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Wednesday, 21 September 2011 08:25

Control Projects, Not People

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Controlling projects is a good thing. Controlling people is not. What does it mean to control projects, not people, and when have you crossed the threshold from controlling the project to micromanaging the people?

When you start telling people how to do their jobs instead of focusing on the results they create is usually an indication that you have stepped beyond the bounds of project control and into the realm of people control.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 10:50

Creativity and Innovation Enable Project Success

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Creativity and innovation are magic wands. They endow projects with enhanced performance and new profit-making results. They spark creative genius and the potential for creating wealth.

Discovering Opportunities

Most innovation springs from a conscientious search for new opportunities. These opportunities exist both within and outside a project, organization or industry. Innovation opportunities within a project include:

Wednesday, 07 September 2011 09:33

Be a Good Team Player

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I have written before about how critical it is to be a good team player. Regardless of your skills, you limit your growth and potential if you don’t play nice with others. We are taught from an early age to share, listen, use our magic words (yes and please), and never, ever bite. These basic principles are not just for 3 year olds. They should stay with you for a lifetime. I know there are some people who are just bad team players and others that only play nice with people of influence, like a boss or someone signing their paycheck. Although this post is a good reminder for them, it also relates to everyone. For most of us our intention is to be a good team player, but work stress and life in general get us out of our team player mode.

Wednesday, 07 September 2011 09:18

Has The Economy Changed How We Do Projects Forever?

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Sept7FEATUREIn the continuing drumbeat of bad economic news over the past month, there is a fundamental underlying shift on how this economy has impacted project selection and execution. This is also an excellent opportunity for the creative risk-taking PM to gain a career advantage and strengthen the role of the PMO in today’s companies.


Trend Number One: Companies want to do more with less

We have all seen this trend and unfortunately some of us may be among the casualties of this trend. I advocate that Project Management is more important than ever to fully understand how we do the basic package of work in business: the project. I want to be clear in this area: the PM must be a hands-on PM not an administrator. The company needs to have a cost and

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 12:24

Six Ways to Deliver IT Solutions…the Gandhi Way

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History witnessed one man motivating half a billion people to follow his vision, implementing non-violence strategies, and executing architecture for ‘Quit India’ movement. I believe this commemorative piece of solution delivery (Indian Independence) crafted and led by Mahatma Gandhi a.k.a. Bapu (Father of the Nation) resembles to [1]  following ways through which we deliver IT solutions.       

  1. Stick to the Vision

During solutions delivery, it is easy to drift while moving toward deadlines. Drift happens if there are frequent changes in the vision due to imminent business challenges, as well as external factors. These changes affect scope and delivery timelines. Vision changes may also cause rework in affected project areas. Implementation of analysis, build and test strategies, and definition of knowledge transfer channels allow teams to stick to project or program vision. Bapu’s vision was precise (clearly defined), correct (non-violence strategy can deliver), complete, and conforming (to every citizen’s dream of a peaceful India). He proved that sticking to the vision and communicating the vision through your own acts works.    

Aug31FEATURE

I have blogged recently about Plain Language here. This was in the context of poor-quality RFP and bid-response docs. The basic premise: if you apply some basic Plain Language checks to your writing, quality will increase.

In this post, I wanted to look at the IT space to see how we can improve documented requirements.

As background, people like Tom and Kai Gilb argue for improving requirements quality by rewriting them in a notation (Planguage) that is measurable and testable. This is really great if your team is able and willing to adopt that approach. In most business organizations, however, it is a bridge too far. This is because Bas (Business Analysts) are not conditioned to translate informal English into mathematical statements.

If you are beginning to consider a move to more agile methods, you may be looking for a set of ‘best practices’ for agile requirements elicitation and agile requirements management. What you will likely find is many prescriptive and detailed ‘best practices,’ which I have personally found to be situational at best, and often just too much to consume for an organization new to the concepts. What I propose to offer in this post are a few ‘baby steps’ that can help an organization move toward an agile environment and prepare for some of the more prescriptive methods like SCRUM or eXtreme programming (XP).


When making a move toward agile methods, there are three main recommendations that I believe should be considered to prepare for a more agile requirements practice, and a team as a whole.

  1. Collaboration ─ While this is obviously a good idea in all methods of requirements management and all stages of a project lifecycle, it is an essential element to agile methods and agile requirements management.
  2. Embrace Change ─ This is almost a counter-intuitive step for many business analysts. To be agile in requirements management, we must acknowledge change happens, embrace it, and make it part of our process.
  3. Support of upper management ─ Becoming agile is an organizational change as much as a development practice, and without clear support from upper management, this change will be difficult, if not impossible.

Recommending good collaboration is a bit like recommending good work ethic; it seems as if it should go without saying. However, for organizations used to a very siloed waterfall method, real collaboration as a standard operating procedure may have fallen by the wayside. It can become easy in a waterfall method to simply over-document deliverables and blindly send them to the next team. In an agile method, an organization will begin to keep ‘living documents’ that constantly change and grow ─ this requires true collaboration and teaming. In order to include all members of the project team and stakeholders properly, an organization must not only take on more inclusive methods, but must educate all associated people on the use of the method, including management and stakeholders. If one expects individuals to be involved, the individuals must know how, why, and when they are expected be involved. Simply said, to create an inclusive method, all individuals associated with the project must feel and be encouraged to be involved. One simple step many larger organizations have found useful is the adoption of stakeholders’ terminology. Often in agile methods, we get very focused on the new names, terms, and roles ─ all at the detriment to collaboration. Many stakeholders will feel more comfortable with requirements, time periods, and project roles being expressed in their own terminology. This should be seen by the project team as a minor secession for the sake of greater collaboration.

Embrace Change. To many Business Analysts and Project Managers, this will seem counter-intuitive. As professional BAs and PMs, we have been taught to identify all requirements and lock down the scope. However, we all know change does happen, and what often defines the success of a project is how we deal with that change. Traditionally, an organization would manage this change with some sort of project or scope change management process, which gives a structure to altering requirements that are typically fully elicited. In agile methods, organizations acknowledge that change is constant in technology projects, and move to embrace that change. To make steps toward agility, an organization may need to change their requirements elicitation methods. The elicitation can begin with very broad requirements that outline a general scope, do some high-level requirements modelling, prioritize what has been captured, and prepare the team to change as needed. Once the broad requirements are documented and ranked, the team can then begin to add further detail to requirements in an ordered fashion. This means the stakeholders will give detail as it is needed, and the team will change documentation as details emerge. The stakeholders know their priorities and requirements will change, and the project team knows the project documentation is ‘alive’ and changing as the project moves on, and as the need for detail requires.

While the above-detailed steps are important ways to ease into agile, arguably the most necessary step is getting upper management support. The management lines for both the project teams and the stakeholders must understand the use of agile methods is an organizational change, and not just a development method. These management lines must fully comprehend the concepts behind embracing change, increasing collaboration, and the notion of practicing constant requirements prioritization. As with many successful organizational changes, the use of ‘on the ground’ champions of the new process are important, but a clear message of support by company leadership is imperative. A project kick-off that includes an executive saying a few words of support for the new methods and mentioning that management is watching for this to be a successful implementation will go a long way to drown out the voices of the detractors.

As an organization strives to become agile, it is important to remember to be agile in the implementation of agile. Meaning, only take on as much agile process and change as your organization can handle in each ‘sprint,’ or short change window; and only keep the agile processes needed to improve implementation of technology projects. Organizations can often lose focus of their underlying purpose for adopting agile methods, and begin to focus on ‘becoming agile.’ There is not a prize or reward that comes with completely adopting any particular agile method, so look to embrace the parts of agile methods you need to find your success, and question anything else — because that is truly becoming agile.

Don't forget to leave your comments below.


Kurt Solarte is a Managing Consultant working for IBM Australia in Sydney; focusing on Agile Development methods. Kurt recently spent eight years with IBM Global Business Services in the U.Ss as a Sr. Business Analyst; where he specialized in keeping business analysis alive and relevant in the agile delivery of eCommerce, web portal, and business analytics projects.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011 08:14

Unlocking PMO Profitability

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Aug24thFEATURE

The potential benefits of a project management office (PMO) are numerous and well documented. However, many of the benefits never materialize. Take a look at PMOs over the years and you will see that many have restructured, dissolved, or constantly had to justify their existence during both economic downturns as well as high-growth periods. This is evidence enough that PMOs are not yielding demonstrable positive financial results. This churn often causes years of frustration for both the PMOs and the projects and departments they serve. Changing the way in which the PMO is chartered, works, and is perceived within an organization can ensure that it offers plentiful advantages for the entire organization.

Two Problem Scenarios…And Strategies to Solve Them

One: The PMO is spawned by an executive with a big problem

Tuesday, 16 August 2011 10:43

Managing Your Boss

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Most project managers have one. Yet attending to their demands and idiosyncrasies can be nerve-wracking. Wise project managers engage good boss management strategies. Boss support, guidance, mentoring and influence will be your reward.

After all, bosses are not exalted and invincible gods. They are human beings with special roles and authority as well as the requisite levels of human weaknesses, problems and pressures.

Under these demanding conditions, most boss relationships unfold in two possible directions: the 3Rs Resistance-Resentment-Revenge or the 3 Cs Clarity-Co-operation-Commitment.

There are many factors in an application implementation-related project that over time have proved to be key contributors to the success of such projects.  This includes items that may seem obvious, such as solid testing, communication, and involvement by key staff members, but these are often under utilized in favor of saving time.  When projects skimp on these key items, it is likely to result in: