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Tag: Planning

CIOs Plan to Increase Hiring in First Quarter

TORONTO, Dec.8/09 – Chief information officers (CIOs) are showing signs of optimism as they look toward 2010, according to the first-quarter Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report. Six per cent of technology executives anticipate adding information technology (IT) staff in the first quarter of 2010 and 4 per cent plan workforce reductions. The net 2 percent increase is up one point from last quarter’s forecast. Eighty-three per cent of CIOs plan to maintain current personnel levels.

The IT Hiring Index and Skills Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 300 CIOs from companies across Canada. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key Findings

  • The net 2 per cent increase in hiring activity is the strongest forecast since the second quarter of 2009.
  • Forty-one per cent of CIOs are confident their companies will invest in IT projects in the first quarter of 2010.
  • The wholesale and retail sectors forecast employment growth at or above the national average.
  • Fifty-three per cent of respondents cite business growth or expansion as the primary reason to add more IT staff.

“As the economy continues to strengthen, one area in which organizations will be investing is within technology, including carefully expanding their IT staff,” said Geoff Thompson, vice president with Robert Half Technology. “Firms are bringing in a combination of full-time, contract and project workers to help manage growth initiatives and expansion opportunities.”

When asked to rate how confident they are in their company’s likelihood to invest in IT projects in the first quarter on a scale of one to five (one being least confident and five being most confident), 41 per cent of CIOs gave confident responses of four or five. Of that group, 19 per cent rated their confidence level a five.

Staffing Mix and Experience Levels

Among companies planning to add technology professionals in the first quarter, 63 per cent said they plan to bring in a mix of full-time and contract or project workers. Twenty-three per cent plan to recruit full-time employees.

Forty-nine per cent of CIOs said they expect to hire staff-level employees (between two and five years of experience), while 45 per cent said they are focused on entry-level talent (up to two years of experience). Sixteen per cent of technology executives will concentrate hiring at the senior-staff level (five or more years of experience). (Note: CIOs were allowed multiple responses).

Skills in Demand

Technology executives noted that it’s most challenging to find skilled IT professionals in networking, with 14 per cent of the response. Help desk/technical support and software development followed, each with 11 per cent of the response.

When asked which technical skill sets are most in demand in their IT departments, 73 per cent of CIOs, respectively, said network administration or windows administration. Database management came in third at 68 per cent. (Note: CIOs were allowed multiple responses).

Industries Hiring

The retail industry expects strong IT hiring activity in the first three months of the year. Twelve per cent of CIOs plan to add employees and 7 per cent project staff reductions, for a net 5 per cent increase. CIOs in this sector cite business growth or expansion as the primary factor behind hiring more staff. Wholesale executives also foresee hiring gains above the national average, with 7 per cent anticipating adding employees and 2 per cent projecting staff reductions, for a net 5 per cent hiring increase in hiring activity. CIOs in this industry cited an increased need for customer/end user support

Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at

The Risks and Benefits of Knowledge Process Outsourcing

Many organizations now consider Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) as a viable option to increase operational capacity, access specific business process knowledge and reduce costs.

The evolution of BPO is Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), the outsourcing of process requiring analytical thinking and judgement. Embarking on an outsourcing effort is not for the faint of heart. There could be negative repercussions on employee morale and public opinion, and the probability of failure is high. This article describes some of the benefits, challenges, risks and program management aspects you should know before evaluating a process outsourcing effort specifically around KPO.

KPO at Home and Abroad

Business Process Outsourcing reached mainstream management thinking in the late 90s and it is no longer exclusive to large corporations; small and medium sized companies are also taking advantage of the BPO opportunity to augment their capabilities and allow them to focus on revenue growth. Since 2003 business process outsourcing has shifted from outsourcing back-end, non-core, and repetitive processes such as accounts payables and accounts receivables to outsourcing core processes that require analytical-intensive thinking and judgement like market research and data analysis. This shift has created what is now referred to as Knowledge Process Outsourcing. KPO vendors are typically located abroad in places like India and Singapore usually referred to as off-shore locations. Other countries like Mexico and Chile are providing KPO services and are referred to as near-shoring locations because of their shorter travel times, time zone alignment and culture similarities. Some KPO vendors have operations in the same country as their clients and they are referred to as on-shoring.

