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26 June 2016

5 Reasons Why Projects are an Essential Tool for Better Business

The #NoProjects book at InfoQ
Click this image to get a PDF booklet on
the argument for #NoProjects
This article is an inoculation against the #NoProjects meme.

Projects are great. Despite the cry on the web about projects being bad for business they can really help you do a better job of organizing your work.

I am writing this as a counter to a meme about why projects are evil and need to be abolished. What was once a sentiment is now a movement (with it's own hashtag, so it really is legit.)

The main arguments against projects seem to be;

  • Projects are temporary organisations. People that work on projects don't have to live with the consequences of the work they do, and so will eagerly take quality shortcuts that someone else is going to have to pay for
  • Projects are organised around impossible goals. Some executive somewhere wants a new product out to market, or internal process fixed and all the big decisions about time money and scope are done before you arrive. 
There are more, but they are essentially minor next to these two complaints. 

16 June 2016

A note on the 5th LAST conference (that you should go to)

LAST Conference is in it's 5th year and we happen to be the largest Agile Conference in Australia. We have about 150 speakers and about 160 sessions over two days. We do all this for the price of a fancy lunch. Which is relevant because we provide three meals and a bar tab at the end of the day.

Over the years Ed and I have run LAST Conference as a conference we would want to go to. It's a little bit chaotic, it's fun, it's overstuffed with ideas.  This year we have tried a few variations on what we have done before. Here they are for posterity and with some comments on how we are going;
  • There is a tech conference woven in among the Lean-Agile stuff
  • Code retreat is embedded in the bigger conference
  • We have expanded the team who program the content
  • LAST is over 2 days this year
Let me elaborate on these;

The hidden tech conference
To see the tech talks you can browse the program by topic. I have also added a LAST|Tech Twitter handle to several of the specifically tech talks. See here for the list of tech sessions.

Each year I look for something beyond the 'agile mainstream,' because, basically I want some content that I will be stimulated by and most of the agile stuff, well, I want something more. And I suspect a bunch of other people do also.

This year I focused my attentions on a stronger technical program. We have always had tech talks but the audiences for them have been a bit lukewarm. Build it and maybe they'll come.

My motivation here: If LAST doesn't maintain interest from software developers it will eventually fail as a cross-discipline event. If it fails as a cross discipline (aka whole team) event, then it will not be loving up to some of my aspirations for it.

So, borderline tech people, go to the tech talks to help entrench them into the program. Tech people, go along to LAST and enjoy the tech talks.

Code retreat
I work with Supriya Joshi who is very passionate about the software development community of practice. One of the events she is active in is Code Retreat. I asked her if we could put Code retreat into LAST this year. It's an experiment and we will see how the two fit together.

Code retreat is a place for people to come and get some structured coaching on theor coding skills. It's accessible and friendly.

The expanded team 
Our core team is still Ed, Paul and me. Additionally this year we invited Rajesh Mathur, Ryan McKergow, Kelsey Van Haaster, Victoria Schiffer and Steven Mitchell to help program the content.

Expanding the team expanded the work for me, but the value it brings is important. We get a wider view of what content we should be programming. We broaden our perspective beyond "What Craig reckons." And we increase our network of ideas and experiences.

You can see the results I think. The line-up this year is stronger than ever before. There is diversity in thoughts, ideas and experiences and coherence around values.

2 days of conference goodness
Our main feedback over the years has been too much content drives people nuts. So we are running the event over two days with a number of sessions repeated on both days. A big thank you to speakers who have donated their time to do this. As a punter coming along, you cna choose to come both days or just one.

This conference is essentially about a community of practice coming together to share ideas and experiences and to learn from each other. Come along and share yours with us.

Webinar: Project Portfolio Management

Once I was asked to audit a portfolio of projects in a large IT organization. I asked the project managers, the dev managers, test leads, the business analysts and the business sponsors and stakeholders what they were looking for from their IT projects and how they felt the project was going.

One thing that came from that was a realization that people in different roles have different ideas about what success looks like. And this view shifts people expectations and behaviors. When I had done with the audit I don't know if I found a single project with everyone aligned on the goals, let alone views on how the project was doing.

From that point on I have kept my eyes and ears open to this risk. I have found it to be pervasive in what I'll call "process oriented' companies.

As the years went on I found myself running project portfolios, and setting up portfolio management systems. I ended up with more than one portfolio management book on my bookshelf. I was even sent a PMO book with a note of thanks from the authors for some of the ideas shared on this blog.  

I am still in some ways managing project portfolios today, and I remain focused on shared understanding of goals as one of, if not THE most important thing to attend to. This alone is not a trivial task.

Yesterday I was contacted by Isidora from a PMO oriented start-up called ITM Platform and she asked me to promote a webinar they are running. She referenced Kanban in her pitch, which makes it interesting to me. It's on at a time I will not be able to make. Maybe I'll check for a recorded version later. Maybe you can help and drop comments here.

Here is the promotion

FREE WEBINAR with ITM PLATFORM: Set up a Project Portfolio Management Organization.
ITM Platform has implemented our project management solution in over 300 organizations. And want to share the lessons they have learned with you to help you develop and improve your project-oriented organization.
What you will see during 45 min?

  • Design of a project-driven organization.
  • Change Management.
  • Basic Configuration of ITM Platform.

When? JUNE 16th at 10 am (Boston, Eastern Tine Zone)
How to register? Click Here:…/9108160085963125507

If you register I will perhaps get $1. So I have a big incentive to get you to sign up. What I would prefer is that you guys pass back what you learn in the comments. If you do that I'll donate their payment to a charity that my sister recommends.