the project manager who has to resolve the things in a diplomatic manner. Both the teams have to be convinced they are right at their end.
As a Project Manager, I had a different kind of learning that was great in all aspects. So here it goes:
Whether it is Agile or the legacy Waterfall, the life must go on for all projects in a successful manner. There have been success and failure cases in both scenarios’ real life projects. Even if Agile loyalists keep claiming that Agile is stronger than Waterfall and assurance rate of success in Agile is much higher, one must understand very clearly that not all projects can run hundred percent on Agile and the same holds good for Waterfall. There are certain projects that would run a better success rate if done in Waterfall. It is important to hold the nerve of the project to understand whether to go for Agile or Waterfall.
Approach that is taken in Agile is bottom-up and is claimed to be faster, much accurate in predicting the fate of action; and results realization. The complete requirements of are broken down into small packets and each packet is assigned a timeline for its completion. It is termed as iteration. Each iteration is given a short duration of seven to ten days. Each participant in an iteration is equally responsible and accountable. Definitely the empowerment is much higher in Agile.
One thing is sure, the visibility of progress and results accrual is much higher in case of Agile than in Waterfall.
When you are covering the final phase of your project the top management of the other side will have only one question in mind – what after handover and sign off. Usually, that is the reason why they become over cautious and start probing much about the product in question. There might be some weird questions coming for which you have no answer, but you have to stay confident and committed.
One of the best way in this phase is to convince the customer about the product stability and all good efforts gone into building it. And also ensure that the product still belongs to you even after the handover and sign off. Therefore in case of any genuine bug encountered ever, it will be taken care of instantly. It is not hundred percent sure that during deployment and handover phase any shortfalls and bugs emerge out. There might be some unique, less prominently occurring business cases that might not have been handled so seriously but could lead to a big disaster or breakdown in the future.
So keep your love intact for the product that you built and stay connected with the product and customer for its complete life.
Release phase of a project is one of the most customer intensive phases where for each release you have to take a final sign off from customer. The release might be of final documents submitted to the customer, training imparted to key users regarding product usage or the product handover. There are many more activities involved during this phase. The most important part is to keep the customer as engaged and happy as possible. This is logically the last check post before you reach your final destination and declare your whole journey as successful.
That means during this phase a project manager has to be at the peak of his communication skills. His prime role is the convince customer all efforts that have been done in the project have solely for the sake of customer itself. Nothing should be projected as a shortfall of the project. Never convey to your customer that he had ordered for a strong coffee and you on your own decided that tea would be better and are trying to convince your customer the change you decided on your own. Nobody would accept this unilateral decision taken by one person where both the persons were involved in the transaction.
In fact, you didn’t have coffee in the kitchen and instead of telling the reality to your customer and asking for an alternative of his choice from the options you have with you, you decided on your own. That will definitely kill your project there and then only.
The role of a project manager varies in various phases of a project. He has to act as a single star in the movie playing various roles as per the demand of the story. All the lead characters of the story are to be played by a project manager himself. In the testing phase, the project manager is required to behave like a self-critic. This is the most difficult task for a person – to be a critic of his own creation.
When the project manager is in the development phase, his prime concern is to meet timelines and releases though the secondary concern is also the quality of the product. But usually when you are a creator, you get totally engrossed in your creation that at times you miss something or the other. That is why in quality phase, the project manager has to act differently and be on the other side of the mirror. This way a project manager himself can realize the rust and dust that may destroy his product and effectively the project.
As discussed in my previous post, a project manager is supposed to carry various hats and has to be smart enough to understand which hat to wear in the respective phase of a project. When a project is in the development phase, a project manager has to act more than a development manager for various reasons. In the development phase, the main focus should be on timely completion of – planned milestones, releases and information to other stakeholders.
All this must happen in a systematic manner but with no compromise with the quality and delivery aspect. The testing scenario has changed altogether. It goes hand in hand with the development in small iterations and not like the earlier times when it used to happen on the completion of development. So is true for customer engagement. Customer engagement is important in this phase for the purpose of getting a sign off for each and every small unit built and released. Obviously, since the whole game is being played for the customer only, it is important to pass quality and customer approval side by side.
Think of the earlier scenario when product was developed in an isolated state, purely based on the requirements taken from the customer. And then it used to go to the quality inspection. It used to travel to and fro multiple times for bug fixing, recommended changes and UI suggestions (which includes navigation part also). Now quality has a bigger say, during the product development. For that purpose quality team has to be as learned about the business requirements and more importantly the actual business processes so that the product is aligned properly during the development phase only.
A project manager has to have multiple faces during the lifecycle of a project. There is no harm in carrying various hats or masks to wear on various occasions, during various phases of a project. In reality, there is a lot of heat transfer during a project. There are moments when a huge pressure is imposed on a project manager and in return the project manager has to dissipate this pressure over his team. The pressure must be absorbed in a very constructive manner. And same should be the strategy while transferring the pressure.
Obviously the pressure will not stay same or constant. It will keep on changing depending on the situation. At times, a project manager will have to raise a false alarm or in other words to build an induced pressure so as to keep his team awake and alert. It all depends on meeting your timelines and milestones. As long as you are on track, the situation will be normal and there will be no considerable external pressure except the one built within to keep yourself going, meeting timelines and goals. The moment you start derailing, instead of acting as assistive agents (which is the most urgent requirement at that juncture), your other stakeholders in the project will start poking you and demanding quick results.
Reasons for delay become meaningless if every activity starts getting delayed and every time there is a new story for the stakeholders. After all, it is not only your performance that puts an intensive impact on the project progress but of each of the team members’ too.
The role and responsibilities of team members change while moving from legacy waterfall methodology to Agile. In Agile the whole perspective and outlook of each and every team member changes. There is a higher level energy engagement requirement from each member thereby calling for high energy and higher dynamism. The expectations in waterfall are mild and with higher frequency. The reviews and meetings are at a longer frequency and focus more on limited people. Here the focus goes on each member. Each member is answerable and accountable. There is higher amount of empowerment.
In Agile there needs to be a consistent bonding between development and business. Both need to intersect each other regularly rather than going parallel. Intersection means interaction. The two need to interact on regular basis, for higher alignment and better engagement. To make all this happen there has to be an entity and the entity is called Product Owner. The product owner acts as a strong link between Development team and the Business team. All this happens with the help of knowledge, wisdom and extra-edged capabilities of product owner.
The product owner is responsible to keep everyone engaged and connected. Major strongholds of a product owner need to be an analyst, a project manager, a communicator, a trainer/ orator and a great leader. He must plan, prioritize, define iterations size and frequency, take quick decisions and keep motivating others. All stakeholders are brought on board as and when required and there needs to be no compromise in that if life has to go smooth. That is where the product owner’s role comes into light.
If it is a once sentence difference that clearly distinguishes between Agile and Waterfall it goes as the title of this post. There is in reality no “Maybe” in Agile. For customer requirement at the start of a fresh iteration the exercise is done to mark either “Yes” or “No” against it. The tasks for that iteration are very clearly identified, marked against respective team member’s name. During any iteration that is a week to fifteen days duration, the respective task connections talk, meet and update their progress on day to day basis.
That means if there is a scope of some non-clarity in a small piece of requirement and is not cleared at the right time, it is not pure Agile methodology adopted in the project. It is then a mix of agile and waterfall that is working in that project. Something important to note is that the projects in which Agile is adopted even in some parts of a complete waterfall project have comparatively higher chances of successful closures than if the project was taken as hundred percent waterfall. On the other hand if in an Agile project if some part is adopted to be taken in waterfall way, the chances of success reduce.
Some organizations adopt agile in such a smaller way by introducing it as a subset of a waterfall project in order to have a taste of it. And in fact it also helps them to get a clear cut difference between the two practices.
If someone says Agile is faster than waterfall, it is right. If someone says Agile is less costlier than waterfall, then also it is right. But it is right only in context when the complete lifecycle cost is compared. Overall iteration costs might be higher in case of Agile but since there is less rework at later stage, it covers up the extra cost being incurred. There is a silent bomb that is always ticking in Agile methodology. If a fault or defect is not caught in time and comes into notice at a later stage, the bomb explodes and makes the complete project haywire.