Trends in KPO

KPO is predicted to grow to anywhere between $10 and $17 Billion (USD) globally by next year [2010]. Areas that are experiencing growth in the KPO arena include: data search, data integration, market research, project management, remote education, radiology, medical transcripts preparation and legal processes. Some of the factors driving the growth in KPO include the adoption of global standards for qualifications, access to a large pool of skilled and experienced professionals abroad and improved remote project management capabilities due to improvements in telecommunications and other enabling technologies. The way decisions are made about outsourcing is also changing. KPO decision making will move from the CIO and COO level to divisional business managers and board of directors.

Benefits of KPO

While the main attraction of BPO was improved efficiency and cost reduction, the main attraction to KPO is increased revenue and improved competitive advantages as a result of having access to a large pool of skilled professionals in knowledge intensive industries. Other benefits of KPO include cost savings, converting fixed costs into variable costs, flexibility for companies to add or reduce personnel based on business cycles and the continuous execution of work by taking advantage of different time zones.

KPO Challenges

The challenges of pursing a KPO strategy are both external and internal. External challenges include finding a suitable KPO vendor that can offer the necessary skills in a scalable manner. Protecting intellectual property is a challenge since it will have to be shared with the vendor. For some industries, protecting data and privacy as well as abiding to legal and compliance requirements are challenges to overcome. The physical location of the KPO vendor creates challenges from a language and time zone perspective. Internal challenges stem from adapting the organizational and management mindset from managing internal resources to managing the KPO vendors resources situated in a remote location. The definition of quality and performance metrics can pose a challenge since some of them may not exist. Internal processes and managers usually do not have quality metrics in place and will need to be defined before outsourcing the process. In some cases, the outsourcing effort exposes inefficiencies and weak areas in the process and a decision needs to be made to outsource the process as is or to optimize it before outsourcing. Technical challenges can also arise so the information technology department must be involved to ensure the infrastructure, applications and data is in place and well protected, and that the KPO vendor is using the data and applications as it was contractually agreed.

Risks of KPO

Process outsourcing is a risky initiative. The main risks include the impact on employee morale, key talent retention, outsourcing a core competence, negative public opinion, unfavourable currency exchanges, poor program management, poor project management, political instability in the KPO vendor’s location, terrorist attacks, taxing structures, security, privacy, salary inflation, service interruption, technical issues. These are just some of the risks to be considered. Also consider that KPO vendors may experience a labour shortage or may be unable to attract key talent and skills needed and can eventually go out of business. Poor program management, lack of executive support, poor vendor selection, lack of understanding of the company’s core competencies, undocumented processes and procedures are also risks to be considered from within the organization. Based on the business strategy, organizations considering a KPO strategy must first conduct a thorough analysis of their core competencies, process efficiencies and risks. The impact to employee morale and human capital is a significant risk and needs to be managed appropriately.

Program and Project Management Considerations

To increase the probability of success, organizations must use a structured approach to managing the [KPO] outsourcing opportunity. Organizations can pursue a KPO strategy directly without any prior BPO experience, although organizations with BPO experience will have a shorter learning curve and less risk. Outsourcing efforts should start by forming a team that will identify opportunities to outsource as KPO. This team should perform a thorough analysis of the organization to identify opportunities for outsourcing and it should represent all relevant functions of the business. The team must be aware of the organization’s strategic intent and the objectives of the outsourcing effort. The project manager should be someone with prior experience in outsourcing projects and a high level of empathy given the human aspect of the project. In some organizations a central group is created to oversee the outsourcing efforts. This group can provide consistency in the way outsourcing projects are managed, evaluate adherence to outsourcing methodologies and monitor the on-going performance of the vendor. KPO vendor selection must be based on whether the vendor can provide a significant competitive advantage and must be able to provide the required talent and skills. Selecting the process or function to outsource should also be done on a phased approach from lowest risk to highest risk. During the first phase only simple processes can be considered. A second phase can include processes with low cross functional dependencies. A third phase should deal with the more complex processes.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Knowledge Process Outsourcing can provide value and allow companies to focus on increasing revenue growth while providing challenging and progressive positions to employees that want to move into supervisory and monitoring roles. KPO offers a great opportunity to outsource analytical intensive processes that contribute to the development of new products, evaluate new markets and offer new services. KPO continues to grow and is becoming a core option for business strategists. Large and small organizations can now take advantage of the KPO model since it requires deep knowledge and not the high volume transactions associated with BPO efforts. To increase the probabilities of success, a phased approach to selecting the outsourcing candidates must be performed using a program and project management approach with executive buy-in and cross-functional representation. Standard project management methodologies must be followed and most importantly a two-way communication with the KPO vendor must be maintained throughout to ensure on-going success.

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Carlos Sanchez, MBA, PMP, CMC is a consultant at SPM Group. He has over 10 years of experience working in a variety of consulting projects both technical and business. His area of expertise includes Operations, Process Improvement, Project Management, and Supply Chain Management. Carlos holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Rotman School of Business. He is an active member of the Project Management Institute and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified Management Consultant (CMC).

The Project Plan; How Much Detail Is Enough?

Project managers all over the world struggle with this problem. How much detail is enough in my project plan?

Most project managers err on the side of high-level tasks. It’s easier to do at the beginning; everyone can agree on it, and it’s easy to get estimates on.

It’s also, unfortunately, what leads to problems. Let’s say, for example, you have an implementation for a customer that calls for developing five pieces of functionality. You put in a development task and appropriate testing tasks for each piece; then you put in a deployment task at the end. That should be enough for the development piece, right? You get your estimates from development – four tasks at four hours each, and one larger piece – it’s going to take a week. Fine! You move on.

Fast forward a month. The one-week task took three weeks. Testing has been a pain. It’s gone back for corrections five times now. Your deadline is completely shot, and no one can give you a well-defined date on when you’ll be done.

What went wrong? Was the original estimate bad?

I would argue that the original estimating method was bad.

Modern software development isn’t like it was in the days of yore. There are no monolithic programs (for the most part) anymore that it takes weeks and weeks to write the single thing, with no steps in between. In reality, that one week task described above probably consists of a number of sub-tasks, like:

  • set up database tables
  • create object X
  • build method 1
  • build method 2
  • etc

Obviously, you do not want to micro-manage. You also don’t want to overdo task list management. I would argue, however, that any given task should span no more than one day in your plan. If it does, then you need to break it down into sub-tasks. Why do this?

1. When breaking the task down into sub-tasks, often your team member performing the task will become more accurate with the estimates

2. You can more effectively isolate trouble tasks to explain them and report on them. How many times have you had this discussion: You: “Bob is running over on development. He’s a week overdue on item X.” Exec: “What part is he stuck on?” You: “Item X.” Exec: “What does that mean? Can we get him help? How much more does he have to go?” You: “Uhh…”

3. You can actually get your team members help. Staying with the developer example: Is the developer overrunning on the database work? Get a DBA to help them. Are they stuck on a method in one of their objects? Maybe another developer can complete another objects involved in the functionality to get you back on track.

4. You can plan around day-to-day operations vastly more easily. If someone has a two-hour ops meeting on Thursday morning, and a conference call that evening, you can reliably say that they probably won’t complete their day-long task that day. Push the timeline out one day. Very simple! A quick glance at your team members’ calendars tells you, and them, everything they need to know.

5. Imagine how happy your team members will be when they figure out that they have a goal of one item per day. Come in to work, do this by end of day. No planning, no juggling, no balancing. You complete your task and move to the next. Simple!

6. You create stopping points. If team member X has to be pulled off the project for an operational thing for two days, you can simply insert that in the midst of a major task by dropping it between the subtasks. Simple and elegant!

Getting the right amount of detail lets you follow up the right amount, and estimate the right amount. If a task consists of five day-long sub-tasks, then when three of them are complete, you’re somewhere between 60 and 80% complete. Once your team members learn that they are suddenly not facing the “what percentage are you done?” question nearly as often, they’ll prefer your method as well.

