Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized quite strongly on Startup India this Independence Day speech. NASSCOM taking it along is quite happy that the tech startup environment in India is already on a high note and is moving in an exponential manner on a positive note. There are various communities related to products and start-ups that are very hopeful for an excellent future ahead. NASSCOM in order to align the efforts, enthusiasm and energies together, is organizing its most awaited annual national event the NASSCOM Product Conclave. The event is bound to take place from 13 to 15 October 2015. It is not only going to attract local, state and national but also international technology gurus, enthusiasts, and aspirants to attend this event and gain a high volume of networking and fruitful interactions. The three-day event will take place in Bangalore.
The event is expected to bring in new dimensions and tie-ups in the tech ecosystem carving a clear-cut direction for a healthy future and building ample opportunities during its journey.There is going to be a lot more than the last year’s elements like summits, showcases, enterprise connects, huddles and investors forums. The wide industry segment that eagerly waits for this event every year includes healthcare, education, finance, big data, mobility, web app, retail, funding, travel & tourism and so on. There are quite intense workshops and roundtables that happen for each industry segment. During NPC every year the participants get ample opportunities to brainstorm, network and build corporate tie-ups in a fruitful manner.
Every year many aspirants lose the opportunity to attend this event due to the limited seats and it being highly in demand. Looking at your calendar and your enthusiasm, ensure to enrol and book your seat well in advance. Till a particular date you can also avail early bird discounts.
Finding sponsors and investors for a startup is not difficult. Starting, setting and running the business also is not difficult provided you are an entrepreneur and have an instinct of choosing right candidates for your requirements. What matters most is to stay alive and sustain your business. Because if you are not able to sustain, you will not be able to survive for long. And if you don’t survive for long, you will slowly become extinct. There are so many such examples where even with a substantial financial boost and cash reserves went bankrupt.
Based on my expertise in helping startups to sustain, grow and have a permanent presence in the market, I was recently approached by an old friend of mine who started a flourishing startup a year back but had started facing some issues lately. I had to get into the routine so as to understand the missing components. Following are the immediate actions suggested that got approvals for the incorporation:
There was a total chaos. Business was at full bloom, but everything was being taken up as a firefighting situation. Everyone was working but without any standard guidelines or procedures. The first thing I did was to get each function standardized.
There was no accountability. Accidents were happening as and when there was any scope. And scope was ample for this. There were a lot of postmortems. But resultant was nil. Everything used to get to square one. Clear hierarchy, roles & responsibilities were defined.
KRAs were defined for each and every person in a function. Accountability evolved gradually and the performance became objective rather than being subjective and on the gut-feel basis.
Flow diagram of each and every activity within a function was drawn. Though it was not final, it evolved gradually engaging a lot of brainstorming and multiple sessions.
Now was the time to bring in technology and mobility to build a workflow in the system. Tabs were procured for field staff. Attendance was moved from manual to NFC-based. Duplicity removed by populating already existing data in the system. Rules were set to capture data at its origin.
Life is better now. Evolution, enhancements, and improvements never stop here. Everyone in the organization is welcome to suggest for the betterment.
Though IT Governance has to do a lot together, both are not in the direct vicinity of Project Management. But if you think otherwise both activities stated formerly can itself be taken under project management, separately. Well, that is a different topic altogether to introspect and discuss. Here I am going to highlight the impact of weakness in IT Asset Management and hence in IT Governance on Project Management. For instance, you are taking care of a project that has just initiated and has to pass through various stages to reach to its final destination – Project Sign-off.
Your project timelines are under the clouds of bigger security threats if IT Asset Management is not there in proper shape, well managed and up-to-date. The legacy applications, systems running on outdated operating system and the older hardware in place that is not equipped well to protect itself; all are the lucrative chunks of cheese to invite cyber attacks and hence could cause a total breakdown of your network.
That is where a clear cut actionable guidance is required on IT Governance front to think in this direction thereby reducing the critical risk hanging on the neck of the business and also to ensure to get rid of frequent critical business applications and network downtime.
The prime business of business apps is to facilitate the business and not drift it to a more lethargic condition. There are certain key indicators that can tell you clearly if your business apps are either out of their life or if those are newly deployed, have been a waste of time and efforts (and of course, a big chunk of your business revenue).
If all this is happening on a regular basis, it is really high time for you to look into your legacy business apps and evaluate properly for concluding a decision for their revamp.
Business apps are meant to shift the turmoiling business processes and situations to a comfort zone. It needs to straighten the zig-zag happening in the business. A lot of investment goes into business apps development, deployment and upkeep. at times businesses take a call of deploying a famous business app just thinking that the business will automatically be streamlined. That is not the case. There needs to be a systematic and scientific approach for selecting a suitable business app. Before that it is important to understand the pain areas in the business.
Even after selection of your business apps if there is a high level of conflict among key process owners, key business line owners and the top management, there is something missing in the pudding in the making. Obviously as you are the owner of your business, there is the app owner vendor whose responsibility is to convince you the need of his app for your business. If you ask for vague features, it would be very easy for the vendor to convince you on his app being ideally the best to cater to your business needs. Some vague requirements with no head and tail would be asking your vendor if his app would be able to streamline your business. Definitely he will never say No.
You need to be specifically asking him the exact issues that are not letting you streamline your business and then let him demonstrate the app and how it will be able to handle your business specific needs to kill those pain areas. And last but not the least, never forget to check with his existing customers not of his choice but by selecting them on your own.
As per a recent news published in The Hindu Businessline, India would be needing 0.4 million project managers every year till 2020. This figure is as per the PMI India. The figures have evolved based on the advancement and development projections presented by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. Based on the volume and intensity of projects being undertaken aimed to be undertaken, there is definitely a serious requirement of certified project managers.
This is a fabulous example of chain reaction and exponentiation. The need of growth of the country evolved with the increase in talent in the country and an open stance taken by the government. The Project Management Institute that is a not-for-profit organization has come out with various flexible plans for achieving this mission. The institution has tied up with various corporate, universities and colleges for imparting training free of cost. Almost 2000 certified project managers are being shelved out of the PMI.
A project manager cannot afford to take a shortcut during any stage of his project. Shortcuts always mean compromise. And compromise in a project means a sure death sooner or later. There are various leadership qualities that a project manager needs to inculcate in himself so as to reach a stage where the chances of a failure become too bleak. At times when a project is running with tight timelines and some further crisis makes it tighter, the management itself tries to push a project manager to take shortcuts. During such conditions, it is the project manager who has to oppose for such compromises that could impact a project in the longer run.
The three leadership qualities that a project manager needs to grow within are:
Build a capacity to proactively smell the mildly evolving silos within or among the teams. It takes a little extra amount of wisdom to understand the silence or miscommunication creating silos. You can work towards removing silos only when you learn to understand it first. There are many ways to remove silos for which you need to become a human manager.
Never let a situation arise when you are cornered or are forced to go in isolation. Never get driven by situations. Face whatever comes in your way as an obstacle in a bold manner without diverting your path out of fear or lack of confidence.
For your nirvana you don’t need to perform any rituals or a deep & long meditation.Your nirvana lies in only one thing and that is a successful closure of your projects. Build the rhythm, Maintain the rhythm and learn to build the same rhythm in your teams.
Software testing is as important during a project lifecycle as hard disciplined practice for a contestant preparing himself for a gold medal in Olympics. During this exhaustive practice, the player tries to overcome all his flaws and shortcomings. For this the player need to understand first the flaws and shortfalls, only then he can overcome those. The same analogy can be used for the software during and post development. It needs to undergo various acid tests and virtual scenarios that resemble the setup that is going to be there at customer’s for the live show.
The software testing team has to be fully equipped to visualize and induce all kind of threats and vulnerabilities that could lead to a disaster at the customer location. The QC team has to have a balanced combination of technical, functional, business and design experts. Each of this expertise has to test the product as per their perspective but keeping clearly the customer needs in mind.
A successful product development does not mean its deployment will also go successfully. Similarly a great project deployment team does not ensure a good quality product development. Both are entirely different and need a different attention. That is where the role of Quality Assurance comes into picture. Quality Assurance ensure a complete and universal handling of a project including all important aspects or phases within. Product development is an integral component of project lifecycle. In fact it is the crucial development phase of a project that is completely focused on the development of product. Some projects are limited to product development itself and the product deployment is taken later as a separate project.
Product Quality is handled by the quality control (QC) team. When we talk of software product, it is the testing team that works hand in hand with the development team. The testing results are closely monitored by product manager and quality manager. Test cases, type of testing included, and test reports play a major role in the overall quality of a product.
Project quality is a wider spectrum and it needs a varying attention to handle. It is the QA team on which the onus for project quality lies. Project quality must handle all the phases of a project successfully on the quality front and ensure each phase adheres to the quality standards and guidelines. Relevant reports, regular monitoring and audits play major role in ensuring project quality.
A successful project closure doesn’t mean there will be stopgaps any further and all clouds of danger on the project are over. Project sign-off and project closure if happen on a successful note, are always welcomed by any project implementation team. Some activities that still need a lot of attention even after this stage is over, become crucial to get your project keep going successfully even after handover and sign off.
There are many instances where projects have been concluded successfully but post deployment have not been able to cover a long distance. There have been conflicting instances where the post deployment hiccups became a big showstopper to carry on. What important needs to be done post closure can be listed as below:
Though sign-off has happened there would be a lot of queries coming across from the end users, complaining as a defect, but usually emerging out to be a usage issue. Obviously if the product is fantastic but you are not equipped well to run it, the success will not be there. Hence, ensure to train and re-train your end user with a regular initiative from your end. Run quizzes, sessions, special sessions, discussions etc. to keep your end users stronger in usage.
Out of so many end users identified in the beginning, trained during the course of deployment and finally signed off, ensure to identify the sparking ones of the lot. Make them as legends for other users. Identify their spark factor and bring it in others too.
Make your hot leads visit and meet these end users. Let the prospects see the horses in action in the field itself. Let them interact with the end users and learn the beauty of the product and the exclusive style of implementation from your end. It automatically puts a different kind of impression.
After completion of every project, as a project manager, you need to introspect to find out few answers. All projects might not end on a positive note. A project that travels its complete path without a single deviation to its timelines or financial guidelines can be termed as 100% successful. But it usually never happens or might be happening at a very low percentage. There are certain leverages set for any project at its beginning. If these ascertained leverages are consumed completely and still the project completes on a satisfactory note, you still will be able to make yourself and your management happy. But any extensions beyond this will definitely will get you in a sorry state not only internally but to your customer too.
The most important question that you need to ask yourself is the result of the equation of the project results versus the resources utilized. One thing is quite clear that you are bound to get a good result only if the project has been finished well within the stipulated time with no increase in financial and manpower budgets. A very interesting point to ponder here is that great learning come through bigger failures only. So even if you have failed in a project, sometimes, fpr those few failed projects if you ask yourself – Was it a good use of resources? the answer might come in positive.
Certain failures in projects ensure a no failure state for a long time to come. Such failures act as insurance for the forthcoming projects.
At times it might not be visible in the beginning about the learning your team would be taking along by the end of the project. But depending on the rough tides encountered during the project lifecycle, it might turn out that each member is carrying a heap of learning from the project. One thing is always sure about any project. Whatever tools and automation you deploy in your project lifecycle, you are always bound to come across some or the other kind of hiccups. It might happen at a member level alone, depending on a particular micro task assigned to him (from the WBS) or at team level when the whole team gets stuck and the project comes to a standstill due to a major showstopper.
That is the point where you get substantial learning. The more unique kind of issues encountered, bring in larger amount of learning. The spark of solution, when you are stuck with a problem, might come from any corner. Welcome as much ideas as possible during this stage so as to find out the best possible solution to resolve the issue. Brainstorming along with the team members is always good during the crisis to find out quick solutions.
When you are asked to lead a project it is very important for you to understand it to the root level and gain first hand experience. This might require a lot of discussions, interviews and brainstorming sessions with your own management, customer and internal team owners. Ensure that all such interactions add a substantial amount of knowledge and clarity related to project and by the end of each such interaction, more and more light must be visible to you by the end of the tunnel. You must left with no confusion about your new project because when you build your project team, the members will have a number of queries and confusions that you will be required to resolve.
At this instance you must be in a very comfortable position to address to any concerns of your team members related to the project. Be it related to technology being used in the project or be it related to functional, there must be a best possible clarity to you and your team. And wherever your team gets stuck, you as a project manager need to address to it and clear the clouds.
Software Testing is under the preview of Quality Control. The quality control team ascertains and ensures the software testing. There are many aspects of software testing and hence is possible to perform automated testing with the help of software testing tools. It is not possible to perform software testing in fully automated manner. There is always the human element that plays a major role in software testing. The overall purpose of software testing is to ensure that the software passes all checkpoints built to ascertain 100% customer acceptance. The software testing involves different variants of testing like smoke testing, stress testing, module testing, integration testing, product testing, functional testing, technical testing and so on. Usually, there is a testing team under a testing head in any project to ensure 100% product compliance as per customer’s specifications and product guidelines.
Software Quality Assurance is a wider spectrum that ensures quality aspect in the complete project. An organization working on various kind of projects need to follow different project methodologies. One project methodology will not fit in for any kind of project. It is the role of quality assurance to ascertain a specific project methodology for a specific kind of projects. For each project methodology, the project lifecycle will comprise of different sets of project phase components and hence there might be a substantial variance in the processes and documentation. Quality Assurance team not only assures drafting of right methodology, processes, and documentation/ reports for a project but is also ensures to carry out regular audits for compliance purposes.
In a nutshell, Quality Assurance is an agency that drafts project phase wise adherence guidelines, ensures its compliance and conducts audits to control it. Software Testing or Quality Assurance team ensures to comply with the testing processes, guidelines, and compliance.
No technology in project manager’s life can relieve him from efforts required in Quality Assurance. Quality Assurance is all about building quality processes that need to be adhered at relevant checkpoints. It is something like a check post after every few miles covered to ensure right passengers in the right vehicle adhering to all norms set for the travel of journey.
The two major differences between agile and legacy project management are –
1. The quality is not to be checked at the end of product completion. Rather is it required to be checked at every iteration. No code piece is to be released unless it has passed through the required quality norms. Who does it and ensure 100% compliance is another thing. But it has to be done means it has to be done. Whereas the norms and processes are to be the responsibility of quality assurance. It is the quality control that follows it. Quality Assurance ensures it is followed and all disciplines related to this are adhered to.
2. Another difference is the engagement of the customer. In Agile, the customer is required to be part of requirement finalization and reconfirmation at every iteration. Any changes required in the requirement are to be proactively taken up by the development team at the beginning of any iteration rather than doing a postmortem at the end of it. The customer is also required to be an integral part of testing and sign-off of each set of code at the end of an iteration cycle.
The integration of all iterations and the complete product testing is of course done at the end of all iterations. But it definitely reduces the quality issues by at least 70%.
A recent and a very simple example to understand the issue – A laptop was to be delivered to a remote location customer. Repairing cost a few dollars and delivery cost to that location – double than the repair cost. The laptop was brought in the repair center. It was repaired by one of the engineers and was sent to the customer by the service providing company through its field engineer. The field engineer delivered the laptop at the customer location. Delivery was signed off and next day when the customer tried to start his laptop, the OS failed to boot.
Another example. A laptop from the same organization is to be delivered at another customer location on a weekend. The delivery guy picks the repaired laptop to deliver it at the location but finds the end user is on a vacation for a couple of days. He leaves the repaired laptop at one of the end user’s friend’s location and tells his friend to inform the end user to inform him when he comes back from his vacation so the he picks up the faulty laptop and delivers this laptop to him. A week passes, no communication, and all of a sudden the next weekend, a senior operations person in the delivery company gets a complaint call about the same laptop delivery getting over delayed.
Both the examples mentioned above clearly denote two weak areas in the organization. The poor quality control and a worse quality assurance. There is an absence of well-defined control mechanism to ensure quality delivery to the customer. In both the cases, there is an additional cost that is borne by the company to re-deliver the right service to its end customer. It is not only the cost that matters, it is the reputation that goes haywire thereby resulting in a substantial reputation and trust loss. The latter loss is an exponential loss to the business.
Recently I attended an event where a stand-up comedian was invited as a gap filler after one of the interesting social media related interesting sessions. It is irrelevant to name that newcomer comedian who probably didn’t know about how to ensure not to cross that thin line gap between live comedy and cheap act. Just after a few minutes of the start of his show, it was apparent that he has nothing substantial to deliver. He was just using people present in the audience as a target for throwing poor jokes on them. It was clear that as a leader of his show and as a project manager of his program, he was lacking a lot of qualities that were important to make him a success.
Few of the top qualities that he was lacking are:
Before you jump into your new project as a project manager, ensure to study minutely about your project requirements, customer, teams and other stakeholders. Build your strategies and plans very clearly taking all into account.
The moment his introduction was made on the stage as a stand-up comedian, there was a big applause from the audience, in anticipation to a great show. Similarly as a project manager when you are introduced, your stakeholders applaud for you anticipating a great performance from you with a successful journey and timely closure.
You must understand your customer well before you start your journey. That is what the artist skipped. Knowing that all the audience present there was serious techies and professionals in their respective fields, the poor guy should have presented some stuff of substance and gravity rather than throwing poor jokes. As a project manager take your own time to understand the nerve of each of your end users and management to talk to them in their desired tone rather than being monotonous.
4. Perform well: When you are on the central stage, do your best, perform well and deliver at your peak. Ensure that you have enough material to keep your audience engaged during the stipulated time you are supposed to spend on the stage.
The poor guy didn’t start well and was not able to put any substance into his act. Definitely his sixth sense (if he had and was using it) would have already sent him some alert signals about the adversities that were bound to arise. If he was smart enough, he would have learned the situation and would have changed the direction of his act by intelligently adding substance to it (only if had it).
Acting quickly, transforming and bringing change in you based on the demand of the situation, is something that you need to learn as a project manager. The poor guy, when was stopped by one of the audience demanding some quality in his show reacted sharply and tried to gain attention from others in a very awkward manner rather than understanding the objections raised and clarifying the situation.
The poor guy must have learned the real meaning of his profession and the seriousness required in becoming a good stand-up comedian. The same goes true for a project manager too.
The most critical phase for this stand-up comedian was when the man who was opposing from audience side asked for a mic this guy announced in his mic instructing the organizers not to provide the mic. When the man asked him why, he said – ‘I am on the stage, not you’. That was a big blunder the so-called comedian made. Few moments later neither he had a mic in his hand, nor was he there on the stage.
The poor guy instead of overreacting and becoming adamant about his talent, if had apologized the audience for the cheap jokes and requested for a few seconds to build up a healthy atmosphere by redirecting his show in a meaningful direction, the situation would not have gone out of his hands.
That is the most important weapon any performer should have. Besides carrying it, one should have a knowledge also to use it in a right manner at the right time.
It is not difficult to deliver a product to your customer but meeting your customer’s expectations in terms of quality of the product and maintaining best of the services post delivery of a product is critical. That is where the core of the business lies. You will never be able to get a business again from your customer if you fail or deteriorate consistently in performance in the latter case. Think of a balloon which is filled with air and is full blown and tight in the beginning. That is the condition of the trust on you by your customer when you deliver a fantastic product to them. The rate at which the air slips out of the balloon depends on the quality of service you give to your customer. The day it is 50% air in the balloon, you have lost your customer in all aspects. So you can understand how important it is to keep the air intact in your ‘trust’ balloon.
What should we do to assure quality in terms of cost, delivery and services? Before that it is important to understand what each term means:
How do assure Quality in all the above areas:
TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) is a not-for-profit institute in India engaged in research on energy, sustainable development and environment. TERI’s main focus is on finding out innovative ways of efficient and sustainable usage of natural resources. It is an independent institute that took birth in 1974 and since then it has consistently proved itself as an institute of excellence as it has performed a good amount of path-breaking research. TERI is a well respected and recognized institute on the world arena. It is followed by a large number of policy makers, corporate and political leaders.
ICCG is International Center for Climate Governance. The international institute controls all action points being taken on global front in terms of climate change, related policies and economics. ICCG was formed in 2009 as a result of joint efforts from FEEM (Fondazion Eni Enrico Mattei) and Fondazione Giorgio Cini. The main focus of ICCG lies in research on governance and design of climate policy. A large number of international researchers engaged in environment are associated with ICCG.
Recently TERI has been adjudged as top-ranked among developing country think tanks in ICCG Climate Think Tank positions. This is under the category “Absolute Rankings”. Different think tanks of varying sizes are compared and the rankings are arrived at on certain parameters like the number of researchers actively working for the cause in an institution. These parameters are used to measure the effective yield of the think tank’s efficiency. In Absolute Ranking method, the measurement is done for the best think tank in terms of absolute value irrespective of their size and efficiency. TERI has been adjudged as 12th in the global ranking amongst Climate Change Think Tanks.
A couple of points to pick for Project Management Organizations are:
Project Management is a tricky job. The job of a project manager is like a car mechanic who adjusts the average by adjusting clutch, fuel discharge and brakes. All three have a different connection if we see in project management perspective. The clutch adjustment will lead to a better speed management, fuel flow related to funds & budgets, and brakes adjustment points towards the control mechanism. A fine tuning between the three is, therefore, becomes ownership of a project manager.
Clutch adjustment is equivalent of resource management where the more the resources, the happier is the project manager. But that is not true in all cases. More than required resources will lead to mismanagement and chaos. Hence keep your teams’ size as tight as possible. The brakes have to work perfectly well so as to save everyone’s life travelling in the vehicle called the project. Brakes mean proper checks and balances along with accurate reporting and monitoring mechanism in place. A small gap here could lead to a big mishap. Fuel definitely is limited in any size of an organization. A project manager has to be intelligent enough to monitor fuel leakages and fuel scarcity. Balancing of funds, resources, and skilled manpower has to be there in place.
Any mismatch in the above three could lead to a big disaster and then project manager would be in a dilemma of either stretching timelines beyond deadlines committed or pumping in more funds and resources to meet deadlines.
Project management must have inbuilt sensors for detection of flaws (or shortfalls) in the system to monitor project progress quality. These sensors have to carry a fast response time and should be active in all kind of environments of the project management ecosystem. The sensors developed should not only be capable of project quality monitoring but also must serve as a solution for enhancing the quality of a project.
The advancement in technology can be leveraged to develop such sensors that measure project progress in a very accurate manner. The mechanism must be system driven and should be free of human intervention for twisting the results in terms of manipulations and drawing of favorable but false results. The sensors must be able to connect every process, resource and stakeholder in a right manner so as to draw out a useful information for making right decisions in right time by the right person in the complete chain. This will enable everyone to take correct actions well in advance before the real crisis happens. Such mechanism will help in a proper sustenance of any kind of complex projects thereby increasing comfort in all zones of a project.
Issues that result from poor project management have been a point of concern for a long time and that is why proper, system based monitoring had become the call of the day.
A project failure does not mean necessarily the failure of a project manager. It is the project management mechanism that needs to be hit to ascertain the basic flaws in the mechanism. There might be a wrong project methodology adopted to handle a particular kind of project and hence the chances of project failure increase in that case.
It would be wrong to shoot your project manager if a project fails. A project manager with a consistent project success rate might also fail in a new kind of project, but then it indicates that the flaw is not in the project manager but in project management process. The process and procedures need to be looked into this particular case for a restructuring, revamping or realignment. That is where the full amount of energies must go rather than hitting on an individual. Because if this is not done properly, a new project manager with a better record also would fall in the similar kind of trap leading to project failure.
PMO comes into the picture in such cases to audit the process and ascertain right methodology to be in place. If need be, for a new kind of project that has come into the picture, a fresh project methodology has to be designed. After all, it is the methodology that defines proper steps to be defined in control mechanism including the reporting mechanism.
Project Scope, project timelines and monitoring are the prime tasks of a project manager. If a team member fails to honor his or her individual tasks timelines, it is not the failure of that individual team member. It clearly indicates a lack on a monitoring process. The monitoring process has to be well crafted so as to indicate any kind of delays in a proactive manner. There has to be a proper and crisp reporting mechanism in place to monitor the timelines at the micro level during a project. A single timeline skipped may cause a large amount of delay in task closure hence hampering the timely closure of a project.
That is where a project manager role comes into the picture not only in crafting accurate timelines for each individual unit of the project. Crafting of timelines further needs a regular monitoring. Reporting might be there in place but there has to be a proper monitoring to catch any hiccups.
As a project manager it is important for you to perform lot of conversions. First conversion that you do in your project management journey is customer requirement to project requirement. Similarly there are many conversions that happen during your project journey that we can list down as:
It is important to get a proper sign off of customer requirements. Also to note that your project contract must not allow more than five percent variation in requirements. Any scope change beyond that limit must call for a revised sign off in requirements, fresh conversions as mentioned above and fresh project closure dates. Another important point to note is that a single considerable change at development stage can become deadly. That is why projects with longer duration of project lifecycle have higher risks of requirement changes and hence project failures.
It is a fact that business scenario is dynamic in nature and hence changes are inevitable. Maturity level of an organization also impacts on the project’s health. Organizations having older establishment have higher chances of matured processes in place (though it is not a real fact) and hence have lower chances of seeking changes during a new project once requirements are finalized.
One of the question I asked, in an interview with Irum Zahra, an author from Pakistan, is based on managing her writing projects. I asked about her strategy formulations on planning, scheduling and monitoring her writing commitments, and her answer emphasized mainly on the fundamental realities of project management – project scope, milestones, work breakdown structure and timelines.
Without a project scope, you as a project manager would never be able to chalk out your milestones. Remember that the basis of your project scope is your customer. Get your customer requirements signed off, otherwise project scope will have a risk of higher than the permissible range of variations at a later stage. There is a rule of the game and that is – you can manage higher variation at an earlier stage of the project but at a later stage, even a small variation may create a higher risk of shattering your project timelines.
so once your project scope is clear, you can draw out your project milestones basis which it becomes simple to build the work breakdown structure. For each element of WBS, there has to be a timeline.
In an interview with Author Waheed Rabbani, one of my questions was based on considering writing a book as a project. If Waheed takes writing a book as a project, the key essential points he would take care of as project manager would be to maintain regular schedule a daily writing habit. That goes well for an author. How does it translate for project managers in software technology? Let me try to explain it as below:
Project Management is something most project managers have to struggle with. That is why there are many tips for project managers, techniques for making project management more effective, methods to adopt world class processes. Every project manager has to fight with the resistance originating from within. This resistance could be against leaving your comfort zone, finding ways to fight out against different kind of risks not encountered so far, tackling top management, creating best reporting process, engaging stakeholders etc. The repetitive actions become part of your routine exercise, but random threats seeking out of comfort zone actions need a little extra courage to break the barriers. First and foremost task is to convince yourself before you build a strategy to fight against these irregular kinds of threats or risks.
A regular schedule is important to maintain. Without a proper schedule, it will be difficult to monitor the progress of your project and without monitoring you would not be able to measure it. And without measurement you will not able to ascertain the level of risk of overshooting your timelines or budgets, or both. If there is a requirement of daily monitoring, you have to perform it aesthetically. One lose end from your end will have a recursive negative impact on your project’s health.
That is why a daily work schedule, maintaining logs of your work progress with respect to your project timelines, is very important.
A while ago (last month) I interviewed Rachel Holliday who is a British-born fashion blogger and stylist based in tropical Australia. This interview is published on my other blog. In that interview, one of the question I asked from Rachel is – What four top most things she takes care of for her fashion projects. The four points she mentioned say a lot for project managers in terms of learning and implementation in their professional life. The four important points Rachel mentioned are as below:
Planning is a critical area in project management. Without planning, you cannot ascertain your metrics and without metrics you cannot measure your success or failure. So it is very important to set your milestones for every phase of your project and keep a close watch on the deadlines set for those milestones. If possible, build a system driven alert system to raise an alarm well in time, proactively, for any kind of foreseen delays or failures. Also, it is important that an intelligent analytics is done to derive out various possibilities to mitigate risks arising out of these raised alarms and risks.
Give A Million Percent:
It is not a question of taking a chance in multiple projects handled by you and satisfying yourself if there is a balance between your wins and losses. Logically make yourself understand that in your projects you cannot take a chance of a failure. It has to be a ‘win’ in every case. For that whatever you have to do, do it. Give your best in each phase of your project and make it a grand success.
Be Friendly, But Professional:
You have to keep a perfect balance between your two faces. Being professional does not mean you have to act unfriendly and vice versa.
Networking is very important – among your peers, teammates, stakeholders, end users, customers, project teams, management and whosoever else is engaged in your project.
Let us understand few terminologies before getting into the related information.
MEED is over fifty-five years old organization engaged in organizing over thirty conferences and summits meant mainly for C-level executives. These summits and conferences are the best events for networking among C-level executives and have proven to be one of the best way of improving the revenue growth of relative businesses.
MEED Quality Awards for Projects: This is a much-awaited event occurring every year to identify and acknowledge the best practices adopted in construction projects in the GCC region.
Qatar Foundation (QF) new building has been acknowledged with the award of GCC Project of the Year. At the annual MEED Quality Awards for Projects event for the year 2015 held in Dubai on 27th May 2015. The excellence was noticed to such an extent in the Qatar Foundation building that it won four awards during the ceremony.
If you have not heard or got to know about IBM Internet of Things Foundation, you must. It is a service that is completely cloud-based and is fully managed. There seems to be a lot of in-house research and hard work gone into this project from IBM. The service offers to draw out value from Internet of Things (IoT) devices in quite a simple manner. You can, in fact, start with your own smartphone or any of the devices having a sensor, or a gateway or in any other way it is capable to connect and transmit. Using the technology developed by the IBM Internet of Things Foundation, the devices you sync or connect there, can start communicating in a secure manner by sending data to the cloud. This is done through the lightweight MQTT messaging protocol.
The way technology is changing in a very fast manner and gadgets, devices and things have started communicating, the data is getting accumulated on the cloud in a very big way. This huge data when analyzed in a sensible and constructive manner, is going to provide help in making a number of strategic decisions.
It is true that all those companies which have no presence on the internet are reduced seventy percent as compared to a decade ago. And the thirty percent that are left will have their presence on the internet in next three years. Almost every company, large of small, offline or online, on the cloud or on premise, is a data driven company. Big Data has already shown its power in two countries elections – the United States and India. So much so was the role played by big data and analytics that the opinion polls results went haywire in a big way.
Cloud computing, digital data and analytics are going to be the basic needs of any organization.
By 2020, it is estimated that the volume of data transacted on the internet will increase by three times. It will be over two billion trillion bytes of data. More interesting revelation is the result of a research that says most of this data will be video. Definitely the text content that means is not going to increase by a volume of three times but it is the videos that will account for more data in flow.
How this will impact on Projects and Project management:
A new Android-based operating system Brillo is launched by Google recently. It is based on the concept of IoT (Internet of Things) that will connect all your home and workplace devices in such a way that you will be able to control all devices with the help of your smartphone. The operating system promises to extend the Android platform to all your connected devices and gadgets so that all are easy to set up and work in a seamless way with each other and your smartphone.
The Weave protocol will be connecting all your devices and gadgets to provide a complete control over your smartphone, and also allowing these devices to talk to each other.
This is an era of software defined networks, software defined cloud computing, software defined streaming and software defined video processing. In a way, everything is moving towards “as a service” and “Software defined” model. It is evident that the organizations that are still maintaining their own data centers are bound to spend around 40 percent more annually as compared to the organizations that have taken a wise decision of moving on the cloud. It may not be possible for all organizations to dare to go hundred percent on the cloud but more is better is the key to this phenomenon. In some time from now, all gadgets and devices would be in a position to talk to virtual machines in real time and the data accumulated in the cloud would be able to provide analytics including predictive that will enable organizations to take quick and realistic decisions.
Elemental Technologies is a pioneer in providing software defined video solutions to manage multiscreen content delivery. Orange TV is one of their prime customers that runs on a prepaid pay TV model using vouchers as payment tools. Orange TV is a national distributor of this service in Indonesia since 2012. It has more than seventy-five premium channels along with rights to broadcast Barclays Premier League till next year. Orange TV has decided to use Elemental Video processing solutions to enlarge its user base in its Genflix OTT (over the top) content delivery service. Elemental Technologies has a superb customer base consisting of ESPN, BBC, Comcast, HBO, Foxtel, Telefonica and a lot more.
Genflix was launched in the last quarter of 2013 as the first OTT service in Indonesia. Elemental Live and Elemental Server are the two proprietary services from Elemental Technologies that Genflix is about to deploy.
This is a lovely video on Professional Project Management – A Constant Evolution produced by Engineers Ireland. There are engrossing points, infographics that will provide great insights in project management. It focuses on Features, Knowledge, Conduct and Control – all leading to the bodies of knowledge. It will help to understand what exactly a unified approach is? why a Unified approach is required? Where to apply it? etc.
This is a slightly less than fifty minutes video and would be a great watch for all project managers and project management aspirants. You will definitely get a new meaning of project management after completing this video presented by Dr John Lennon, Center for Project Management, University of Limerick.
Deem is a prominent company providing CaaS (Commerce as a Service) solutions. A new Shopping application launched by Deem promises to be one of the best business shopping solutions. The focus behind launching this application is to help organizations that are spending a hefty amount every year on procurement programs that do not fulfill business requirements or serve for a very limited scope and period with no scalability provision inbuilt. The new shopping application from Deem is bound to give an end-user-like experience that is embedded well with enterprise-level control mechanism and compliance. The business shopping application allows enterprise employees to buy various products and/or services online in a swift manner while adhering to corporate policies. It provides a real-time monitoring mechanism to have a full control over the project spend viz-a-viz the budget.
With this CaaS based shopping application, Deem has become the first company in unifying project management, procurement management, and budget management.
CENX is among the top global solution providers in Service Orchestration solutions for SDNs (software defined networks) and SDDCs (Software defined data centers). CENX and CoreSite Realty have signed an extension of their multi-year agreement for Cortx Service Orchestrator. Cortx Service Orchestrator helps in delivering high-performance, on-demand interconnection services of networks and cloud applications. This way CoreSite Open Cloud Exchange customers get a privilege of accessing a self-serve powerful online portal that leverages reliable and secure multiple Ethernet connectivity in no time.
Delivery on time is most crucial in project management. As a project manager if you have that art of maintaining this consistency over a period of time then you can call yourself a superb project manager. But then you have to ensure that this delivery on time has happened without any changes in the other variables like resources and financials. This is quite difficult to achieve. That is where you will find this book written by Mark J. Woeppel handy in getting you mastered on the subject with practical life insights. The title of the book is Deliver Projects on Time Using New Book on Visual Project Management. This is the third book from Mark J. Woeppel on project management and all the three books are a must read for all project managers and aspirants.
The book has reportedly been produced after an exhaustive research and on top of that the ample experience that Mark J. Woeppel carries has worked as the cherry on the cake. What you need to focus is very important to understand so as to achieve your goals. For delivery on time and on budget you need to focus on improving your project teams’ productivity, the delivery process needs to be enhanced & reduced but without any compromise with the quality or deliverables, and a continuous focus on costs reduction is necessary for all kind of projects. If you are able to understand the core areas of focus to achieve your targets then there are certain more drillings required to get to the root cause of the issues or points of improvement. If the delivery timelines are getting delayed then you need to understand the basic reasons behind the delays. If there are multiple reasons then you need to arrange them in an order of severity and then apply 80:20 rule to weed out the top ones. Don’t stop after the first weeding out cycle. Repeat it to hit the next top ones and so on. This is all that you are going to learn in Deliver Projects on Time Using New Book on Visual Project Management by Mark J. Woeppel.
With all good efforts from every member of the team, any project must turn around at a faster pace. But usually this does not happen. There are certain more areas to focus upon so as to achieve this goal. Firstly you need to remove the biggest barriers
After finishing Deliver Projects on Time Using New Book on Visual Project Management by Mark J. Woeppel, you will have learnt some simplified techniques for managing your projects during initiation, execution and delivery phases thereby being able to deliver fast without any shortfalls in schedule, budget, quality, or deliverables.
Be ready to play and enjoy music on the horizon as EMC World 2015 reveals the launch of powerful solutions. Project Horizon is released just a couple of days back by EMC and this is something to do with the Content Management, one of the expertise areas of EMC. Let us understand what exactly Project Horizon is? The Enterprise Content Division of EMC (ECD) has offered their new baby in the market named Project Horizon by claiming it to be a powerful content platform especially meant for the next generation. This content platform is clubbed with a marketplace of various solutions and applications so as to enable content flow in digital format to build a digital enterprise. The Horizon marketplace will include EMC’s in-house applications and the apps from their partners as well. All these applications are meant to be purely cloud-based solutions available on mobile platforms.
The Co-Innovation Program works in lines of Scrum and Agile but in a unique style when it talks of engaging customers as early as finalization of specifications or the beginning of development cycle. This unique style is based on rapid visual prototyping. So basically, all the iterations will be design-led and will ensure validation of business issues and the corresponding proposed solutions. There are four applications under consideration which are components of this Co-Innovation Program. These applications intend to focus purely on end-user productivity and complement any kind of existing document-based solution. These are:
This app assists you to author a document with an inbuilt work flow of review and approval process. It brings in a real-time collaborative environment.
This app helps you to enhance your productivity on the mobile platform. The solution works on smartphone and tablet to work as a scanner and capturing tool in an efficient and fool-proof manner. This is basically a complete digital document management system that not only captures the documents but also helps you in organizing them in a classified manner so that the system recognizes it easily as and when it is required to extract. It is a perfect go for an organization to decrease their carbon footprint and go digital. It also helps an organization to save on paper.
This app does document collection and validation.
This app takes care of document sharing management that is required for a short duration.
Vorex Inc. is a pioneer in providing business solutions on the cloud with a smart combination of professional service automation (PSA) and PM (Project Management) Tools. These solutions work well for small to mid-sized business models (SMBs). Recently Vorex announced its solution on Samsung KNOX Marketplace. KNOX is an online mobile store provided by Samsung to provide solutions that are focused on the business segment. The store providing cloud-based solutions is fully secured and easy to deploy and manage. These secured applications and business solutions from Vorex are ideally focused on SMBs, and firms engaged professional services like IT, marketing, accounting etc. to automate their business and grow their revenues.
By providing these solutions, Vorex intends to increase its global footprint as any SMB or professional firm situated anywhere in the world can download these solutions from Samsung KNOX Marketplace. The ready to launch apps that are available from Vorex on Samsung KNOX online mobile marketplace include following:
The service desk is a comprehensive business application that takes care of time management, expense management, service and support management, reporting management, invoicing management, project management and their complete workflow. This all-in-one solution is actually a power pack to boost business growth.
2. Professional Service Automation (PSA): This business solution helps a business in managing project management, time tracking solution, client management, employee management, customer relationship management (CRM), customer account management, budgeting, and forecasting.
Currently, these solutions are available on Android platform.
Lattice Engines and Leadteq have joined hands to expand the horizons of Lattice’s state of the art predictive analytics suite. The expanded horizon will empower Leadteq’s customers to taste the beauty of the former’s product. The Vice President Business Development and Strategic Alliances of Lattice Engines, Michael Meinhardt announced it today. The expansion means that the with the use of these predictive analytics apps, Leadteq now can anticipate a substantial growth in their business in terms of leads getting converted into customers at a faster rate thereby accelerating their growth in revenue of their customers.
Leadteq is a Gold partner of Oracle, based in Sweden, providing Oracle’s marketing and lead management solutions to their customers. Marrying these solutions with the predictive analytics suite will definitely help Leadteq’s large sized clients.
Lattice is known for their predictive marketing expertise to help sales and marketing teams worldwide. Marrying Lattice’s predictive analytics tools with Lattice’s 360 method B2B solutions based on Oracle Marketing AppCloud in the Nordics region.
A very interesting question I found on the forum asking what would be some of the emerging trends in information technology this year. Instantly following emerging trends popped up in my mind as listed below:
Technology and cloud are bound to become synonyms soon. In fact, for some, it already is. The concept of own data centers and larger teams to manage it, and, on-premise hosting of business applications is going to diffuse. As per the multiple research papers and reports on the subject an organization can save forty percent of it technology cost by abandoning both and moving to the cloud. Setting or maintaining own data centers is a diminishing concept and the organizations that don’t understand it will suffer the heat. Disaster recovery is a piece of demand from the cloud partner rather than fighting for it on your own.
Moving your business applications on the cloud required a hundred percent availability of internet and network. You need to think of network optimization tools, network performance tools and a backup of your primary internet service provider. End users in no case would be ready to listen to any kind of lousy excuses.
With increased demand of external world connectivity you need to be doubly secured for infringements in your network. Any suspicious attack not only presents a big threat to your business data but also is prone to slow down your network. You need to ensure high-level security during data flow through the internal and external pipes.
People don’t like to be static and stuck to their seats for long. It does not increase productivity. Productivity is hampered nowadays if the business is not available while the person is on the move. Mobility is the demand of the day. You need to provide business solutions on mobile devices working free flow and hassle free.
Handling multi-OS devices is not a simple task. With an inclusion of the different type of mobile devices on official grounds need to look at the security aspect from a different angle. Equip your organization accordingly as the onus lies on you. And then there is BYOD that is an entirely different animal to handle.
The paradigm is shifting faster for CIOs and CTOs faster than anticipated thereby demanding a high level of transformation at individual, team and organization levels.
This is a great learning for project managers. This is in regard to Multan Airport upgrade project where the Pakistan country has incurred a huge loss of Rs. 222 million.
It is not that projects do not fail. They do fail. But if there is no learning taken from a failed project, then it is an exponential loss. Although the investigations and post-mortem have identified corruption and irregularities as the main culprits but it clearly indicates a poor project management. It seems there were no checks and balances while undertaking construction, purchase and contracts activities. The project has not been handled as it should have been. The whole blame has gone to the project management and consulting company ECIL Ltd.
If you read the whole story (link provided above), there are many loopholes and irregularities that have taken place for the personal vested interests. Overall, there seems to be no control at any moment of time. And moreover, it is quite easy to target one agency (generally the external) to blame and to scapegoat others but the failure should go to all stakeholders involved in the project.
For such projects where stakes are huge not only in terms of money but also in terms of the reputation of a country, proper care needs to be taken care of in project management.
Although there still is some resistance even from the cloud service providers to hold business critical applications on the on-premise model and move the rest of the apps on the cloud, but this reservation does not indicate any limitations of the cloud performance or availability. It is rather indicative of weaknesses in the other infra links like bandwidth availability and uptime. Project Management, as we all know, is a process to manage projects in an efficient manner to control timelines, teams, resources, customer, and deliverables. TeamGantt has declared the desktop version of project management completely obsolete by presenting a state-of-the-art web version at an apt time of their fifth anniversary.
It is definitely easy to use, maintain and afford any application on the cloud as compared to its on-premise or desktop models. TeamGantt boasts this to be the easiest to use cloud application in the project management arena, worldwide. The company’s products are present in more than sixty countries and is offering an easy replacement plan for the organizations wishing to move from desktop project management version to cloud version. This is supposed to be quick to assign, easy to track and monitor projects management application for the project managers.
TeamGantt solutions are appreciated well by their customers having a global presence.
Most of the meetings are conducted in an unstructured manner. Finding earlier meeting details in regard to its scheduling, participants, discussions held, decisions taken etc. is a fight. Usually, it starts with searching in old emails with no concrete achievements of 100%. So many of us would have wished to have a web based solution accommodating end-to-end meeting management system. Here comes Meeter a new product with an aim to make your meetings more serious and fruitful by assisting with automatic scheduling, analytics, audit trails and history maintenance.
Meeter manages individuals and groups in business and personal capacity. A dashboard presents a complete scenario of past, present and upcoming meetings. Since meetings are quite a critical component of a business, and in today’s scenario of mobility, all participants are not bound to be at the same location to be a part of the meeting. Meeter helps not only in full-fledged automated meetings scheduling but also assists in capturing each element of the meeting when it is conducted. Against each minute of the meeting, relevant documents linking is possible.
Meeter works intelligently by capturing past behavior or participants, meeting spaces etc. and uses this algorithm while scheduling upcoming meetings in a very smart way. It provides an innovative calendar. One meeting can accommodate hundred participants in scheduler. Meeter is a SaaS-based web application available on mobile also and is imbibed with significant security features. Meeter can be integrated easily with Outlook, Google, and other calendars.
Leading a change management portfolio is not an easy task. There comes a lot of resistance from all corners the moment you announce a change or rather much before. The moment you declare a beginning of efforts for development or deployment of a change, the resistance starts popping in. This all creates a lot of distraction and could become a major cause of delays for your initiation, development, efforts and deployment. To handle it carefully you need to learn some tactics so that the whole gamut moves in a right direction in a very positive manner. This definitely can’t happen if momentum is not synergized and the efforts are not synchronized.
To be a successful change manager, here are few suggestions that I gained from my own experience:
If we look at the event Change Management 2015 that was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, there are many learning points that I could shell out of the article published by Braden Kelley a couple of days ago. The annual conference was organized by Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) and was attended by more than one thousand professionals from various countries. There are over twenty million estimated project managers across the globe. In my opinion, each project manager must be a change management professional (Certified Change Management Professional, CCMP).
Author of Drive and many other books, Daniel Pink was the keynote speaker. He is a big transformation agent and feels that the increasing volume of information availability online has a greater impact on society as a whole and the same can be utilized in a constructive manner to sell, influence and initiate change. Earlier there used to be a wide gap between the level of information contained by a buyer and a seller. Seller used to be the main source of information for a buyer. But now that is not the case. Usually, a buyer is as much or rather more learned about the product or service than the seller.
That is how the need of knowledge or information curators arose. As opined by Dan, everything that is done in business today involves two basic things – sales and change. But still the B-schools are far away from teaching both these subjects in their MBA programs.
So to conclude, let us see what is required in a project manager to become a good change manager? A project manager has to be a great change agent. The need of change is very important to understand and so is the implementation of change in a timely manner.
The other day I read quite an interesting article written by Jamie MacDonald raising a very basic questions about having project manager’s qualities in each one of us. I accept that right since our childhood we start managing our school, friends, homework, teachers, parents, siblings, relatives, sports and so on and hence the fundamental learning of becoming a project manager gets imbibed in us right since then. If we look back carefully to our childhood days we might be very easily able to assess what kind of project manager each one of us was in terms of managing our daily chores and activities.
The same trends continue within each of us. All of us might not carry a job title of project manager, but more or less we keep doing project management throughout life. Every day is logically a new project in which some threads are connected to yesterday, some new threads evolve from today and some planning goes for tomorrow. That is what every one of us do. We ourself identify our weaknesses, find out ways to get us trained and master in those areas to overcome those weaknesses.
Recently I read a superb article by Tom Goodwin in which he emphasized on a digital transformation of an organization rather than building a strictly formal and unpractical digital strategy. If you build a sensible business strategy keeping in mind the fast changing technology scenarios across the globe, probably your don’t need a separate digital or mobility strategy. The best examples in that matter are Uber in redefining the cab business, Instagram revolutionizing the meaning of photography or for that sake Netflix that ensured a foolproof technology for transmitting hassle free video streaming. All three are clear examples of the digital revolution, thinking beyond and innovation.
The newer technologies and technological developments have destroyed the hidden wall between the tech-savvy and tech non-savvy sections. They have designed the new applications and technologies in such a simple manner that you learn on your own as you start using it. You don’t need a special training or certificate for that. Instacart, Twitter, WhatsApp, FaceBook, Pinterest, LinkedIn are some of the finest examples of what I am trying to convey. In fact, such developments have removed geographic barriers between the countries. People now can talk through their smartphones without spending a penny and bothering about the service provider.
Logically every day a large number of new applications are launched worldwide. Android, Samsung, Vodafone etc. have their exclusive stores to provide these applications to their customers from their respective stores. The launch of a new mobile application is just a click away. All this has brought even a small application developer equal to large sized software development organization when an application developed by former becomes a hit overnight thereby pushing the latter to backseat.
It was way back in 2009 when I was told by my organization to visit Cairo, Egpyt to deploy an NFC technology based solution as a pilot project. The pilot was to be run in the biggest mall of Cairo, known as City Stars. NFC (Near Field Communication) is a technology that enables a smartphone to become an RFID tag reader and it can also act as an RFID entity to be read by another reader. We imported ten pieces of Nokia 6210 Classic (Nokia 6210C) from Ireland for this project.
The scope of project was as below:
1. Attendance of 800+ guards
2. Real-time monitoring in control room of shortfall in guards and immediate action
3. Supervisors tour plan and actual tour taken on various floors
4. Real-time incident recording, reporting, and monitoring
All the objectives were achieved. Each guard was issued an RFID card. Each critical location that was a part of Supervisor’s tour was fixed with an RFID tag. Each Supervisor was given Nokia 6210C.
If you look at the way the digital wave is penetrating businesses and forcing them to adapt it for various reasons, it seems that in coming few years there will be phenomenal transformations happening on this front. Definitely on the imagination front mixed with the concepts of Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things), IoE (Internet of Everything) and Digital World; there can be many things that can be thought of happening in next years.
Some of them I can foresee happening are listed below: