Okay, so Google is still a very dodgy organization with respect to your personal private data, dumping other people’s IP in new markets to dominate it, manipulating their search results to favor their own brands, stealing content from the likes of Yelp, anyway, you get the idea. Of late, they have been adding something to the stuff they “borrow”: Google+ comes to mind. Now Google has gone and added some cool, powerful, and potentially game changing content distribution tools to their “Flipboard-killer” iOS and Android magazine like app, Currents.
Now anyone with minimal tech savvy skills, and an RSS feed, or eBook can distribute the content to the world, or limited audience. The typography and build-in themes are top notch. Is Google finally getting the importance of UX? Scary thought.
The app is “free”. If you check out Currents, and you can subscribe to Project-DVR by following this link on your mobile device of choice: http://bit.ly/DVR979
Now you have a very slick and wasy way to keep the communication lines open with your stakeholders, by pumping your blog updates to their iPhone, iPad, or Android devices.
The WordPress blogging app for iOS was updated to 2.6 a few days ago. Unfortunately, it is still unreasonably horrid.
This is quite surprising considering how well the WordPress platform itself works. I mean, as open as the WordPress platform is, with third-party plug-ins attached to the core application, here and there, like a massive yarn ball, it typically works. The iApp sharing the same name is quite disappointing: broken UI that only pretends to conform to the very well thought out and proven Apple iPad Human Interface Guidelines, crashes, and the omission of basic features. In addition, updates are few and far between.
If only from a brand management standpoint, this project needs to either be recovered or killed.
Let’s hope some enterprising dev takes advantage of this gap, and markets a brilliant solution for WordPress using bloggers the world over.
Recently on a social network site, I read a question about if and how project management can be used in the legal industry to increase success rates. The question caught my eye because I had thought about this very thing several months ago. I wondered why in fact there isn’t more application of formal project management in the legal industry, especially among legal teams that handle larger more complex cases. Here is a reprint of the answer I posted there: I can see why people in the legal industry want to know more about how formal project management can help them achieve their objectives.
Hi Sara, By definition a project is a unique endeavor, is complex, has a target end date, and probably hasn’t been done by the organization before. Furthermore, projects are governed by the “triple constraints” of time, money, and scope of work. Projects involve risk and can sure be stressful at times. Pharmaceutical, construction, IT, transportation, banking, and a myriad other types of organizations use formal project management to achieve their strategic objectives. Why not legal? I would suggest the best place to start for a legal firm interested in leveraging project management to win more cases, is with training for its senior management that explains the value of the project management practice. Then develop a plan to incorporate project management into the organizational structure. This process is probably a six to eighteen month project, depending on the environment, level of commitment of senior management, and resources. Hope this helps. Feel free to give me a shout for further clarification or advise. Take care, DVR
Now that the Apple iPad super-hype has finally reached a crescendo and has sort of subsided, Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field (RDF) has once again collapsed until the next one more thing® moment, the all knowing tech industry analysts have given the new biggest thing from S.J. their thumbs up or down, and Apple fan-boys and Apple haters have all had their say, it’s time for us level headed PM’s to take stock of what has happened, and more importantly what it all means (if anything) to successfully managing projects in the future. Whew.
Who among us has not dreamt of having all knowledge easily accessible in the palm of our hands? Drawings, build lists, risk logs, schedules, emails, tweets, presentations, you name it, all conveniently available where and when we need it. And, in rich vibrant color easily viewed on a large crisp display. The concept of an electronic, lightweight, intuitive tablet (slate, pad, etc.) is not new of course. Many have tried for almost a decade to introduce this category of computing to the mass market. All, including that very sharp successful guy, Bill Gates, has failed. So why all the excitement with this iteration? There are many opinions out there why this time it will most likely work. The various rationales can be summed up in two words: Steve Jobs.
Of course only time will tell. Whether or not the tablet concept takes off this time and rewards Apple and its shareholders with zillions in profitable revenue, project management, like many professional practices, stands to benefit tremendously if the best use cases are actually developed and brought to market. We wrote about the growth of very powerful alternatives to the entrenched Microsoft Project running on a Windows PC paradigm previously. Software as a service (SaaS) project management tools that leverage web 2.0 technologies seems tailor made for the Apple iPad. In addition, the user acceptance of general purpose productivity tools and services in the cloud means the iPad is able to become part of a web enabled solution that is in great demand. Cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, Box.net, and many others can become even more indispensable to knowledge workers on the go.
But desktop productivity software developers are also licking their lips at the prospect of hitting a home run, developing versions of their software for the new Apple iPad. For example, Omnigroup, developers of a project management software called Omniplan has said they intend to develop iPad specific versions of all their titles. In addition, because the iPad OS is essentially the iPhone OS (which is a modified version of the Mac OS X desktop OS), virtually all existing iPhone/iPod Touch apps will run on the iPad without modification. This means iPhone apps like ProjectWizards Merlin should just work on the iPad. Of course, we want to see developers rise to the challenge and create new apps that can truly leverage the promise of the iPad. What do you think, will the iPad have an impact on project management?
Having conquered the desktop platform with its Microsoft Office Suite well over a decade ago, Microsoft has done very little to improve its project management software, Microsoft Project. But new alternatives to the de facto project management software for MS Windows PC’s means a better solution may be in your future.
Microsoft Project can be traced all the way back to a DOS version that appeared in 1984. Through its twists and turns in well over two decades marketing the product, Microsoft has released a number of Windows versions and a Macintosh version. Microsoft killed off the Macintosh version back in 1994. And Microsoft Project 2007 (Windows only) is the current release, with a 2010 version for Windows expected some time next year.
By marketing Microsoft Project with its ubiquitous Office Suite, Microsoft has made MS Project the most popular software for project management. It is the most popular, but not the best in terms of efficiency, functionality, or compliance to project management best practices. Microsoft won the .extension war for common applications: .doc for word-processing, .xls for spreadsheets, and .mpp for project documents.
As a result of owning the file format, they are able to dictate what the documents (therefore applications) can and cannot do. Owning the standard also means competitors feel compelled to maintain legacy compatibility with Microsoft Office Suite documents. This has a serious impact on the whole paradigm of competitive applications. Innovation is kept in check. It’s no wonder why, virtually all products that compete with MS Project start up with a screen ready for the user to begin entering a laundry list of tasks and milestones in a Gantt chart view. Although best practice for project planning is to begin with a work break-down structure (WBS), then some kind of Network diagram, and then a Gantt chart, Microsoft Project continues its nonsense. The Network diagram view in MS Project is down right embarrassing (figure below). The boxes are rigid, low-end graphics that reminds you of the mid-80’s. It isn’t surprising that so many full-time Controllers, Marketing Managers, Engineers, HR Directors, and the like who are not formally trained in project management are so ineffective wearing the ‘PM’ hat – not to mention frustrated.
In recent years, advancements in cloud computing, web standards, and more powerful lower cost computers has ushered in a number of excellent new alternative project management tools. For example, software as a service (SaaS) firms likeLiquid Planner and ProjectPlace have leveraged cloud computing and open web standards to offer very powerful cost effective PM tools. These tools work on any modern computing platform: Linux, UNIX, Mac OS X, and Windows. So it doesn’t matter if the project management office in London is using Mac OS X, the JAVA developers in Mumbai are using Linux, and the Procurement department in Chicago is using Windows. All project team members and key stakeholders have easy access to the same version of the truth, and can get their job done.
These new project management tools emphasize collaboration and communication. Let’s face it; most projects don’t fail because of not having enough Gantt charts. No, they usually fail because of poor communication and bad stakeholder management. It is encouraging to see a new breed of developers who get it. Likewise, there are now many very good desktop alternatives for smaller firms who do not manage huge projects and are using Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows platforms:Project X for Mac OS X comes to mind.
No one wants to spend more time managing their software than their project. If you are in this common predicament, consider jumping off the Microsoft Project ship and onto a more standards based, open, accessible solution.
An excellent chronicle of the mammoth project’s triumphs and failures This archive provides a wealth of knowledge about the massive Boston construction project: Big Dig Project (Boston) News - The New York Times. There are many lessons to learn from the project. And, the teaching is there for the learning.
Before: Death, destruction, cost overruns, and legal wrangling
Was the vision and benefits realized?
In any relationship, communication is key. To ensure the relationship between all members of the project team, project sponsor, project owner, and all other stakeholders is productive, a sound communication plan must be developed and utilized. But how can this objective be accomplished?
Here is a brief overview of the proper process. The steps to develop effective and efficient communications are as follows:
The very nature of projects, something that has never been done before, means there is always a risk of failure. While some projects fail in pieces, cost over runs or late delivery, others fail in totality.
Because projects are often times close to the brink of failure yet they ultimately succeed, sometimes it is difficult to predict abject failure. There are many examples of projects that looked over the precipice a few steps away from total disaster, ultimately achieving great success. Another reason why it is sometimes hard to recognize a project’s impending failure is many organizations do not have processes in place to foresee it. These organizations lack proper controls, and do not collect relevant information. A change in the structure would go a long way to prevent project failures. Similarly, poor risk management is another cause for project failures that go undetected.
Yet another cause of project failures that go unrecognized is “collective belief” noted by Royer. Typically the collective belief begins with the project’s evangelist and continues to grow like a snow ball rolling down a hill. The project’s evangelist with an extensive and strong network, charisma, and a good reputation can fan the flames of collective belief in the project very quickly. Other factors like personal and organizational desire for a “winner” is further strong incentive for people to believe in the project. At this stage, a “group think” emerges that causes everyone to move in lockstep, critical thinking goes out the window and outliers with differing opinions are censured.
The longer bad projects run, the greater their impact on the organization. Therefore, an early warning sign to indicate a project is a bad one is essential. Ideally, the warning should come very early in the project’s life cycle - the sooner the better.
During the initiation phase or at the point of scope development, rigorous examination of the project’s viability including risk profile must take place: Is the project the best way for the organization to achieve its strategic goals? Are there other projects that can accomplish the organization’s strategic goals for less money, shorter duration and less risk? How does the project’s financial metrics like payback, ROI, IRR, or MIRR compare to the organization’s benchmarks? In addition, a SWOT analysis vis a vis the project, the firm, and market should also be done. If the project passes these types of gates and is executed, key factors like earned value, risk, quality and the project’s standing in the organization’s project portfolio must be continually managed.
Significant changes that are detrimental to the project means the project should be seriously considered for termination. At the completion of rigorous assessment, if necessary the project should be shut down - immediately. This type of objective, rigorous, methodic process will limit a bad project’s negative impact on the organization and its customers.
Founded on October 1, 1958 by the United States Congress, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established to combat the threat of the Soviet space program. When the Soviet’s put the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, in space the “crisis” was a galvanizing force used by President Kennedy to rally the nation to meet the challenge.
Money was no object. It is reported at the height of the “space race” buildup that one in fifty Americans worked on some part of the Apollo program. Putting a “man on the moon” was not only the mission of NASA and associated organizations like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) but that of the entire nation. The tremendous investment of manpower and other resources enabled NASA to achieve a great deal in a short period of time.
NASA’s success at accomplishing its goals in the early days of the space program was a source of tremendous pride, motivation for young Americans to study science and engineering and a catalyst for economic growth through the high-tech industry. With a shift in public policy came a series of budget cuts, downsizing and outsourcing at NASA and JPL. Fantastic failures like the shuttle Challenger explosion, WIRE project, the “blind” Hubble telescope and various Mars projects meant congress did not have the desire to justify more spending on the space program, to a mostly apathetic public. As a result of the years of downsizing, a very large percentage of the most experienced NASA and JPL scientists and engineers will be retiring in a few years .
As bad as this is, the situation is actually much worse: When these very experienced engineers and scientists retire, their tremendous collective wisdom will be gone from NASA and JPL forever!
Like many organizations, NASA and JPL manage a number of projects and a series of related projects called programs. And like many organizations NASA and JPL are faced with a tremendous challenge: How best to manage knowledge so experiences gained from one project can be transfer to those who need it to make other projects a success? From the information presented in the case study, Knowledge Management & Learning at NASA & JPL, I believe there are several reasons for conflicts managing learning between programs and projects at NASA:
As stated by John Casani, “a senior manager with 40 years of project management experience brought back from retirement … to prevent mishaps …” problems related to knowledge transfer cycle time can be partially solved by “capturing more information on the fly …”. Certainly the information technology exist to do just that. But as the GAO discovered in their audit of NASA’s knowledge management database, Lessons Learned Information System (LLIS), the system was not widely used or relied upon by project managers. Instead formal and informal discussions were the favored methods of knowledge transfer at NASA. Why? Project managers gave various excuses to the GAO auditors for not utilizing LLIS. Of the three contributors preventing the effective transfer of knowledge between programs and projects, the competitive culture at NASA and JPL is in my opinion the root cause of these conflicts. The real problem, I believe is cultural: In a competitive culture where one agency or program competes against others for funding and accolades for their programs and projects, knowledge is at the core of competitive advantage. You do not give that away for free.
In fairness to the NASA workers, this environment of competition instead of collaboration is not unique to the agency. From a very early age we are all taught to compete and horde knowledge. Within a program, the problem is not as acute as most with valuable knowledge would be willing to share it with their colleagues to advance their program over those of others. Here the cultural problem to be overcome is the enjoyable tradition of “networking” where “war stories” are shared instead of the dry thankless task of data entry. Some organizations have successfully overcome this by changing incentive plans to reward those who share knowledge in the central repository of wisdom.
After taking the rains at NASA, Daniel Goldin felt the organization was shellshocked and risk averse, after so many major disasters. His philosophy was to reduce the stakes so his project managers, scientists and engineers would be willing to push the envelop and innovate without fear of massive failure. Goldin’s philosophy was summarized in the slogan, ‘Better, Faster, Cheaper’ (BFC). Instead of a few large, decade long projects, NASA would instead have many smaller, two year projects as building blocks to major programs. As a result of BFC, the number of NASA projects mushroomed. This resulted in a shortage of tenured, knowledgeable managers and the promotion of junior staff ahead of a prudent schedule. In addition, the increase in projects meant the problems of NASA’s weak knowledge management were amplified. Staff shortages also meant experienced scientists and engineers were spread extremely thin.
An example was presented in Leonard and Kiron’s case study of one senior scientist that was dangerously overburdened.
BFC has not been the success it was envisioned to be because all aspects required for its proper implementation were not fully thought out or implemented. For example, how do you get the required knowledge from the head of an engineer working on one project at a contractor into the mind of a project manager working on a totally different project at the JPL? Under BFC as NASA exists today, instead of having a few large colossal failures, it will probably continue to have several smaller disasters.
Going forward, in order for NASA to balance its mandate with fiscal responsibility and innovation, in the face of the impending retirement exodus of its most experienced knowledge workers, it needs a major cultural change. Then investments in IT and mentorship will bear fruit.
Based on the enterprise risk management (ERM) philosophy, risks that may affect the organization’s strategies must be identified, quantified, and managed. In the ERM model, risks are not managed in “silos” but in a harmonized fashion. The goal is to reduce the cost of risk management, and increase the effectiveness of risk management while supporting the organization’s strategy. The organization’s strategy may very well change from year to year, or even quarter to quarter. Therefore, the risks factors may also change. For example, if the organization decides to adopt a new strategy to expand globally into Asia and it previously only operated domestically, the risks factors will change - significantly. In addition, if the organization is following ERM best practices, it’s “approach” will remain constant:
Therefore, while specific tactics for managing a specific risk factor may change depending on the risk factor’s characteristics, the environment, and the organization’s strategic direction, overall the organization adheres to the ERM framework. Generally, the traditional risk silos do have specialist who are adept at managing risk for their respective domains within familiar contexts. However, risk management is not an exact science. And, the tools and techniques for managing risk, both downside and upside, is still evolving. At this stage to expect practitioners, even those considered “specialists”, to know “exactly” how to deal risks is not realistic or prudent. Managing risk under the ERM model is different in several important respects:
Also, it is important to note traditional risk management was focused on managing insurance to transfer risk. The ERM model is much broader in scope with a key objective to lower the organization’s volatility; thereby increasing shareholder value.