Some team members aren’t going to like this method, because they do have to think through the details. They will feel it is micromanagement. It isn’t. Being asked to state at the end of the day if you finished what you started out to do that day is not a big deal. I recommend that you sit down with them and explain the benefits of this – they have one item to report to you, a simple yes or no, at end of day each day. Project status meetings become simple or non-existent. They can get help when they need it. Sell it however you must, but embrace this method. Your project plans may get longer, but believe me, they’ll get more accurate as well.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Stacey Douglas is currently the Director of Software Development for NASBA and resides in Nashville, TN. In the past, Stacey has been a developer, project manager, business analyst, sysadmin, and all points in IT in between. You can learn more about Stacey at his blog,, and his website,

Tips for Identifying the Walking Dead

My last article focused on how project managers can deal with the fall out and other changes brought about as a result of a project termination decision. This might have been perceived as putting the cart before the horse as it assumes that organizations have well defined criteria that are used to decide which projects should be terminated. Unfortunately, most organizations are haunted by the undead corpses of those projects that have survived long past their useful life. A contributing factor to the proliferation of these zombies is the lack of objective criteria as well as inconsistent decision-making regarding project termination.

In this economic climate, the inability to consistently terminate projects is competitive disadvantage as it robs organizations of the ability to focus on high value projects that will help them survive a downturn and come out much stronger on the other side than their competitors.

To improve the consistency of project termination decisions, introduce an impartial project delivery assurance process that gets executed on all active projects (over a certain size) on a quarterly basis. This delivery assurance process could look for the following tell-tale signs of “rigor mortis”:

  1. The project’s business benefits (tangible or not) are not expected until the end of time.
  2. The project sponsor never existed, is the Invisible Man, or has entered the Witness Protection Program.
  3. Ask the question of your portfolio steering committee or of all Department heads – will you care if this project gets axed. If no one says “yes” or no one can remember the rationale for the project, get it off the books!
  4. Ask the question of the sponsor (if you’ve located him/her) – “Would you initiate this project today?” See if they can look you in the eyes when they answer “Yes”…
  5. The achievement of the project’s business benefits is heavily tied to external factors or to the successful completion of high risk internal initiatives.
  6. (Re)do a risk/reward evaluation of the project (which had hopefully been done prior to the project being approved) – if the project now looks more like a dead dog than a cash cow, you’ve found a winner!

Do you see a trend? None of the questions I’ve asked are using traditional ways of evaluating project health – this does not mean that are ignoring earned value management, the triple constraint and your issue logs, but we simply can’t afford to have successful operations, but dead (or undead) patients.

Given how morbid my last two articles have been, you may wish to read my article on identifying valuable projects ( – it certainly is more upbeat!


Austin, TX – Journyx, a leading provider of Web-based time-tracking and project accounting solutions has partnered with Cognitive Technologies, an IT consulting company specializing in project and program management for the federal government and Fortune 1000 companies. In the near future, Journyx and Cognitive Technologies will announce a resource management solution that enables Project Management Offices (PMOs) to manage hundreds of projects and people successfully, and can be rolled out and fully functional in just a few weeks.

 “Together, Journyx and Cognitive Technologies combine practical and pragmatic application of resource management best practices,”  said Bruce McGraw, CEO, Cognitive Technologies. “This combination of technology and services will integrate people, time and scheduling, allowing for more efficient conversations and decision-making. We’re offering a solution that takes away the daily burden of manual resource balancing, and alleviates bartering for the right person at the right time.”

 The partnership of Journyx and Cognitive Technologies means that PMOs will not just get a solution, but will learn the best practices for project management from experts in the field. Additionally, PMOs will learn how to make the solution work as best as it possibly can for their organization.

“The new solution will unite project and process planning with resource workload management, track execution, and alert you instantly when projects are in danger,” said Curt Finch, CEO, Journyx. “Journyx has more than a decade of experience solving difficult project time data collection problems for Fortune 500 firms. Cognitive provides excellent project management consultants who are the best in the world at rescuing projects from the abyss. We are integrating the talents of our companies and offering a combination of technology and services that enable PMOs to manage all of their projects and people successfully.”