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Tag: Use Cases

The Convergence of Security and Project Management

In the rapidly evolving world of IT, we frequently hear about vulnerable data being stolen and disseminated from renowned organisations, or businesses reporting disruptive attacks such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assaults that bring their operations to a halt. While some of these disruptions may stem from a small bug that was not captured during testing, there are instances where the cause is much more serious.

The financial and reputational impact that these attacks have on organisations are huge, often requiring a substantial amount of time and effort for a full recovery. This underscores the importance for the organisation to have project managers who, leveraging their experience from past projects and their background in security training, can effectively assist the project team in recognising common vulnerability points and taking proactive steps to address them.

In recent years, a series of incidents have underscored the necessity of making security a critical aspect of project management. One prominent case is the Anthem Inc. Data Breach.

 

The Anthem Inc. Case

Elevance Health, formerly known as Anthem Inc. is one of the largest health insurance companies in the United State. Despite the expectations that organisations of a similar size would have invested significantly in security measures, in 2015, the company suffered a major data breach that exposed the personal and medical information of approx. 78.8 million individuals.

Investigations revealed that the cyberattack began through a spear-phishing campaign where cybercriminals used social engineering techniques to send deceptive emails to employees. One employee fell victim to the phishing attack, granting attackers access to Anthem’s database.

Needless to say, this breach had a significant financial impact on the company not only in terms of legal expenses but also in the effort required to strengthen their cybersecurity measures.

 

Key Takeaways for Project Managers

The Anthem Inc. security breach stands as a compelling example of the consequences when security becomes an afterthought in project management. This breach serves as a reminder of the critical role that project managers play in ensuring enough security considerations are taken into account throughout the course of the project. To this end, project managers should:

  • Ensure that a robust risk assessment is conducted not only during the project initiation phase, but also during execution and prior going live.  Through these assessments organisations can proactively identify potential security breaches and mitigate them accordingly.
  • Advocate for the integration of security measures into project planning with all stakeholders. They need to emphasise the practice of prioritising security-related activities over adherence to predefined timelines.
  • Loop in subject matter experts throughout the course of the project to ensure compliance with the right security frameworks and meeting all compliance, regulatory and legal requirements.
  • Develop a robust incident response plan as part of the project delivery before the project goes live. This plan should include the identification of key stakeholders and the establishment of procedures and processes to address security incidents.
  • Leverage past lessons learned throughout the entire project lifecycle to avoid repeating past mistakes, while replicating good practices.
  • Effectively communicate security requirements with all stakeholders, ensuring that these are well understood by everyone involved. Additionally, like all other facets of project management, project managers should also ensure correct and timely reporting of progress.

 

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Exploration of Security Breaches Through Three Lenses

To support project managers in ensuring that key security measures have been considered in their project, I often suggest examining their projects from three different perspectives:

Internal Security

One common source of security breaches arises from internal factors, often originating from disgruntled employees or vulnerabilities within other internal systems or networks. While it is extremely difficult to prevent all potential internal security breaches, as sometimes even the most trusted employee can, for various reasons, become a threat to the project and the organisation, project managers play a pivotal role. Through tools like a Risk and Impact Assessment, they can ensure that people and the interconnected systems have the least-privilege access rights to confidential information, including software code and database itself.  A properly constructed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) Matrix can be extremely helpful for project managers in determining what type of security privilege should be assigned to whom, when, and under what circumstances.

 

External Security

When organisations involve external parties, the risk for security breaches increases significantly. These breaches are not only tied to theft and copying of trade secrets, but can also be the result of insufficient security controls on the external party’s side. Furthermore, the situation becomes more challenging when the outsourcing company is situated in another country with a different regulatory landscape.

Therefore, project managers should allocate ample testing time within the project timeline. This entails not only conducting well-thought-out and designed integration testing, but also ensuring that robust security testing is performed on both the third-party and overall system.

One approach organisations usually employ to ensure that security testing is conducted effectively, in compliance with the latest security standards, is by utilising the services of externally renowned and specialised security testing companies to perform these tests.

Finally, in cases where the organisation is outsourcing parts of its software, the project manager should ensure that there is an escrow agreement in place to minimise the risk of the company being left without access to the source code in the event that the outsourcing company suddenly folds.

 

Technology Lens

Finally, in a world where everything is interconnected, technology and device-related security breaches frequently occur. In light of this, I recommend that project managers keep a comprehensive list of standard security practices to integrate into every project they undertake. These activities include the key tasks such as: changing of default passwords, configuring firewall settings, testing of third-party hardware and software before connecting with company networks and servers, and ensuring the installation of the latest security patches. By adhering to these security measures, project managers can significantly enhance the protection of their projects and systems in the ever-evolving technological landscape.

 

In an era where information is power and trust is paramount, security is not an option —it’s an absolute necessity that must be integrated into every step and phase of every project and product’s lifecycle. A security breach isn’t limited to a mere disruption in operations. Besides the financial and reputational aspect, it has the potential to impact lives. Hence, this makes security not an accessory to project management, but rather a fundamental principle that ensures the success, integrity, and trustworthiness of the projects the organisation undertakes.

Project Management for Midsize Companies

In many ways, Project Management is more art than science. Those of us who have spent years in the field have most likely studied the science of it through classes and certifications.

There are certainly best practices that apply most of the time and a Project Manager would do well to have that foundation. But dare I say, the majority of textbook concepts don’t apply much of the time? Let me share a story of a project I tried to manage “by the book” that taught me a big lesson about adapting the “book” to the needs of the company and the team.

During one of my early roles as a Project Manager I worked hard to be organized and apply all the concepts I learned while studying for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. I remember one project in particular where I meticulously developed a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and calculated the critical path. I had a Microsoft Project sheet a mile long, as this was a major project that would take more than a year to complete. All my details were in order. Project Schedule – check.

Confident in my plan, I brought the project team together. I had worked with key stakeholders to identify all the departments involved in the project and worked with those department leads to know which people should represent their department. I shared my project documents with the team and talked through roles and responsibilities. Stakeholder Management – check.

I knew part of my job was to clear roadblocks for the team, which included the roadblocks of me being a bottleneck. I thought the best way to keep everyone informed was to democratize project documents and have teams make their updates directly rather than funnel all updates through me. I created automations to remind team representatives to make weekly updates.

I had automations to notify people when one of their predecessor items was updated so they would know right away. I had automations to notify both me and team representatives when an update was overdue. Everyone had access to view, so no one ever had to wait on me to share a document or give a status update. We had weekly status meetings to allow for discussion and broader visibility, as well as ad hoc meetings for specific topics as they arose. Transparency and Collaboration – check.

 

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If you haven’t already guessed, let me tell you how this worked out. Not a single person ever went into the project tracker to make an update. Not a single person ever went into the project tracker to see status. My first pivot was to start collecting updates weekly and input them into the tracker myself. This allowed me to stay closer to the project details and gave me an opportunity to do a weekly assessment of project health with more context.

Those weekly conversations turned out to be so much more valuable than independent updates in the tracker. Every week, I would take this updated tracker and the deeper context I had to give a status update. I would share my screen and show the tracker so everyone could see visually where we were compared to the overall plan.

If you haven’t already guessed, let me tell you why this failed fast. If every team was meeting with me weekly to give me an update, why did they need to sit through a weekly status meeting of me telling them where their items were in the project? They didn’t. I lost the team’s engagement fast. My next pivot was a change that has stuck with me through the years. I did the legwork to meet with teams, understand their status, challenges, dependencies, needs, and projections. I consolidated all the information and culled it to down to what was critical.

Every Monday I sent an email with the week’s game plan, including all work expected to be done with deadlines and names of people responsible for doing the work. Every Friday I sent an email as a Reply All giving an update on what had been completed as expected, what had changed, what was delayed and why. If something meaningful changed and needed discussion or a decision, I would schedule a meeting to discuss it. We now had emails for things that could be emails, and meetings for things that needed to be discussed live.

This raised my credibility with the team when I called a meeting, because they trusted that there was something meeting-worthy to discuss rather than just a status update that could and should be an email instead. My Monday “game plan” emails served as an easy reference for project team members to know exactly what they needed to work on, which increased the rate of project work completion because there was more clarity and it was easily accessible.

Nearly 10 years later, I still rely on this approach. My Monday and Friday templates have evolved as my projects have changed, but this approach has proven successful time and again.

This semi-informal approach to Project Management would likely not succeed at a company with tens of thousands of employees. With larger teams and greater numbers of stakeholders, proper project management tools and formal project communication methods are likely necessary. On the other end of the spectrum, this semi-formal Project Management with meticulous planning and centralized tracking is probably more than is needed at a small company.

When teams are small and work closely together, it’s much easier for everyone to know what everyone is working on without a person dedicated to keeping it all organized. My time at midsize companies has helped me find this Goldilocks approach somewhere in the middle.

Why Does a Project Need a Product Development Roadmap?

Many teams work on software development projects: developers, testers, designers, and so on. Specialists have their own tasks, which they must complete by a certain date. How do you coordinate the actions of all teams? How to make sure that the design work goes according to plan and the product will achieve its goal? A product development roadmap helps to solve these issues. We will tell you why it is needed for a project.

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is an important document, it is as necessary as Vision&Scope, SRS, Backlog and User Story Mapping.

A product development roadmap is a visual communication tool for a project team that is used when outsourcing project management services. This document describes the vision of the product and records the current working progress and long-term project goals.

 

PMTimes_May13_2022

Source: venngage.com

 

The main stages of work on the product are included in this plan, without dividing them into separate tasks. There, the names of performers and deadlines are indicated. Information is drawn up in tables, presentations or special programs. The picture must make it clear who is working on this or that task at a certain time.

 

The purpose of a roadmap is not to describe each project task but to give a visual representation of the global stages of work. It explains to the team why they need to implement certain functionality by a specified time. It illustrates what goals the product will achieve in the future. If specialists understand how the product will develop, it is easier for them to set up work on individual tasks.

 

PMTimes_May13_2022

Source: habr.com

 

In other words, a roadmap is a product guideline for project teams, the marketing department, and customers. Project managers can change the roadmap when:

  • the client modifies the requirements.
  • it is necessary to enable a new feature at the request of users.
  • there are internal problems.
  • the market is changing.

 

The product development roadmap informs the project team and external interested parties (shareholders, customers, partners) about the main ideas and work progress.

 

Who needs a product development roadmap?

The product roadmap is used by internal development teams and external interested parties. Each professional benefits from this document and applies it differently:

The roadmap clearly illustrates to the project team how the product will develop. Engineers plan sprints and follow the progress of the project and the performance of the team. They see when additional specialists need to be involved in the project and rely on the document to bring the product to its final goal.

The marketing department relies on the product development roadmap when developing an advertising strategy and building a pricing policy.

The customer support department is using the product roadmap to answer user questions for future updates.

Project managers use a roadmap (product development roadmap) to report on the work done to the customers, investors, and partners. They see how the team is working on the product and how it will be developed in the future.

 

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Why a product roadmap is important for a project?

A roadmap helps project team members to understand the essence of a product. It also gives several benefits:

  • It helps to define the product strategy.

 

Experts see what kind of work needs to be done right now and in the future. Project managers and customers see the full picture of what is happening on the project as part of the strategy.

  • It is a good means of communication.

 

Usually, reviewing projects with each of the leaders takes hours of calls and discussions. The roadmap clarifies all the issues of software development. It is easy to create and update and takes less time to learn than during online discussion.

The map can be shared with everyone associated with the project (colleagues, management, and so on). With the help of this document, it is easier to convince investors of the prospects of the product and get funding.

  • It helps to “navigate the terrain”.

 

When a team works on a new project, they face three obstacles:

  • it is easy for them to “get lost” because they don’t know how to get to their destination.
  • team members may be late because they don’t know how quickly they need to complete tasks.
  • the team may run out of specialists when they are not aware of what work they have to cope with.

The product development roadmap addresses all these issues. Project participants see the current state of affairs and prospects. They know that this month they need to create an admin panel, and next month they need to do a third-party integration. They understand that a mobile version is being designed alongside the web application.

The roadmap proves that the custom software development company’s team is moving in the right direction at every stage of development.

How to create a product roadmap

For a separate project, a unique product roadmap is built. But there are general principles that should be considered when building. It is necessary to:

  1. Define the project strategy.

For a roadmap to be useful, the following issues need to be considered:

  • It is important to focus on the results of product development. Detailed tasks with estimation are not included in the map. They will simply confuse the workers of project management outsourcing companies, external departments, and investors. This information is recorded in other documents.
  • You should create a document for all project participants. Each specialist (manager, marketer, or customer support employee) looks at the roadmap differently. Some are interested in business goals, others focus on product areas, prioritization and timing, and so on. So as not to create a separate roadmap for different departments, it is worth considering one that will be useful for everybody.
  • You should communicate the vision of the product. The map illustrates the history of product development. The team members see this and take steps in the same direction.
  • The product roadmap must be regularly updated. Changes often occur in projects: the customer changes requirements, asks to implement a new function, and so on. These changes must be included in the product roadmap, otherwise, it will become useless, and the team will go astray.

 

  1. Gather product requirements.

To determine the stages of work on the product, you need to know what functionality needs to be created. To do this, a business analyst collects product requirements, which are then documented (Vision & Scope, SRS, Backlog and User Story Mapping). This data can be used to point out top features, prioritize them, and build a product development roadmap.

