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Sunday, August 13, 2017

I Received PMI Agile Certification This Week

This week I sat for the PMI-ACP exam and passed. It is a 3 hr 120 question examinations touching on several areas of the agile practice. As Certified Scrum Master, it required minimal preparation.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Do Not Shortcut the Instruments or Tools to Realize the End Product

This weekend I invited a close friend of mine to visit a nonprofit leadership center I oversee to give us some advice. He is a seasoned executive at a large retailer and supervises dozens of stores around the region. As head of the institute, and the main instructor my attention is usually drawn to compliance, curriculum and the overall performance of the organization. As he walked in he joined the trailing part of a financial reporting meeting and offered a couple of suggestions for a new program, we then proceeded outdoors to take a holistic view of the organization from outside. What comes next was very interesting.

He pointed out weeds on the sidewalk, and some stains on the building trim. Then he pointed out a few items that are not obvious to someone like myself who mostly focuses on the results and end deliverable. In other words he was able to make me realize that sometimes we get so entrenched in the mission or objective of the project; or we are operating on an agile framework delivering the next generation product while in the process the tools and artifacts used to get there are sub-quality.

Quite often on complex technology projects the team is busy delivering product value and checking off the deliverable list, while in the process they neglect the tools and instruments used to achieve those deliverables. For example the engineering team might produce a set of technical documents, however the document might not be totally polished like one that is being presented to the end user; margins might be inconsistent, different fonts on the same page, figures not numbered.

Agile project management should not mean producing internal PMO artifacts that have mismatched fonts or different font sizes, margins that look off, or a document that is lacking a table of contents. While it is true the client will never see these documents, and its only for the purposes of planning, but the fact that an instrument overall quality and aesthetics will eventually reflect the end product.

The lesson I learned is that a good balance across all areas of a project or organization is required. It is not enough to have a quality product, even if it sells well. The process in achieving the product also needs to be totally shiny and attractive even though the client is not paying for it.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Common Project Initiation Check Points

Businesses initiate projects differently, some places have long cumbersome tasks that need to be completed prior to kick-off a project. Others might be simpler. I share some common tasks that usually are required for a new PM to get through before she can have that first team kick-off.

Sponsor Funding Approval

This could also be referred to as appropriation request approval, budget allocation approval, capital investment approval or charter approval. Basically the sponsor signs off on a document that he has the available needs funds and specifies the total dollar amount of these funds. Some organization have set times when approvals are made and sent to the IT/PMO organization, in other cases it might be on an ad-hoc ongoing basis, where requests are queued up and processed by the IT/PMO organization at specific dates of the month or the quarter.

Resource Allocation Approval

This approval usually is made by the organization which is delivering the work. If it is an IT project then the IT group that will actually design, build and test the product or system being developed as part of the project charter. The fact that funding is available by the sponsor does not guarantee that the delivering organization has the capacity to work on the project during the period wished by the sponsor.

Technical Dependency Approval

This approval is usually obtained from the technical center of excellence, for example the enterprise architecture group, cloud center of excellence, security standards group or the group that is technically governing the organization's standards. A business might have the funds through a sponsoring organization to fund a project, and the delivering organization might have the resources (team, tools and supplies) to deliver, but there might be a major technical dependency preventing the feasibility of the project. For example in the case of an IoT enablement project, there might be a security identity management architectural pending problem, which the project requires resolution prior to going live. Another example in the transportation sector could be getting approval for use of certain material in paving roads to meet certain standards which has not been obtained yet.

Vendor Statement of Work Approval

Many projects depend on a third-party vendor to deliver the project. In order to initiate the vendor SOW process, all the above approvals might need to be secured. Other items that are common as well, are charge numbers by the Finance organization, Project ID number by the PMO and even in some cases names of lead resources such as the Project Manager, the Technical Lead and the Quality Lead.

Delivering Organization Statement of Work

The delivering organization usually would like to provide the sponsor with an internal SOW or charter that specifies the scope of work being delivered and any assumptions, dependencies and high level roles and responsibilities. This is different than the sponsoring organization
statement of work or charter which is discussed above and is mostly a guarantee that money is available to execute. The delivering organization is the one responsible for ensuring the project is delivered per specs. In some case the delivering organization does the work, or might outsource it to a third-party-vendor as discussed above. The delivering organization charter is the agreement between that organization and the sponsor. Whereas the Vendor Statement of Work is the contract between the delivering organization (prime contractor) and the third party vendor or organization (subcontractor)

In summary there are many organizational check-points that a project manager should be aware of when kick-off a project at a client or even internally for the employer. In large businesses, these approval points and processes are not always, or usually not in sync, and some might need to be in parallel.