30 May 2008

Another perspective on the Balanced Scorecard

As you know Balanced Scorecard is a great tool to prioritise work and monitor what's going on.

Usually project professionals implement the tools and processes used to turn the concept into reality. That brings me to tip #1: Know the context of the work you are doingand you'll do a better job.

Additionally you can use a balanced scorecard approach to monitor your work. Frankly earned value doesn't do it for me as there is so much complexity in understanding what value really is.

Building to specification is not suficient in today's corporate projects. You need to go further, and (Tip #2) this is one tool that can help you.

(I hope I am not over-using Slideshare for blog content, but it's a great resource for business knowledge. )

28 May 2008

Enterprise Analysis

What is Enterprise Analysis?

According to version 1.6 of the BABOK, Enterprise Analysis is the strategic part of the project life cycle. It includes

  • developing strategic goals and a strategic plan to get there,
  • understanding and developing the business architecture,
  • selecting the right solution approaches for projects and developing their business cases, and
  • initiating projects and making sure they deliver value to the sponsor

All of these things are strategic activities that bookend the project life cycle.

Chapter 2 of the BABOK (v1.6) describes these activities in more detail and you should go check it out today. It’s a fascinating topic and I commend the IIBA for including it in the practitioners’ guide.

27 May 2008

10 and 1/2 commandments of visual thinking

Changethis is a website that publishes articles in PDF format each moth. They are on a very wide range of issues.

I want to bring your attention to this particular article from March. It's called the 10 1/2 Commandements of Viual Thinking. It's relevant to you because it has some great insight into how diagrams can solve the world's problems.

It even highlights the six most versatile ones (that's right, you'll never need another one again.)

So for beginners it starts to set up a framework and for experts it brings you back to basics. I hope you like it.

Read the article here:

26 May 2008

Some issues for BAs to be aware of

Business Analyst Training, From: craigwbrown

A presentation pack I have used when training business analysts. It covers several things regular readers will be familar with. It also looks at the use of and alignment with PM methods.

What are your thoughts?

SlideShare Link

25 May 2008

Presentation tips

From Rowan Manahan of Fortify Your Oasis.

A challenge for detailed oriented project people is how to convey complex messages with simplicity. Maybe this will give you some ideas .

23 May 2008

Dear Bas - Conversations with the Project Shrink

Bas de Baar is an Author of two books on Project Management. He also writes a blog at www.softwareprojects.org. Bas and I are regular readers of each other’s sites and now we are having a conversation from site to site. Feel free to join in.

Hi Bas,

So to your first question "Why do my requirements keep changing?" The first point I want to make is that I haven't seen any studies that look at why requirements go bad, but there are plenty around that indicate they are a leading source of project problems. So the discussion will only be built around my personal experiences and observations of projects going on around me.

My view on this question is that there are four basic answers.
  1. Clients jump into their solution work before they properly understand their problem
  2. In multi-stakeholder environments (i.e. large organizations) there is rarely one clear voice singing the requirements tune,
  3. The people you put into project management and requirements management roles don't have the right skills and knowledge
  4. The external market conditions are changing fast and it's just hard to get the product lined up with the market

You'll see some of these issues link back to the issues that the old Chaos reports used to call out about project management but are now just more specific to the requirements management work stream. The only one that seems to me to be legitimately out of the client company's control is the last one. A variation on this is in political organizations and government departments where often PR and politics can overwhelm sensible analysis and planning.

So, Bas, you are the Project Management Sociologist. What do you think are the key drivers of these three 'controllable' issues?

Bas and Craig have a weekly conversation, back and forth on their respective blogs, Project Shrink and Better Projects. With blog titles like that, you don't have to guess what the topic will be.

20 May 2008

Case Study in business improvement

Two things

1. Case studies are a great way of learning through others experience. First you learn some theory, and then you examine a case and see what your new knowledge suggests to you, given the facts.

2. Building/implementing software doesn’t solve problems. People do.

Have a read of this case study at Nick Malik’s blog. It is directly on the topics of benefits management and requirements management.

Based on what you know, what do you think should have been done?
Your comments below please.

16 May 2008

Strategic Analysis

This slideshow shows some tips on Strategic Business Analysis for you BAs at the point end of the organisation.

In my experience this is often whre project requirements come unstuck. They fail to consider their context, or to ensure they are aligned to business strategy.

Keep the big picture in mind at all times.

15 May 2008

Using Wikipedia for research

This presentation is a guide to effective use of wikipedia for research (especially where citations are needed.)

13 May 2008

P2M - Japan's Project and Programme Management

P2M is Japan’s Project and Programme management framework.

It’s growing in popularity in Japan, and is of increasing interest to the international PM community for what it can teach us.

I find it interesting that this framework has a much more specific focus on stakeholder and value management that the PMI framework. I have listed their "Individual Management Areas" below to give you a taste of this alternative approach.

If you are interested in learning more here are a few key links.

11 May 2008

Punctuated Equilibrium

Remember a few months ago we mentioned Tuckman's 5 stages of team development? Sure you do; forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

Well, here is another view which I think is pretty interesting. It's called Punctuated Equilibrium. (The name is borrowed from evolution theory.)

The basic idea is that about midway through any project type activity the people working on it will see the deadline is suddenly a lot closer and will naturally elevate their productivity.

You can read more on this topic here.

And while we are comparing models, have a look at this one, which overlays the Tuckman's five stages with Gersick's PE models.

The implication for project managers is that a series of smaller, but significant milestones enables project teams to maintain a more elevated performance level over the course of the project than if they are just aiming for the big delivery day at the end of the project.

It's scientific proof of why iterative developments are more effective that one big-bang release.

6 May 2008

PM Effectiveness - The Experience Trap

The six-monitor flight simulator"Experienced project managers can deal more effectively with complex software projects". Really?
This "conventional truth" is contradicted by INSEAD professors Sengupta and Van Wassenhove's research on experience-based learning. They tested the skills of hundreds of professional project managers using a computer-assisted game, built from professor Abdel-Hamid's renown simulation models for software development. The game was configured to represent a complex environment and most participants confirmed it replicated real-world project situations.
Some of the research results and conclusions are reported in the article "The Experience Trap", published in the February 2008 edition of HBR magazine:
  • experienced managers don´t outperform less experienced ones;
  • replaying the game didn´t improve their performance;
  • most managers believe project size underestimation and consequent quality, timing and cost problems are recurring flaws in complex projects.
According to the authors, many experienced managers are trapped by their rigid mental models to repeat intuitive and successful behaviours they learned in earlier and simpler projects. The same behaviours can be ineffective or even counter-productive in more dynamic and complex environments.
Research on project management effectiveness is relevant to both individuals, organisations and institutions. Leaders in the professional community, like SAP's Paul Ritchie, have been highlighting and reflecting on the article main points.
I agree with the colleagues that don't accept high failure rates nor unsurpassable barriers to continuous learning and professional evolution.
At the institutional level, it is important to emphasise the need of more complete skill sets or more adaptable methodologies. At the individual level we must address the central theme of the HBR article: how can we expand our learning possibilities and build management expertise from our professional experience? In this context, I think the most relevant aspects of our professional practice are:
  • How we think. Where does our thinking style enables or constrains our perception and learning capabilities?
  • How we learn. Do we consciously and actively pursue learning from experience?
  • How we position ourselves in the project and organisational context. Are we leaders or order takers?
Let's explore these topics on the next posts on Project Management Effectiveness.

Picture thanks to Włodi @flickr.