August 12, 2013

Cover Letters and their usefulness

Category: Management — David @ 2:38 pm

As I promised in our today’s breakfast meeting, below is the blog about “Cover Letters” that we talked in our last week’s meeting. I know that I am a week behind posting about our last meeting; quite frankly I have been working and networking about 15 hours a week lately - so I finished this short note last night.

This is another session of our “job search breakfast” group meeting of PMI Silicon Valley chapter. We explored the reason behind including cover letters when applying for a technical / management position.

In my opinion, I am wondering how good we could model “human nature” and behavior! Even when applying number-crunching and numerical analysis on human behavior, one cannot get an ample picture on how better approach to any particular action! Everyone is different. However, when applying for a professional position, the size of the company and how they have been posting jobs (online or otherwise), the rationale behind their processes (if we know about), positions’ requirements, HR policies, and many other factors will play roles with regards to sending a cover letter along with a resume, or not to send any! I think the best is responding to a given job opening based on our personal experience, and hoping to land an interview. After all, sending a resume and associated cover letter is to have an interview. One manager may not read a cover letter, yet be swift in responding to follow up emails!

Noting that cover letter is one of deliverables, it’s a good idea to introduce ourselves up front to the prospect employee and make the cover letter like a sales tool. It is helpful to including our sales pitch on top, and treat cover letters like a business communication letter; something like a short dashboard of our knowledge aligned with the requirements. Resumes include the most detailed aspects of our professional expertise, and it usually takes months to polish and fine-tune. On the other hand, cover letters are composed fast; probably a few hours before sending them to an available position. Another idea that was circulated among our attendees was to address 5-top requirements of the position in the cover letters. However, hand-carried cover letters and resumes to the hiring managers have the best results. Identifying an insider and making sure that hiring manager could have a copy of the resume makes the biggest impact.

Other considerations such as styling, font face-size, stationary choice, and such are less important, yet keeping them consistent with the style used in resume is a good approach. However, referencing the salary requirements or any political / faith related concerns, and non-relevant points are strongly discouraged. Make sure that cover letters do not have any spelling error, and keeping them below 3000 characters make them more appealing. Keeping track of the resumes and cover letters that are sent out are another important factor. After all, it is a good idea to have a reference point to requirements of a specific position for which an application is sent!

Online references regarding composition of effective cover letters are in Abundance. Yet our group suggested frequent visits to other networking activities for effective job hunting. Some of the most successful network building groups (at least in the San Francisco Bay Area) are:
PMI-Silicon Valley chapter, our chapter’s Workshops, and some meet up gatherings in your area (such as Agile meet up, Big Data Analytics, etc.) NOTE that by attending these meeting you would get familiar with different vocabularies of the marketplace, as well as expanding your network of professionals you know!

Rise and Shine,

This is an extract from PMI-Silicon Valley Chapter’s Job Seeking group meeting in Sunnyvale, California. Some of the participants below are technical managers and members of PMISV:

Azeez ChollampatChris MunsonDavid BakhtniaDavid GazaveGary A JohnsonMichael MellengerRay WilliamsScott E PetersenScott Spetter, and Terry Archuleta.

August 2, 2013

How to form a nimble PMO office which can provide value to the company

Category: Management — David @ 9:22 pm

How to create an active and agile Program Management Office (to add prudence value aligned with organizational vision and mission)? How a consolidated approach to portfolios and programs may have any added values? This is a million-dollar question that established organizations revise in their dictionary once a while! Below is a breakfast-extracts from the dialogue between a group of technical leaders; members of PMI - Silicon Valley Chapter. I thought providing a few practical suggestions provided by our members may help transferring knowledge to our younger generation and like-minded technical professionals!

Some organizations have portfolio-level documentations with ranking models applied to projects, categorizing and sorting them to take appropriate action. Then the projects are traced for their priorities, business values, etc. There are some documented models for stakeholders’ actions as a road map to facilitate projects initiations (accept, defer, or reject) based on the impacts on business and revenue.

A nimble PMO depends on how mature is the organization. However, product oriented organizations may consider the road maps, customers, features, etc. While in IT (information Technology) there are a many projects and programs without road map. However, if one can take over 100 projects to show the forward-looking themes, it would facilitate efforts of stakeholders in reducing (or delaying) the number of low-priority projects.

A senior program manager would be careless about the number of pending projects as the team would handle projects with higher ranks on the scoring list. Scoring is based on security, compliance, usability, user experience, ROI (Return On Investment), etc. ROI based projects however, may not at the top of the list for instance (because of the nature of business, perhaps). Another example is risks, as part of IRR (Internal Rate of Return) such as taking risks, or transferring them into opportunities. All such factors would have an associated ranking number. Assigning numbers to a given project helps more informed evaluations. This type of decision making channelizes the energy of executives to decide which projects have higher priority to focus and act upon.

One important requirement is to know the audience. For instance, for PMO members of executive level (i.e. EVPs, CIOs, CTOs, CEOs), a clearly defined approach can greatly alleviate decision making. Rather than going through every project in detail, they would rather have the ability to change things faster, line up tasks, and put the important jobs in action; noting that the end results would have expedient impact on the organization’s health and wealth. A nimble PMO model therefore, would have less review processes and more of action oriented processed - with just enough information, to help audience to approve,  defer, or cancel the projects efficiently and effortlessly.

As PMPs, we can then apply fast tracking or crashing processes to programs with higher number of projects when we have lower capacity of performance; reduce the scopes, or increase the resources. This technique would be a good negotiating tool.

Please note that when executives show interest in the new projects, they imply knowing how many resources may be freed up! Hence sketched-out priorities and choices would help making another negotiating chance. By showing priorities up to existing projects, PMO may indicate that given resources can be assigned to higher-priority projects, negotiate for more resource, or fund, etc.

The usual problem in IT and data centers is the co-relation between sustaining (the business) and new development! The challenge is trying not to squeeze sustainability, yet to be able to initiate new projects. Hence, categorizing and providing road maps to streamline or automate processes would help PMO office as well. This will become another tool to make informed decisions. PMOs are not just about projects, programs, or tools, but about keeping a sustainable business while progressing towards prosperity.

Another attention is employing 10 Agile Principles, and using their simplicity to maximize productivity. Using in-take processes, we would be able to filter out low priority projects from the list. This model would cultivate the culture of asking the right question in order to regulate projects approvals. Yet another approach is progressive elaboration; once the projects are grouped to form programs, progressively look into the projects and their priorities (sometime up to story level) and rank them for informed decision makings.

Another approach is to assign a program or portfolio owner who would take responsibility of managing resources and actions within that portfolio. This would eliminate micro management by PMOs, and empower accountability policies by PMOs that would be well in-tuned for Strong-Matrix or Functional organizations.

An agile PMO would take actions to streamline processes, not just to review projects.

Up-ward and On-ward,

This is an extract of a group meeting of PMISV members. Some of attending members are:

Anup Deshpande, Dan Levin, Steve Enabnit, Steve Deffley, Mathew Thankachan, T. Mallie Brathwaite, Ray Williams, and David Bakhtnia

12 Agile principles are:

  1. Satisfy the Customer
  2. Embrace Change
  3. Frequent Delivery
  4. Cross-Functional Collaboration
  5. Support and Trust
  6. Face-to-Face Conversation
  7. Working Software
  8. Sustainable Pace
  9. Technical Excellence
  10. Keep it Simple
  11. Self-Organization
  12. Inspect and Adapt

If you care to learn more about Agile trends and Agile methodology of leadership, contact following sources, connect with leaders, and attend related courses below: