September 5, 2017

PMO, Personality Types, Strategic/Tactical Agile; an Active Dialogue

Silicon Valley is the hub of innovative technologies and ideas to push boundaries. From novel technological advancement to collaborative production, San Francisco Bay Area incubates the forward-pushing human desires time-and-again!

I attend many professional gatherings and meet ups to meet and learn from experienced technical professionals whenever I have a chance. One of these small but highly thought-provoking is the PMO meetings of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter. Below are just a few points of interest among attendees of past couple of months:

- Based on Enneagram institute, considering nine (9) basic personality type people do not change from one basic personality type to another, even though not every description of the basic type applies to a person all the time. However, people do not accept or reject a behavioral model in its totality. Personality Types

- Agile way of accomplishing tasks is both strategic and tactical. From the planning of a software development lifecycle (strategic) to the alignment of cross functional team interacting to accomplish a set of tasks (tactical), Agile thinking and doing elevates both policies as well as methods. Applying Agile principles in our fast growing organizations is a testament of using the Agile models in both strategic planning as well tactical operations.

- Business Analysts analyze needs and define requirements (based on business needs). This set of activities help functional managers to align their (portfolio) needs. Project managers and scrum masters follow planned activities to motivate project team to execute and iteratively adapt to better creation of tools to overcome needs.

- Most hybrid method (with respect to PMOs) has been successful in many cases, especially when the C-level executives support them. This also may depend on the organizational structure (i.e. CIO & PMO inter-relations, etc.)

- The question is how to incorporate Agile into PMO? One may think that the PMO is whatever executives decide and dictate to execute! So their function is to respond to upper management needs.

Your comments and thoughts can help to better support our PMO community.

May 7, 2017

PMO Topics with Active Dialogue

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:58 pm

Last month we had another active dialogue concerning persistent (or otherwise urgent) issues with our projects and programs leads to best practices after a knowledge sharing conversation.

Below is a highlight of items we discussed at our April PMO meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter. Contributors are senior expert matters sharing their best practices regarding (technical/functional/business) PMO and Program Management issues and success stories.

  • Understanding Agile processes as a guideline, and optimizing the golden triangle (of Scope, Schedule, and Cost) of project management to optimize outcome as value-add to our organization.
  • How PMO can add value to smaller organization where C-Suite and managers are working shoulder to shoulder?
  • Engage upper management to buy their influence, especially in a scrum (creating product backlog, backlog building/grooming, etc.) if possible. Create engagement and visibility.
  • Once executives are present and engaged, the processes would increase conversion factors = trust.
  • Concentrate on the results than methodology of doing how; action builds trust, that builds value-add.
  • Remember that in Agile method everyone shall see the process and org. based collaboration and creates value.
  • Involving C-level at project/program level makes that project/program a strategic value-add.
April 9, 2017

Knowledge Sharing Among PMO Members

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:38 pm

Dynamic discussion regarding PMO and pressing issues leads to practical knowledge sharing.

Below is a short snippet of items discussed at our past PMO meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter where participants shared their views and experience regarding PMO and (technical/functional/business) Program Management issues and success stories.

  • PMO contribution to executive committee consists of strategic setting of capital/budget of programs, programs benefit definition, and mobilization plan and report (to upper management) REF1. PMO also shall plan/conduct rescue plans (for various scenarios) REF2.
  • PMO deals with business cases much more (and in higher level) than they oversee the requirements.
  • PMOs provide check list of healthy metrics, hidden problem corners, while they do not have ownership, they keep track of the health of projects and programs with guideline to move from “range” to “green” health lines. Online search of these issues would lead to hundreds of useful resources.
  • What brings people to PMO meetings? We talk about different projects/programs and their health.
  • PMO acts as a diplomat in real life, especially with respect to customer-facing programs.
  • PMOs do not have a fixed ID in different organizations (consult PMO member of i.e. PG&E, Kaiser, Salesforce and cross-reference their input!)
  • PMOs are more fit to waterfall method than Agile, as for instance, there is no start-end in scrum setting! However, one may argue that PMO can help to streamline other Agile driven methods (like Kanban or Lean Manufacturing).

REF1: More on this can be found on IBM’s developer Works

REF2: More on rescue plans of PMO are available on Top-10 PMO Tips and other resources such as “Business Driven PMO Setup” and “Rescuing the Problem Project

January 22, 2017

PMO Thoughts & Experiences (1)

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:41 pm

Following is a blog made from Discussion Topics of 01/11/2017 PMO meeting

PMO thoughts an dexperiences - 1
I attended PMO breakfast meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter where participants shared their views and experience regarding PMO and (technical/functional/business) Program Management issues and success stories. Below are bulleted items of a few points made by attendees. I appreciate suggestions and comments by viewers to further enrich PMO topics.

  • How to create/promote PMO from the grass root? How to create it from foundation in any organization?
  • - Recently many have perceived the significance of project management principles. Apparently most team players realize that some projects are falling through cracks as the number of projects become overwhelming while well-equipped PMs stretched in schedule, cost, or scope of their endeavors!

  • How to change project management culture in a matrix organization?
    - The iron triangle (cost/time/scope) works fine, yet what about resource availability? Doing projects without qualified resources leads to disasters! The (main) success of the “iron triangle“ is to “focus” on for instance, one leg and accept proceeding of other legs! As an example, on January breakfast meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter in Mountain View one member commented on the lack of qualified developers, causing lag of time/schedule/scope!
    - Another option is to create a manpower schedule and get management approval.
    - Support of leadership in necessary to a successful PMO & PMs in general.
    - For every successful project, there are 3-4 failures! How to change this trend is another task of PMO.
    - Another factor is being consistent in processes and follow-throughs.
    - Also, getting people to engage and participate requires “repeated” efforts! Especially when we are required to change course (change management!)
  • In small-to-Mid size organizations need-to-have PMO starts somewhat late, or only when the needs grow to necessity!
    - This may not be true when comparing to military units as their projects are usually well defined.
    - How about promoting PMO as cultural change-agent on the organization (to properly manage projects)? As in some establishments, mid-level managers resist implementation of proper Project Management processes (waterfall or agile) as deterrent to their established positions!
  • It’s suggested trying the PMO handbook (by PMI) as guideline, or at least as a reference point helps in many occasions.
    - The standards then can be expanded based on organizational needs and culture.
    - Following the standards (and building on top of it) is helpful base point regardless of PMO, Agile (Scrum, Kanban, etc.) or hybrid PM methodologies.
    - Creating a (color-coded) chart (of KPIs and metrics) as percentage of progress sharing with the team would help to streamline efforts. This (heat map) can also help in determining budget or resource allocation/shortage to communicate with upper management. This shows data and allows smart decision making and proper change (management).

Your comments and thoughts can help us all to better support our PMs.

September 22, 2016

PMI-way of maneuvering challenges of complex projects!

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 6:35 pm

We are getting close to 2016 Symposium of PMI in Silicon Valley. A closer look at the speakers and topics (available at PMISV website) portrays real benefits of attending the Symposium. Online search of professional gatherings indicates that PMI chapters hold a high number of symposiums, seminars and conferences with high number of attendees. That’s no surprise as you could see the evidence from the number and quality of speakers at 2016 Symposium of PMISV. 24 keynotes and speakers sharing their experience to overcome challenges and risks in projects; the collective knowledge that cannot be easily grouped together and would require a few graduate-level course to address the issues they resolved.

From risk leadership to addressing possible threats in the design phase, from KISS to dealing with uncertainty while keeping all manners cool, we will hear about selection of challenges with variable ambiguities posing daunting risks and causing projects failure! As the opening keynote, Nick will take an ironic look at risks and its various forms that we’ll face everywhere on our modern-days projects. Other speakers will share their first-hand encounters of challenges in their practices including defies of value-driven organizations, acting fast regarding risk and strategic risk management, dealing with changes and challenges of lean methods, risks of organizational agility, surprises ahead and managing uncertainties. First day’s folding keynote, Richard will share his unique skills of turning risks to values of a mega-project of California Bay Bridge project. Second day starts with Gavin’s KISS method of risk management, following with other speakers sharing their experience regarding QA/QC and critical risk management, schedule and process challenges, dealing with complex risks and the power of communications. Symposium closing keynote will explores the catalytic mechanism when delivering results in projects.

Looking at the quality of shared knowledge I wonder if there is any educational institution providing this wealth of information in such a short time! We have read and heard about risk management and how to identify, analyze, register, and apply appropriate control to “risks”. Yet, knowing first-hand application of risk control in complex projects are not easily found in publications. I personally have the pleasure of idea sharing with a few of the speakers via for instance, assisting Tom Kendrick with a variety of PMI-SV activities and communicating with Joel Bancroft-Connors regarding agile/scrum related topics in the past meetings and professional gatherings.

I am looking forward to seeing many of my colleagues at 2016 Symposium of PMI-Silicon Valley.

A few benefits of attending professional symposiums:

* Online search on benefits of attending professional symposiums/seminars results in:
* To expand skills, learn more about the work, discover industry specific trends and knowledge
* learn from the experiences of your peers, and about valuable resources
* Renew excitement about the work you do while applying new approaches
* Develop ideas that can be implement in your business or career
* Make (new) connections, meet thought-leaders within the industry, share and expand ideas
* Get out of Dodge, show commitment to your profession, find prospects to give back ,and just have fun
* Gain insights and ideas that you can use to establish/increase your credibility and expertise
* Visit interesting new locations where the conference is being held
* Connect with sponsors and other supporters of the conference
* See competitors, learn more about competitive edge, and discover professional strengths/weaknesses
* Meet with and market to potential customers/clients, and study various market needs

August 28, 2016

PMISV Symposium is around the corner

Category: Life, Management, News, Technologies — David @ 6:53 pm

Risk Management speakers at 2016 Symposium of PMISV Last week I received a newsletter from our local chapter, PMI Silicon Valley. The newsletter included highlights from one of the keynote speakers that got my attention: Risk Management in Environments of Constant Change!

All project managers try to keep matters simple while avoiding risks (in projects) anyway they can. However, for program managers, steering between projects with varied requirements and needs in an ever-changing environment and, yet controlling involved risks on each project is both the art and science of leadership!

I have found it easy to say “Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)”. But when one is dealing with keeping a project dashboard as useful to all as possible, providing direction to a scrum team, communicating and keeping all involved subcontractors, vendors and customers aligned, and aligning organizational mission is not as easy as it sounds! Add the cultural and time variance in today’s virtual teams, one may become overwhelmed tracking and channeling information to avoid unplanned risks. I remember my supervisor at Santa Clara University used to say “you show me a well-planned project, and I will show you a few risks”.

As a technical manger, I think I am a student for life! Change management and risk management in our modern projects is part of every project that we engage. Learning from the leading project and program managers in some of the hottest sectors (such as IT, mobile tech, networking, virtualization, cloud-based SaaS, PMOs) have very high value for me. Hearing innovative remedies used by the leading experts may require a few technical courses from leading institutions. On top of that, networking with like-minded professionals, coupled with a couple of days of learning at a relaxed environment is my way of self-education!

I hope to see many attendees at 2016 Annual Symposium of PMI-SV. I will try to get more information about other speakers and subjects in my next short journal.

May 12, 2016

How PMO can help SMB to streamline their operation?

Category: Management, Technologies — David @ 1:09 pm

What are the basic building blocks of PMO that could help small businesses to grow in the Internet era? I think the lack of appropriate fund, clear objectives, basics of applicable Project/Program Management (PM), as well as the absence of knowledge-matter expert/coach, or even missing support from senior management/owners add to the distancing of PMO and SMB! I think timely analysis of pain factors, formulating realistic plans, creating compelling tasks, implementing measurable solutions, reviewing and improving success factors, documenting lessons learned and retrospectives, simplifying complexities, and devising reusable procedures will go a long way ahead.

Some (PMO) are strong drivers, like Steve Jobs and Elan Mask as technical drivers who push for design and functionalities while leading to the next vision of products and market place. But I wonder how PMO would fit into this picture where a single-or-two personalities drive! And then, how PMO can have any affect in this environment? Now the question is if senior executives have any belief to support PMO in their organization! PMO is doomed to fail if executive sponsors do not trust and enforce their functionalities. This is the same with “Agile” method of doing business- the method will not succeed if executive-agilest(s) not on-board! PMO may work better in a centralized or governmental structure. How about in a smaller structure like an IT consulting/engineering practice, an automotive servicing firm, or a mid-size pharmaceutical business?

Even though (I think) PM is a strong driver of innovation, organization, and fast delivery of clean products, it is fair to say that a few Small/Medium Business (SMB) owners may perceive a project manager as an expensive cost or even a sort of road blocking factor (a bureaucrat!)

I think any business regardless of their size needs to apply improved practices into their business procedures.  Lean Process and a strategy of continuous improvement will play an important role at the center of business activities (as well as change management and business transformation). Having a single point of contact and focal-point for all projects will ensure effective prioritization and coordination during projects lifecycle, as well as improving internal communications.

PMO and project governance is not just for IT departments and high tech industries (with urgency and needs for prioritization of tasks)! Greater visibility of projects across the organization will help to avoid duplication, to enhance communications, internal awareness of the quality work in a timely manner and within their projected cost scheme.

Any small business owner craves to add discipline and structure to their operation and embrace end-result (increase Profits & control Loss). Any relevant process that can be applied to business processes to increase quality of products/services, contain and learn from associated risks, bring excellence to operations, devise consistent use of resources, employ the best use of computing technology, and plan process monitoring scheme in order to increase profit and organizational size organically. And these all can be effortlessly modeled using quantifiable results applicable to many projects within the organization.

Keeping these in mind, I am in the process of creating a small PMO to one of my small business clients where we are creating and practicing processes and documenting know-hows as we are planning for rapid business growth. I am using Agile (Kanban) method of performing tasks with built-in quality, reduced cost, and increased productivity engineered into our plan.

I will report our progress in some detail in my later blogs. Please stay tuned!

August 4, 2015

How to Narrow Project Management (PM) Value-Add?

Category: Life, Management — David @ 7:07 pm

One of the challenges in today’s market is to show your value-add. Yet, how to bring all relevant work experience to the table? How to focus on specifics from past job-function and experience? How large the team was directed, and what other experience in team building would help a new program management role, and so forth!

When looking at the job posting, we all try matching our past experience to the requirements. Per involvement in many positions, experienced PMs need to narrow down and perhaps eliminate some of hands-on capabilities in order to draft a concise resume!  Also we all have had this feeling that trying to present ourselves as a renascence man is like shooting ourselves in foot! Companies would seem not to looking for people with broad experience, rather want people who can solve their problem now!

There are a few things that one can do such as selectively choosing what not to say (i.e. notes that are not relevant), which is not down-playing. There is so much to prove on what can be written in resume or said in a short time. This is not hiding qualification, rather just focusing on relevant ones. Another way would be choosing how to say and what to say. This is choosing the words (of your experience) along the lines that would focus on what (you) want to bring up. This can be viewed like focusing on project management aspect or team building and people management that is expressed by choosing the words choices in a limited space (of resume)! This would perhaps eliminate non-relevant experience of a jack-of-all-trades person with varied involvement.

One can clearly tailor the resume to make it very focused and relevant to the position. This approach can be applied in discussions as well. The question rises with respect to an experienced professional’s LinkedIn profile where it highlights all skills that are applied in many different fields of technical project management! This is to emphasize that the LinkedIn record (as professional profile) shall contain most experiences and accomplishments. However, a focused resume (as a concise list of achievements) shall highlight success. LinkedIn profile may be viewed as a good resume surrogate and an overall profile of achievements, while resume is fine tuned to a specific job addressing the requirements. Resume shall outline what impact the job seeker would have on the business with relevant accomplishment on their past positions.

One concern in current business environment is that technical professionals do not know how to present business values! They may be able to say how cool the technology is. The more you can emphasize business value and achieved productivity, the better you may position yourself for the position. A program manager is a change agent, not just controlling aligned projects to reach stated milestones. Also training may play a better role for a program manager as how programs are aligned to train junior team members to attain more business values during their career.

One thing to note that training is one of the first things to be cut in a downward economy and it is usually one of the last things to be added to the list of available positions. It is encouraging to see a number of training management positions available on job market that not all require a subject-matter expert in their stated requirements, yet understanding managing the training as best practices. In a PMI-Silicon Valley meeting John Choate (the National SIG Chair of America SAP User Group) said that “at SAP user group in national level we are required as chair to do one national webinar in a quarter. They have to be very content focused on user experience with 50 minutes of presentation and 10 minutes of Q & A”.

The above few paragraphs are based on conversation taken place at a few breakfast meeting of PMISV members and prospect. I have taken notes from our conversation and felt sharing thoughts of a few experienced leaders in program and portfolio management of Silicon Valley, California with our readers. Please feel free to comment, or otherwise suggest your idea to complement the topic and discussion.

September 14, 2014

What is a SCRUM – once again!

Category: Management — David @ 5:57 pm

This is a question that some project and program managers ask often-times! Not just probing its verbatim meaning, but for its real-life significance and value. Is Agile methodology specific for software or it can also be used in other types of projects like hardware and construction?

Let’s first recall Agile Manifesto posted on the “Agilemanifesto” website that I have also included at the end of this entry. Even though we all have heard about Agile methodology’s rapid / sustainable development, customer-driven, lightweight, competitive advantage, iterative, yet simplicity approaches towards development, I would like to add a few more points! Scrum however, is a special implementation of Agile as short sprints (of actions) to iteratively define-implement-test work cycles or time-boxed team efforts. One thing most people agree is that sprints have deliverables that might not be the end-product! I know many experienced managers who have used Agile methodology in completely nontechnical environments such as hydroelectric smart meter implementations, change management, medical device hardware sub-systems, and other related projects. They all claim they promptly create their teams, make lists (of requirements, etc.), prioritize the action items, flow their planned efforts collaboratively, produce planned deliverables, and iteratively handle next sprint in their list.

However and beyond regular philosophies and proven practical norms, Agile method of managing is more like a mindset to me than the process itself. Many scholars have dug up how human aspects impressed Agile methodology, how behavioral-based project management applies to successful delivery, how to improve organizational success Agile-way, and how VUCA is used in emerging ideas of strategic leadership development, even at times of change . We can easily quote the adoption information curve when referring to the adoption of technology and ideas by a population. But when it comes to Agile change adoption, we mostly address the indirect changes (process) rather than understanding the human nature, resistance to change, improved substitutes, and continuous improvements!

I think besides the technique, Agile methodology addresses the mind-set of how to collaboratively achieve a task (or a project) in a flat level among team members where everyone (from customers, to product owners, managers, developers, and implementers) work towards common goals in an iterative progression. Agile is more like conviction to the concept of the crowd (or scrum team) working towards continuous achievements! In this practice all players shall commit to the crowd strength, in a coordinated and collaborative manner.

As per the nature of this methodology’s applicability, I have seen managers who successfully applied Agile process to technical and nontechnical projects, as well as pure hardware and even construction based projects. We all have heard about “Water-Scrum-Fall” where experienced leaders merge two distinct methodologies to plan, execute, and produce their needed result in a hybrid way.

AGILE MANIFESTO:

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’ competitive advantage.
3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

November 11, 2013

Water-Scrum-Fall

Category: Management — David @ 7:47 pm

The first time I heard the “water-scrum-fall” term was at PMI-SV Annual Symposium of 2013 at a presentation provided by Roger Kent with the heading of “Waterfagile or Agilefall? Rethinking Knowledge-Work Process Model.” Quite frankly I have mixed the two methodologies – whenever a mixture suited my project. But what does it really mean? This topic came up at our PMISV meetings members putting light on its definition. Below are extracts from our conversation at Mountain View breakfast meeting. I have also added a few points expressed by our members attending PMISV-job search meeting on February 4th, 2013.

A hybrid of “Waterfall” and “Agile / Scrum” methodologies means that you are in-between waterfall or agile. Hybrid solutions work well during the transition period. An example is when tests were all paper based. Then we had a mixture of multiple choice tests that were partially computer based, with paper backup. That is a hybrid model of testing in both digital as well paper-based methods. Now there are organizations that provide computer-based tests only; such as Prometric. Another example is hybrid automobiles; our infrastructure (or even our transportation dependencies / habit) is not ready to fully adapt our transportation into electric power. Yet we are using both gasoline based as well as electric powered automobiles. This is because our transportation industry is in a transition process. However, when electric powered automobiles are well accepted and when we create supporting infrastructure for this model, we will move out of the hybrid mode and fully adopt to electric cars. Going back to water-scrum-fall, some are comfortable with waterfall method, and experience some better results using agile practice. Yet they implement portions of each during their process. Most of our top 500 enterprises have used waterfall for years and decades. Yet their experienced leaders observe better results using Agile and Scrum; hence they use a hybrid model to successfully oversee their projects and portfolios.

A myth of agile is that the final result of our project is fuzzy! That is not true. We just manage the process; including customer engagement from the beginning, so that we have more successful projects -a process in which the customer’s expectations are fully integrated into the product. However, agile methodology works where it is proven to work. We still use waterfall with all its maturity in our large and small projects as we have decades of documented processes using waterfall, like most construction projects. On the other hand, an IT infrastructure project like a data center upgrade / consolidation project could have a waterfall planning with scrum method of roll-out – hybrid model!

I would like to open a question to my readers: what about hardware, or a mix of hardware-software projects? Would be better to stick to waterfall, use agile, or come up with some sort of water-scrum-fall?

Disclaimer: This is an extracts from PMI-Silicon Valley Chapter’s group meetings held regularly in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, California. Many thanks to active participants of our meetings:

Carol Blanchar, Soheil Bouzari, Roberto Bruce, Katie Creegan, Karen Ferguson, Ron Green, Michael Jones, Nathan King, Chris Munson, Scott Petersen, Scott Spetter, Brian Wanner, Ray Williams, Terry Archuleta, David Bakhtnia, Sumadhi Lourduswamy, Melissa Pflum, T. Mallie Brathwaite, Paul Diamond, Raj Kamdar, Valentine Miller, J. Lynn Stuart, Kevin Thompson, Anup Deshpande, Wendy Tsoi, Carl Angotti, and Steve Deffley.