But chances are quite bleak of such a consequence because at the end of each iteration, each qualified result is got vetted by the customer thereby taking a sign-off. That reduces the chances of any leakages to come into notice at a later stage. It is the rigidity that waterfall carried resulting into more chances of failures. It is the flexibility in Agile that ensures small wins into a bigger win. Moreover it also depends on a project, organizational behavior and desired outcomes.
Another boon of Agile is regular engagement, response and small closures that lead to bigger closures. The rigidness in waterfall says requirements finalized once cannot be changed, while in Agile the customer requirements are confirmed and reconfirmed on every iteration.
That is the beauty of Agile.
Agile concept evolved around two decades ago and is in practice for over a decade now. Within last decade or so the practice has evolved to an optimized level and has proven its usefulness and beneficial results. Project Management took a new turn with involvement of Agile in it. To a substantial extent, it has become a standard adoption in comparison to the waterfall methodology. Quicker finding of faults and their timely addressable possibilities have resulted into higher rates of project closures successfully with adoption of Agile methodology in projects.
The predictions and visibility has become more realistic with Agile. The whole gamut has changed with adoption of Agile – be it the operating mechanism, product development or testing and in fact the various functionary roles. Customer engagement has increase tremendously. It is not like earlier when customer presence was substantial only at two junctures of the project – at the time of capturing of customer requirements in project initiation stage and at the time of deployment stage. With Agile in place, customer has to be a regular part of project development iterations. Each iteration is closed only once customer consent is taken. Customer approval seals an iteration and hence the part by part closure of project.
That way Agile has been tremendously helpful in providing a right kind of momentum and has reduced time delays and rate of failures.
A project passes through various stages – project initiation, development, execution, deployment, sign off and closure. All this takes a lot of strategy, energy and power to drive it in right direction. At times projects do get speed but lead to wrong results if not driven in right direction. And at times, even if the project is going in right direction, it might not win the race, if it lacks speed.
There have been instances when project got initiated with all kind of right spirit but had to be called off due to lack of energy or speed. Speed is an important factor for a project. Without proper speed a project, even if with right constituents, will lose its vigor and hence lead to failure.
It is always good to carry along some good, genuine motivators in the team to keep team speed appropriately managed.
A Project Manager needs to have a top priority for his team. A motivated team can make you win any battle. And a demotivated team might not be able to stay confident in even normal situation. He needs to facilitate his team in all aspects. For that it is very important to understand what all it takes to become a successful facilitator. To facilitate your team you need to be having a good PR. For your team you might have to get favors from various functions.
One such event I remember is when I had to ask for a deviation from HR on one of their policy, for one of my team member who had a genuine reason for violating that particular HR policy.
Similarly you, being project manager of your team, need to be a good curator to keep curating your team members on continuous basis.
Customer requirement capturing phase generally is the period when exact requirements of the customer emerge. It starts with the “What-is” situation going forward to customer’s “to-be” stage. The latter in any case has to be a better and advanced condition from the former. Current situation might be at any level but there is always a scope of improvement, enhancement and improvisation. Even if an organization is fully automated with all business apps in place, there could be a scope requirement in certain integration, mobility and workflow.
Once the customer requirements are finalized and signed off, it does not mean there will not be any changes any further. Things keep evolving and change is always inevitable.
While driving towards Jim Corbett from Delhi with a Tata Safari Convoy of 22 Safaris and 4 additional official vehicles, organized by Tata Motors as a North Region Drive, it turned out to be a great learning from every moment spent with the whole team. There were professionals and businessmen in the group. There were young and middle aged in the group. But it never felt like out of group while talking to any of the members.
It was a distance of around 230 kilometers. We started quite early in the morning and it was almost sure that everyone had come without any breakfast at such an early hours of the morning at the assembly point. Starting was a bit late as there were twenty two cars that were coming from different corners of National Capital Region of Delhi. After starting it was decided to stop somewhere in Gajraula. There is a complex in which you can find different restaurants. Twenty cars and around seventy persons definitely crowded the complex. We tried McDonalds first but it seemed the guys got frightened to see so many people together and we also felt it would take a long time to cater.
Within the same complex we found Tadka Restaurant. We decided to have Paranthas there. In no time it was unanimously decided that we all will go there. There was no panic. In no time the sitting for all was organized on first floor and everyone enjoyed PArathas, butter and Chai.
A great learning for Project Managers on how to manage crisis situations during project lifecycle.
A recent trip to Jim Corbett gave a great learning for project managers on how to manage a project. The expedition was a convoy of twenty two Tata Safari owners along with four cars for Tata Motors official media crew. So in all there were total twenty-six Tata Safari cars to start from Delhi to Jim Corbett. The three day trip gave lot of learning for a project manager that I would like to share here:
Overall it was an unforgettable experience.
What happens when a project fails. It is the turn of project manager to give valid reasons to safeguard himself. Management on the other hand have their own reasons to fire project manager especially if it is a high stake project. A direct question that goes to project manager is why he did not trigger a shout the moment he anticipated delay/failure. But does it not indicate a shortfall at management’s end. If it is a high stake project, is management not responsible to get a regular and frequent project update and vet it with facts and figures rather than banking totally on project manager.
Usually there are some very frequent reasons that are repeated in one form or the other in most of the project failures. A couple of those are as below:
Hardly 13% of projects see the light of day within prescribed timelines, budget and customer satisfaction. If any of the three is less than 100% in the project conclusion summary finalized at the end of a project, don’t treat it as a successful project closure. Actually a project manager has to be quite witty in handling a project otherwise he is bound to get trapped in a vicious circle with timelines, budget and customer requirements on the periphery.
If it is getting delayed in meeting deadlines for releasing a milestone, project manager either increases the cost of project by injecting more manpower so that the development finishes in time or there is a compromise with the delivery of what is committed. Other way round – If budget is constrained during a project, either it impacts on team size or the customer requirements are cut or molded in accordance to meet the crisis. Similarly there are 99% chances of change in requirements during a project.
Logically a project manager has to be tricky enough to follow a ‘no compromise’ path in order to obtain 100 out of 100 at the end of a project. All said and done, it is quite difficult in real life. A data presented by PMI (project management institute) around a year before reported a loss of a little higher amount than invested in the project for a successful closure.
This is a task management tool that allows to work collaboratively among different team members despite their geographic differences. The beauty of this product is that it builds tasks in a tree-type model and hence helps you in planning and organizing tasks in a better way. The product is called Quire and if you have not put your hands on it, you can give it a try. The project task management becomes simpler and easily manageable while using this tool.
You don’t require a special training to use this tool and can easily manage your tasks (daily or periodic), team’s task management, project management and effective planning in organizing and getting quick results. The visual presentation of your tasks in collaboration with your teams changes dynamically in real time as and when anywhere any changes happen. User interface is quite intuitively designed in such a manner that the tree structure model helps you in recognizing tasks and sub-tasks in a clear manner without any extra efforts.
Definitely, a project manager, team manager or product manager would always like to like to have a clear picture of tasks in hand, sub-tasks bundled with a particular task, and each task/sub-task mapped to who it is allocated to. A real time, at a glance, clear visual presentation is always going to help to manage and organize them. That is where you can easily bank upon to manage and organize your tasks buckets.
Business Analysis Certification has been launched recently (in November 2014) by PMI (Project Management Institute). A Business Analysis Practice Guide has also been launched in wake of the above mentioned certification. The two excellent online community efforts are in place for last twenty years on their two portals – ProjectManagement.com and PMI.org where they keep engaged and updated all project management enthusiasts on global arena. The certification is named as Professional in Business Analysis (given by PMI) – PBA. The practice guide is titled as The Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practical Guide. Both were launched in November and December respectively.
The call comes in wake of high demand of professionals in business analysis from various industry verticals. The demand is valid as the technology and information systems are evolving continuously for last three decades and the business applications have reached to a level of maturity where analytics is now the next thing that is going to give a thrust to business in real sense.
The main components of practical guide of Business Analysis would be assisting analysts in identification of core business needs and marrying them with a suitable solution after proper evaluation. There would be proper guidance in making business analysis enthusiasts to identify the core business issues where analysis is prime concern to evolve business out of that crisis by providing an appropriate solution. This analysis will definitely be taking care of the business ecosystem, constraints and opportunities. There would be requirements capturing, analysis, verification of requirements, evaluation and assessment and then solution deployment (probably going in line with the project management).
The gap between technology and business now is a gone case. Technology cannot exist without a vast involvement and engagement in business to which it is catering to and hence a proper knowledge is must to amalgamate business and technology in right way. Gone are the days when systems used to drive business and business had to mold has per the whims and fancies of technology. Now business is the king and technology has to go hand in hand catering to all business needs. Technology and systems cannot survive in their own shells without shaking hands with the business.
Business professionals are not far beyond in terms of knowledge of technology thanks for social media and mobility that is continuously giving them a new taste & flavor everyday and hence they are well aware now about the possibilities of outreach of capabilities of technology. Now it is the end user who is very clear about usability, layout & design, and user interfaces. It is the speed of mobile apps that do heterogeneous tasks in spur of moments which educate end user to demand similar functionalities in business applications.
Gone are the days when technology and systems’ limitations used to drive business and it is the business who used to be at the recipient end for compromises. In today’s scenario it it the call of business, and technology has to either do or get sideways for someone other to cater to the need of business.
Recently read this book 10 Stacks To Success: How To Achieve Success One Goal At A Time by Jerome “Jay” Isip and found it quite useful for project managers. There are ten great lessons for a project manager that will definitely be a boon for them to get synergies in driving their project to a higher level of progress, success, closure and benefit. The ten stacks to success can certainly be applied in a practical manner in the same sequence as below:
Stack one is about Foundation. Unless you lay a strong foundation, you cannot stand a tall and strong building over it. The same implies to a project. Project definition, project charter, project scope and customer requirements are four pillars for laying a strong foundation of a project. Stack two is about Positive Attraction. It is important to understand positiveness around and absorb it. Stack three is on Behavior. It is important to control your habits. A change is important in life. Stack four is on Dream a Little Dream. Keep your dreams intact. Create new dreams, and build positive energy around to fulfill your dreams.
Stack five talks about Surroundings. You need to open up, break your barriers, clean up the crap on the way of your project success. Move out of your comfort ares and get more energies to achieve more. Stack six is on Fight the Fear. If you are able to adopt it and achieve it, probably sky is the limit for your success. Stack seven is about Money. Each project has be commercially green at any moment of time.
Stack eight is about Creativity. Be creative, enhance your creativity and be more creative. Stack nine is on Actions. Effective actions are more important than actions. The final stack – stack ten talks about Experience. Gain experience, learning and wisdom from your success in each project.
To cater to needs arising out locally and globally, Rivier University (that was earlier known as Rivier College, founded in 1933), has planned to launch three new graduate degree programs. Rivier University is located in Nashua, New Hampshire in the United States. The degrees to be launched are related to supply chain management and project management. It is a private Catholic liberal arts university.
The degrees are titled as – B.S. – Supply Chain Management, B.S. Project Management and M.S. in Project Management. There is a high demand on a global front for trained workforce in supply chain management and project management from all industry segments, whether in manufacturing or in service, whether government run or privately run organizations. BS in SCM will prepare graduate trained workforce who will be manage to coordinate and manage in effectively and efficiently, in all logistical needs of an organization. There will be practical approach applied in training students in negotiation skills & practices, resource budgeting & management, procurement management, transportation logistics and distribution management. A special focus will be to train in line with Six Sigma and Lean management.
BS in PM will focus on training in line with PMI (Project Management Institute) standards keeping in mind that the students will be ready to undergo PMI examinations to get prestigious certificates from PMI like CAPM (certified associate in project management) and PMP (project management professional). Courseware will have special attention on important aspects of project management like project planning, project scheduling, risk management and mitigation planning, budget management, outsourcing and procurement, product and deployment management.
One year of MS in PM, besides focusing on all above and taking students further to its advanced level will also take them to a virtual world of role play as a project manager in managing certain project teams thereby making them conversant with real world problems arising in project management.
Under the banner of Shell Social Investment there is something excellent happening in Qatar where it is supporting multi-dimensional development of project management enthusiasts. All this is done through Tafawoq Project Management of Excellence. This is formed in collaboration with Qatar Petroleum (QP), Qatar Shell and Hamad Bin Khalifa University with a target of keeping Qatar National Vision 2030 intact by continuously supporting the delivery of capital investment projects of the country.
Tafawoq has been developed clearly in alignment with the basic principles of Shell Project Academy. Shell’s Project Academy model in turn is an outcome of Global Leadership of Shell in Project Management. The success story of Shell’s Project Academy is unbeatable. Tafawoq’s course in Essentials of Project Management is quite prestigious and well acclaimed in Qatar. Tafawoq engages project community of the country by organizing various meaningful community events on a regular basis.
There is a consistent growth in the membership of Tafawoq and so is the project professionals across Qatar.
Shell must be proud to add one more feather in their cap when it was announced recently as the “Project Management Company of the Year” award for the year 2014 by Association for Project Management (APM). The award ceremony was held in London. The recognition goes for Shell delivering all their capital projects in a better and safer way. It also recognizes the company as committed consistently to project excellence. It also recognized Shell Project Academy for preparing world class project and project management professionals by training in the most professional way.
It was not a cakewalk by any means for Shell. The other finalists for APM Project Management Awards 2014 were Allstate Northern Ireland, Moorhouse, Magnox Ltd. The finalists were sponsored by T-Systems. This particular award was sponsored by 20|20 Business Insight.
Zoho CRM has been quite popular among SMBs and otherwise companies with a limited budget to deploy one of the best SFA product in the organization. Around 80% of Zoho’s total revenue of USD 56 million comes from Zoho CRM. Zoho CRM is a preferred choice of many organizations because of its quite customer friendly pricing model that is substantially low as compared to other CRM products. Zoho’s simplified subscription and configuration model along with its attractive pricing model has been able to grab major portion of SMBs.
Zoho has around 40,000 customers worldwide but there is a catch in such a huge count. Most of its customers have a user base of 10 or lesser number of users. A good point about Zoho is that it support over 15 languages. Zoho believes in direct selling through its portal or otherwise and that is how it has been able to keep its pricing model quite low and attractive.
Zoho’s support model for its customers is also quite lucrative. It supports at zero-cost and that includes technical support through email during warranty period. For paid support, the support model is 24 x 5 telephonic support. The product’s capabilities are good in managing opportunity and pipeline modules. Pricing and quotes management, vendor management, sales management, purchase management are some of its other strongholds in the product.
Tour de Force CRM came into existence during 2001 and it has never been so far able to touch a revenue of USD 10 million in any year. This is a specific industry focused CRM having its main target on manufacturing industries that are more into distribution network. That means the product is quite useful for the manufacturing companies distributing their products through wholesale distributorship. The app is offered in only one flavor – on-premises.
A unilateral focus on a specific industry segment has given a unique strength to this product. For SFA automation of the sales field of any manufacturing and distribution company, Tour de Force CRM would probably be the first choice as there is nothing related to this specific industry segment that this product does not cater to. The product claims to be easily integrated with ERP products which is essentially a major requirement for a manufacturing and distribution company.
Regarding support, the organizations that are using it for long (over 10 years) are the best examples of its superior level of support provided to its customers.
Saleslogix was acquired by Swiftpage around 1.5 years back and since then the focus has increased to aggressively pitch the product on development and planning front. Due to this there have been Saleslogix who have moved to competitor’s SFA product rather than continuing with it. Most of its customers are in North America and Europe (mainly in the United Kingdom in Europe). Probably it can be estimated in the ratio of 70:30.
The strength of Saleslogix is mobility. The mobile application version of this CRM is highly usability centric and hence is treated as quite useful and easy to use by the field staff. In fact there is an option to go for mobile-only product. The pricing also comes in two flavors – concurrent user base and mobile only installation. In concurrent user pricing model the actual user’s count can go higher but the customer has to pay only for the concurrent users. this is quite interesting and has been liked by many of its customers. On the other hand if the customer decided that its users will be using the app only on their mobile handsets, then the pricing is very lucrative and is almost more than 50% discounted than the earlier version.
The newer option for its existing customers to move on to cloud can straightaway avail this service by moving to Swiftpage’s Amazon Web Services. The cloud based customers count is almost around 200.
As far as support is concerned, it is easy to regulate as PHP developers are available worldwide. As far as price model is concerned, SugarCRM has an extra edge over its competitors for providing excellent pricing to its customers. It has been successfully deployed for a user base of around 500.
Regarding its global presence network for deployment and support, there is an issue with SugarCRM as it does not have any external service provider on a global front. It needs to pay attention on that front so as to win more business and customers.
Virtualization is in use for more than a decade now, in various forms. The technology advancements brought in more options to adopt. Various models of virtualization impact in different ways on hardware and software costs. It has also been a point of debate whether it is good to go for a bigger hardware box with considerably higher RAM, processor and storage than to go for individual intelligent boxes. But still virtualization brings in increased manageability and definitely some benefit in hardware costs. Software licensing impact and saving will depend on the technology you adopt.
Mobility is definitely the demand of time. Younger generation is more prone to adopt mobility and digital life. For them a problem is looked upon in an altogether different manner than an expert but of higher age not belonging to today’s life. Corporate would is moving to mobility and digital in a big way. Without mobility, there can be no improvement thought of.
Cloud has its own set of benefits. Security can be a question only for the new players or players having weaker setup. This, in any case, is not something that you can’t measure of assess before deciding to put your crucial business data on cloud of any third party vendor. Definitely when it comes on established names, providing services to the big names of the world, you will have to spend lesser amount of energies in their assessment. May be the SLA will play a crucial role.
For 2015 Mobility, Virtualization and Cloud are going to play a major role for corporate world’s IT strategies. There would be intelligent and stupid solutions – it will depend totally on you, which one to opt for. There would be good and bad decisions – and a bad decision will take a big toll.
Big Data is really big, and is definitely necessary, but not for all industries and businesses. Big Data is a huge collection of relevant data from various sources. The relevance has to be very clearly defined for whom it matters to go into Big Data. Sources could be enormous, so one must be clearly able to draw out the limits of sources. This data in any case is huge than you can imagine.
Complexity of Big Data lies in various factors – the volume of this data itself is too huge. Moreover it comes in structured, semi-structured and totally unstructured forms. It is a big task to segregate important data from the total chunk. All this can though done through various apps available. The main property of Big Data is the way data is processed through normal data processing apps. There are n number of challenges that come along with the task. First and foremost is the relevance – required for what purpose and for whom. What business benefits it is going to bring in? Analytics for Big Data is also a big task, storage is another. Security is another aspect to look into.
One thing is for sure, if you are in the segment where Big Data plays a big role in defining your business dynamics, and if you are not into it, probably your competitor will be analyzing your big data.
For any of your forthcoming projects, if you have not kept mobility in mind, the project is going to have very less liking and usability. Year 2015 onward all your projects need to focus on mobility. Be it business applications, workflow or data center setup projects, the focus has to stay on mobility.
Why Mobility: There are certain reasons on why mobility is going to be a big player in your success, as listed below:
Younger generation looks everything in a different perspective than their predecessors. Younger generation is in the habit of looking at digitized angle of any business application, workflow etc. They need apps to be available anywhere anytime. They also expect in getting more value while doing less. The complexity of apps has to go off. It has to be thought in parallel terms of facebook, twitter etc. – few clicks and the job is done.
Support and management can reach to 24×7 provided controls are available to the support and technology infra management team over mobile, tab – on the move.
Remote Management has changed the scenario totally. High tech support is now not required all the time in physical inside the campus. It is only the smart entry level engineers that are enough to manage the show.
A company engaged in DevOps based solutions data centers with latest kind of architecture and design has recently announced their 6th product launch. This company has its headquarter in San Francisco and its earlier five successful open source projects are Vargrant, Packer, Consul, Terraform and Serf. The name of this company is HashiCorp and it is supported by three big global names like GGV Capital, Mayfield, and True Ventures. To manage any application delivery process, HashiCorp software is a best bet for system administrators and developers, and the bonus feature is that it is supported on any infrastructure.
Few large sized global companies that are already using HashiCorp’s open source projects are AOL, Twitch, Expedia, Disqus, Lithium Technologies, Mozilla, and many more. The new announced product is Atlas which is an integrated dashboard and workflow process management meant for managing development, deployment and maintenance of applications performing on any infrastructure. Atlas is compatible to work on virtual machines having their backbone in any kind of VM product like VMware, Docker, Rocket or Virtualbox; using CM tools (configuration management) like Chef and Puppet; and supports almost all the major public/ private cloud environment providers like GCE, Azure, AWS and OpenStack – to name a few.
Atlas is a powerful application that works on any homogenous or heterogeneous environment of infrastructure. It is a strong product with one stop solution for handling complete workflow related to development, deployment and maintenance of applications on any kind of infrastructure base.
A project Assurance Framework must be able to cater to a minimal requirement to qualify. The minimal requirement or characteristic to adhere to for a Project Assurance Framework is as below:
Planning: It must be able to help in guiding for a near to perfect planning. Which means that the guidelines for planning must be well-specified in the framework. And these guidelines must be based on the past experience and learning from failures so as to make it sturdy and fool-proof. A regular review is a must for these guidelines and necessary enhancements need to be done based on ongoing new experience.
Scoping: Scoping guidelines is a mandate to be a part of Project Assurance Framework. Scoping criteria cannot be on ad-hoc basis varying from project to project. It needs to be standardized and followed universally.
Resourcing: Once scoping procedures are clearly defined, it leads to clear path for resourcing. So Project Assurance Framework must have a separate chapter for resourcing and that should have a backward linkage with the scoping. Without proper scoping, resourcing will be half-cooked and could lead to any kind of disaster.
Stakeholders Expectations: Stakeholders from various corners of the project will be carrying different kind of expectations from the teams working on project. Some would be taking a note of minutest of the movement while others would be interested in broader perspective. The Framework in question must take care of all kind of stakeholders in a project.
Outcomes: The outcomes is the final verdict that defines success of failure of a project. Merely presentations or project status cannot satisfy everyone engaged in the project. At some moment or the other, they would be interested to see the chicken out of the egg.
Management Support: This is a hidden poisonous snake in the project ecosystem. At the time of criticality, crisis and need; management has to come forward to provide support – whatever kind. Therefore a regular engagement in the project is important and the Project Assurance Framework must define and document it properly.
Do you have a project assurance framework in place? Are you aware what all is it about? And what purpose does it serve?
Well! Project Assurance Framework is something to assure maximum smoothness of the road on which your project is travelling. It is a structured document that guides you to take the right path and in case of deviation from the right path – what kind of appropriate actions to be taken. Logically it is a broader concept of ensuring optimally effective progress of your project with a sub component of risk assessment and risk mitigation plan. All risks perceived do not occur in all projects, neither in one’s life, but there is no harm in being prepared to tackle any kind of risk in project, and in life.
Project Assurance Framework can basically act as a solid foundation for your projects – whatever types they are of – and whatever methodology you adopt for each of your project. It is also a tool to bring in a uniformity among the various teams working on various project within an organization. Definitely, in current scenarios, we also see, some ad-hoc inclusion of external team members to work on a project – called outsourced. That is where is aligns everyone – all stakeholders and project executioners.
Project Assurance Framework includes various assessment tools and criteria along with a well-defined project assessment procedure and the stages that are most critical to check project health, at which it becomes a necessity to conduct. So in a complete lifecycle of a project, there would be multiple stages to conduct project assessment and analysis process.