 

  1. Select the roadmap format.

A product development roadmap can be drawn up in Excel, PowerPoint, or special tools. However, whichever program the project manager uses, they will choose one of the three traditional types of the roadmap:

  • Product roadmap without dates. It is used on agile projects where priorities change quickly.
  • Hybrid product roadmap. Such a map has approximate dates (by months) and stages of work sorted into current, upcoming, and future periods.
  • Product roadmap with dates. Stages of work are planned with an accuracy of days in a month. This is especially convenient on projects where several departments are involved, and their tasks are related.

If the PM does not need strict deadlines, they choose the first and second options. Usually, this means planning works for a month or a quarter.

 

  1. Adapt the roadmap for all participants.

The product development roadmap is a guideline for internal and external teams:

  • The management wants to see in it a product strategy and information about the current state of the market.
  • Marketers are interested in seeing the product in comparison with competitors and its potential.
  • The sales department is more concerned about the time of the release of the product and its competitive advantages.
  • For developers and other IT professionals, requirements, deadlines, and sprints are more important.

Therefore, it is worth considering how to include this information in one document.

 

  1. Share the product roadmap.

The roadmap illustrates the team’s work progress and future goals. If the project manager shares the map with everyone, the participants will always be aware of the current state of the product and possible changes. Therefore, specialists will not spend hours clarifying the details of the project and other issues.

Customers value transparency in the work of their IT partners. Constant feedback, honesty and openness are big advantages for custom software development companies.

 

Which projects need a product roadmap?

Roadmaps can be used on traditional (Waterfall, Spiral) and flexible (Agile, Scrum) projects. This document focuses on the strategy of the product, not on the methods of its implementation.

For classic projects, a product development roadmap with dates will do. Flexible projects are limited to monthly and quarterly scheduling without clear dates.

 

The main difference is in the following:

  • Waterfall projects are usually business-oriented and based on financial metrics. Agile teams are focused on customers and customer satisfaction.
  • Waterfall roadmaps are usually scheduled for a year. An Agile map illustrates quarterly work.
  • Waterfall teams communicate sequentially as new specialists join the project. Agile project participants work in a cross-functional environment and are simultaneously involved in the project.
  • Roadmaps for Waterfall projects are more static. Maps for Agile projects are as flexible as the methodology itself.

 

Either way, both classic and agile teams will benefit from a product roadmap. They will be able to follow the strategy, meet deadlines and lead the product in the right direction.

 

Conclusion

A product development roadmap is created to make life easier for all project participants. It is a tool that developers, testers, designers, sales teams and businessmen are guided by. It ensures that the product develops according to plan and reaches the market on time. With a roadmap, the product is not a mere abstraction. It is a completely tangible solution with short-term and long-term goals and a visible result.

Think Project Management is boring? Here’s how it doesn’t have to be

The role of a project manager is no less than critical for any industry and for any organization – big or small.

Some of the traits this role requires in depth insight to technicalities, team building and management skills, discipline and effective time management.

Although many responsibilities fall under the umbrella of project management, the project manager is chiefly responsible for two things: to get a quality product delivered on time and to keep the team in sync while working towards success. While this role juggles between technical requirements to provide the customer with a satisfactory result, it has to deal with the human aspect by steering the team clear of politics, bias and uncertainty towards integrity, collaboration and confidence.

To many, this role may embody a serious persona that embodies an “all work, no play” attitude –eyes set on optimising the project at hand with little or no time for anything else. However, project management does not have to be dry and stressful. There are many ways to make work fun, interesting and create a surrounding where teams look forward to coming every day.

Here are three ways you can enjoy being a project manager without compromising on quality of project and efficiency of your team. Let’s begin.

Give autonomy to your team

Autonomy means the space and discretion to carry out a responsibility. By giving your team the freedom to complete activities on their own, you can instil a sense of ownership and encourage innovation. This will not only help you in getting better work performance on the project but teams also show innovative ways of achieving goals faster without the need to micromanage them.

According to Joan F. Cheverie, manager of professional development programs at the higher education and IT non-profit EDUCAUSE, autonomy is the antithesis of micromanagement and it may be the best way to ensure your employees are happy at work. [2]

A 2013 Workplace Survey by Harvard Business Review shows that the choice and autonomy not only keep employees happy, but also motivate and boost performance. They are also more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. [3]


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Make it cooler with technology

Who doesn’t like cool apps and gadgets? It’s downright delighting when a new app helps you identify pending issues in a project in half the time or that gives you the power to manage multiple teams without going back and forth between software tools.

Did you know that a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that employees that believe their workplace effectively makes use of mobile technology have more satisfaction, creativity well as show more productivity at work.

As a project manager, you constantly have to identify issues and come up with possible solutions or better yet, identify risks beforehand and have back up plans devised. Using a tool to structure your tasks and projects, helping your team collaborate better and that can give you more control on your project timeline can save you a lot of time and money. It definitely takes the stress out and lets you enjoy the creative aspects of the project taking care of the monotonous and repetitive activities.

Get more involved

Although project management comprises managing projects and teams, however, as a project manager, you can feel more connected by actively getting involved in team tasks and activities. This does not mean you have to micromanage your team. However, you can do a lot more by working on small tasks with your team such as attending the daily scrum, holding informative sessions on how to present projects better or simply by testing out the software module yourself via the newly purchased QA tool with the rest of the team.

Would you believe that about one in three projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior management?

Divan Dave is the CEO of OmniMD, a leading healthcare IT company. According to Dave, a good project manager stays aware and alert about potential problems. He recommends that a project manager should hold frequent status meetings with team members. This ensures that the tasks and objectives are met on time, the issues that are being faced and ways to solve them and also, discuss if any of the activities in the project plan needs to be revisited.

Your involvement in the project’s workflow on different levels diminishes the chances of feeling disconnected and you can look forward to new accomplishments in each team. These little achievements can help you go a long way and the collaboration with your team can help keep things light and stress free.

Use Colours!

You don’t have to settle for dry and monotonous documentation and presentations. Instead, give your workplace a boost of energy with vibrant colours. From your user stories to presentations in the meeting room, give it a fizz of creativity.

Use coloured markers, post-its, stickers and props to design and plan a project. Colour code tasks by priority.

The 6 Essential Project Management Books

Whether you are managing your first project, or have been doing it for years, you’re always looking to improve your skills with the best project management books.

While there is nothing like learning from experience, taking the hard-won advice from experts in the field will save you from making countless avoidable errors. But with so many project management books out there, it’s hard to know which are actually useful.

I’ve searched the internet, read through Amazon reviews, and asked other project managers to find the best project management books on the market.

Based on the research, here are the 6 essential reads for project managers.

1. Alpha Project Manager by Andy Crowe

Based on his survey of 860 project managers, Andy Crowe breaks down all the key traits that make the best project managers achieve more. His research debunks common knowledge about what it takes to succeed as a project manager. For example, his survey found that the best project managers send fewer emails per day and spend less time in meetings than their less-successful counterparts.

What makes this analysis stand out is that fact that they also surveyed 4,398 clients, team members, and senior management that worked with these project managers. As a result, the findings reflect a comprehensive view of the project manager’s performance, and not subject to biases of many self-reported surveys.

If you are ambitious and looking for strategies to propel you up the corporate ladder, this book has a lot of great insights.

2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Good project management isn’t just about what strategies and tools you use. It’s also about the people. That’s the focus of Patrick Lecnioni’s compelling book.

Through an engaging fable about a troubled Silicon Valley company, he uses the power of storytelling to highlight five common areas where teams fail. This book is a quick read filled with helpful insights that you can take and implement on your team right away. If you want to get better at improving team dynamics, this one will be a great asset.

3. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute

This book (known as PMBOK) is considered absolutely essential for anyone studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam, an important industry-recognized certification. Project Management Institute (PMI), who is responsible for setting industry standards, write each edition of this text.

Yes, this book is academic and dense (over 600 pages!), but it is one of the most comprehensive guides out there. Definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to take the PMP exam or deepen their project management knowledge.


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4. Getting Things Done by David Allen

This is one of the most influential business and personal productivity books ever written. The Getting Things Done (GTD) method emphasizes the importance of getting your tasks out of your head and breaking them down into an organized system. When you do this, it frees up your mind to think creatively and make better decisions. The book is filled with practical guidance on how to set up task lists and structures that help you feel less stressed and more organized.

For all project managers overwhelmed by stress, the book has the answers you need.

5. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams by Terry Schmidt

This book is a practical guide to turning ideas and goals into coherent, actionable plans. The author suggests that there are 4 critical questions that a project manager must answer to build a strong project plan:

  • What are we trying to accomplish and why?
  • How will we measure success?
  • What other conditions must exist?
  • How do we get there?

This mental framework ensures that you have considered all important aspects of a project before you get started. If you are looking for a more strategic approach to project management, check this book out!

6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

This is a classic business book that should be on anyone’s bookshelf. Jim Collins and his team did an in-depth analysis of 28 companies and discovered what were the key determinants that led to significant improvements in performance. Although not specific to project management, this substantive analysis into how companies made real improvements in performance has lessons you can apply in any context.

If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, this book is the one for you.

Honorable mentions

While they didn’t make our top 6, here are some other great books you may want to explore:

  • Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd Williams
  • Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogan
  • When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel K Pink
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
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