October 7, 2018

Project and Program Management Insights that matter

I facilitate PMO breakfast meeting of PMI Silicon Valley chapter where a small group of PMO leaders get together to share their insights and success stories, and get advice for potential challenges. Below is extracts of our last conversation on September 12, 2018.

Please note that all relevant comments will be posted. We can only grow by each other’s help. I extend my invitation to share your expert knowledge within our community. I will then link your name (on comment) to you LinkedIn profile as appreciation – if you want so.

Meeting Notes:

  • How to manage International Projects with distributed teams:
    One of our attendees has experience managing projects with distributed team members (in Grenoble, Singapore and California). Due to the time-zone difference, each team used to do their tasks and pass to the next team. Tasks then distributed to the last team to deliver their committed milestone. The team was working round-the-clock for about a month and the milestone accomplished milestone. Hands-off to other teams done using available technologies (email, teleconferences, shared folders, etc.) Collaboration was mainly engineer-to-engineer. Performance was based on work-packages.

    As per International projects, other important considerations are the settings where teams are performing, their laws and regulation, tools and techniques, information / communication channels, and information containment that will affect the success of Centers of Excellence (AKA PMO)!

  • How people deal with dependencies:
    Recalling the materials of Managing International Projects course, many matters become dependencies, including regulatory laws (Export/Import, tariffs, Intellectual Property laws, etc.), communication barriers, time differences, cultural diversities, and so forth. Managing any International project or program involves numerous dependencies, each require specific resolution, mitigation, (risk) transfer, and more!At time this would be like dependencies from hell! (As an example, one was talking about a project when two-weeks before the release, government changed almost everything regulatory, causing disorders in release!)

    There are dependencies where PMOs (or a Center of Excellence) can have influential authority, such as requests delegations, approval (signature) procedure, reporting pyramid, etc. Having an in-country experts (as in-house or sub-contractors) is another way of settling dependencies. Local experts are particularly important in synchronizing actions among various in-bound entities that would help time, language, cultural disparities.

    Time and sensitive functional dependencies; especially when dealing with modular (hardware-software) product development, require higher degree of coordination to reduce task-delivery delays. Utilizing available coordination and team-based technologies helps resolving dependencies as well.

    Conflicting dependencies may result from hidden and / or incorrect assumptions (or agendas), both from the management as well as business needs (resource, objectives, etc.) These may be due to management style / variance, and organizational directions when the top-down resolution becomes the best remedy. Another conflict may arise due to technical or scientific differences that would be easier to be resolved by engineering team, especially if the team is collocated.

  • How to manage real time project status:
    Projects and programs status can be viewed using various tools, dashboards, and technologies like Jira, Confluence, Smartsheet, Trello, Sharepoint, Wiki, MS-Teams & Planners, etc. However, we shall know the capabilities and limitations of each tools used. At times, senior leaders may even create a summary if their dashboards for ease of communications. Frequency of delivery of reports on high level milestone, tasks (and their stages), dependencies, issues, and fixes can be achieved via several means. These are all based on the maturity of organization, tools used, communication channels, etc. Senior PMO leaders might have to anticipate status-reporting of various concurrent projects. The reports are usually in consolidated form for upper management use in timely manner; even if projects are being handled by other owners (Scrum, or any Agile variation).
Please share your remarks, or post your questions. Engage with our PPM community.
I would like to invite you to engage with us at our next meeting. Please check out PMI Silicon Valley chapter events for more information.
I also invite you to contact and post your topic of interest at www.SVProjectManagement.com.
September 10, 2018

Project-Program Management (PPM) Insights that matter

Below is highlights of a few topics conversed by a group of senior technical and professional PPM leaders gathered together at September meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter.

Meeting Notes:

  • What are new trends and tools in program management:
    There are various (new) trends and tools on how we manage our projects; like using various techniques of Scrum daily stand-ups and retrospectives, creating a hybrid method of team management, etc. We do not want to use strict methods to follow a given framework (like Scrum)! There are many changes in work places and we ought to adapt to working in a cross functional team! Communication becomes important as in any-size team most changes require adaption (and diversion from set PM methods). Larger organizations use more structured approach, though. Project management requires organizational and leadership skills. Let us not forget that in many cases hybrid of different frameworks and methods may work better for a given professional environment. In general a PM’s job is to make sure “the job is done” regardless of what method or approach we use. At this juncture, an experienced PM would look at all possibilities that help the team to accomplish tasks in-hand effectively. Various tools are being constantly created or enhanced to help PMs to work smarter so their team and organization stay atop of their competitions. As an important skill of any PM, we emphasize on communication skills, especially with respect to multi-cultural / multi-lingual communication. Adding challenges of remote team / virtual teams affect interaction among our team members and milestone we create.

    What do you think about new trends and tools helping Program Managers?
    Please comment and engage in our conversation.

  • How to maintain Three-Letter Acronyms (TLA) related to PM topics?
    Even though we have used quite a few acronyms in the first 15-minutes of our today meeting, when looking for definition of any given acronyms list (on the Net), we sometimes get competing definition for a given 3-letter acronym! Even sometimes a given acronym may have different meaning to several people! Making it more complex is how the real meaning of a specific acronym may change when translated from English to another language! There are many examples like Infra; meaning “below” or “further on” in English, it means Infrastructure in IT world, infrared, supra vs. infra, etc.

    Would you add your comments on how to keep an active list of TLA?
    Please comment and engage in our conversation.

  • What are hot area in management, and leadership?
    What we see these days for instance on job descriptions is “soft skills” and “communications” because in many cased team works stumble because members cannot communicate and the PM or leadership cannot get them all rolling on the planned direction! Even though some technical members (i.e. engineers) hesitate when they hear words like teams, stay on track, project manager, Agile, etc.

    Please comment and engage in our conversation regarding hot area in management and leadership.

  • Regarding strategies for Project-Program Managers in transition, we are referred to attend Job Seekers’ Breakfast Meeting of PMI Silicon Valley chapter.
  • I also invite you to attend our next dynamic discussions regarding PMO challenges and best practices.

Please add your remarks, or post your questions and engage with our PPM community. I also would like to invite you to engage with us at our next meeting. Please check out PMI Silicon Valley chapter events for more information. You may also contact www.SVProjectManagement.com team to post your topic of interest.

April 10, 2018

PMO as change agent!

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 5:44 pm

Agile PMO as Change Agent

I wonder what the challenges of PMO and (Agile) change management are! Some of our experienced PMO leaders think that one failure of (Agile) change management is to couple scrum master and project managers responsibilities into one role! Most of practitioners confess this as a major challenge of Agile transformation in organizations. A project manager is usually responsible for all aspects of the project; planning, scope, schedules, staffing, budget, etc. At the extreme end some project managers are even responsible for Profit and Loss (P&L)! Scrum master is a tactical (coaching) role to increase value creation of the team while training them to become a unit that creates value streams. Scrum master is a servant leader who leads by example. On the other hand, a product owner become the product’s visionary (for goal setting), with some responsibilities of a product manager.

With almost the same catch-all, the responsibilities of a program manager (in some instances) are blurred! In most enterprises project managers climb the ladder of their career, being promoted within their department. They are then asked to handle other aspects of their function, and hence are called program managers!

Agile on the other hand is the mindset, it is a way of doing things, it is not a process or set rules to do things. Agile is not bound to a given process or set of activities, rather it is a way of life! We learn if and when we do something; learn from our failure and use the lessons-learned on our next approach, and this has been how human grows old.

The PMO on the other hand has to decide and propagate the direction of programs. Some (of our) practice indicates that in certain organizations senior (and executive) mangers have high level view of how events go through their organization, while each of sub-mangers know how to handle their responsibilities in their area. Then they (the sub-managers) too, do not know how (exactly) matters move through the company! Hence the PMO shall come up with the philosophy, tools and directions to direct PMs to execute their assignments using ways that they succeed. Dysfunctions apart, the role of a PM is to be “in charge” of the (success of) project; planning, staffing, budgeting, tasks, etc. The scope of “in charge” in many cases does not include P&L, or the business success (or leadership). PMO, even though a bit clouded, is the overall owner of successful processes, tools, metrics, guidance, and practices of projects in different area and expertise. These obligations enforces PMO members to utilize any framework that leads to success. Consequently PMO members in general define how PMO (at least in a given organization) is reputed. From enterprise level - with many concurrent projects of various technical and business nature, PMO members define and lead organizational value creation processes, thus we shall incorporate re-usability and scalability of “lean Agile mindset” and promote it as a cultural change towards triumph.

Upward and Forward,
David Bakhtnia

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!