Recently in Project Management Category

Close-Out

We held a close-out meeting for two Confucius Institute projects — the PHP Calendar and the Online Catalog. A few things are worth calling out and applying to future projects.

Timelines

Managing timelines is still difficult for us in IT. While we did deliver a demo in time for a teacher conference, after that the deadline got loosey goosey. We pledge to renew our efforts to:

  • set realistic deadlines
  • work backward from those deadlines; and
  • observe a fake deadline for ourselves set for two weeks earlier

Communication

We still fall short in giving regular progress reports, especially when there's no progress to report. This week Christopher and I shifted our Monday status meeting from 3:00 pm to 2:00 pm. This way I'll have time immediately following our status to prepare progress reports for all my stakeholders.

Expectation Gap

Christopher and I had an ah-ha moment listening to Emily describe her understanding of the relationship between the FileMaker database and the searchable online catalog. She assumed they were developed in tandem and would be delivered at the same time. This happened on another project where the stakeholder believed the web interface to be some sort of by-product of the FileMaker solution. We resolve to:

  • Be very clear what the deliverables are; make sure it's spelled out in the Statement of Work and review it with the stakeholder.
  • Make sure we understand the long-term, big-picture goals of the project so we don't waste time on intermediate solutions that will be soon retired.
  • Make sure the stakeholder understands that a FileMaker-only solution doesn't get us any closer to a web solution. I believe we've been asked to develop the former when they really want the latter.

Good Things

Let's congratulate ourselves for what we did right:

  • Delivered solid solutions that meet their needs
  • Responded to changes in scope and absorbed them into the project
  • Provided good documentation beyond what was expected

PCMC Meeting

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Notes from the PCMC meeting on September 23, 2009, "Change Best Practices: Minimizing Resistance to Change" presented by Nan Gesche Larsen.

  • Change in our personal life focuses on the positive: new house, marriage, having a baby, etc.
  • Change in work life skews negative: job loss, more responsibility, etc.
  • Bad change experiences make us resistent to future change.
  • Change will affect productivity. Try to squeeze personal time rather than social time. Like Google and General Mills, employers provide all manner of personal services to reduce the amount of time employees spend getting haircuts, getting oil changes, driving to day-care and what not.
  • If you attempt to squeeze social time you cut off a necessary release valve. Provide good information so social time isn't spent speculating or stirring the pot.
  • With change you can pay now or you can pay later but you will pay in productivity.
  • If hand-holding and cheerleading activities seem silly to upper management, translate loss of productivity into dollars.
  • Engage people in decision making. Maybe they can't weigh in on the larger decisions but let them rule over the small stuff.
  • Get creative and find ways to engage.
  • The FUD factor = fear uncertainty doubt
  • Responding to change is not an steady continuum but it is predictable. There will be dips and struggles. Work to lessen their length and severity.
  • Don't forget that starting something new means ending something old. As humans we form attachments to processes and routines. Celebrate and ritualize the death of the old. Sound hokey? Perhaps, but it's still meaningful and cathartic.
  • Mismanaging change can produce a toxic atmosphere long after the change takes place.
  • Remember that it's often more important to be heard than agreed with.
  • We can understand the need for change on an intellectual level but resistence comes from the emotional part. Find ways to deal with emotions.

Close-Out

We held a brief close-out meeting for the Publication Order Form project. A few things are worth calling out and applying to future projects.

  • Technology problems blew our timeline utterly. While not of our making and beyond our control, we could have conducted a more sober assessment of the technological hurdles before we began the project. Having done a more thorough assessment of risk, we would have budgeted more time and planned for contingencies.
  • We didn't communicate enough. I stopped reporting to stakeholders once the project was delayed. It's hard to communicate when there's no progress. Rather than take the no-news-is-bad-news approach, I should have continued to send periodic updates.

What do you do?

Improve the nation's capacity to teach and learn foreign languages effectively.

Who's my point person?

Marlene is my main contact but I'm free to work directly with others on specific projects.

What skills does your staff have or want to develop?

CARLA staff has extensive FileMaker skills. They've build their own databases and published them to the web using CDML. They would like to keep their hands in FileMaker and learn PHP.

What databases do you use?

CARLA has 15 databases, all of which have a web front end. They weened themselves from working with FileMaker client because it was unstable. That was several years ago and what was once necessity is now habit. Because their databases are shared with the public they need to keep the web component, but they themselves are not opposed to trying FileMaker client again.

What plans or ideas do you have to create or improve databases?

All the database are running version 6 and sitting on a server that Christopher would like to decommission. The environment is unstable and needs to be monitored and slapped on occasion.

OIP Tech wants to upgrade the files and move them onto the main server. That's complicated because they're all using CDML which is no longer supported in version 10. Essentially, they all have to be rewritten in order to make the move. We'll need to develop a strategy for this. What we learn converting the LCTL database will inform how we tackle the rest.

I spoke briefly about the FileMaker Style Manual. I would like to adopt this for all future development, but there's no need to refit existing databases.

How I work

I bring a project management rigor to my work. Expect a formal gathering of requirements followed by a written statement of work and timeline.

I work closely with Christopher to maintain a manageable work load. This allows me to dedicate myself to quality and meeting deadlines. My goal is to develop solutions that meet business objectives thoroughly and completely. I favor solutions that are sustainable — they work now and in the future — and advance our skills, improve our techniques and expand our knowledge of the technology.

How I communicate (in order of preference)

  1. Blog - This is where I keep notes and report my progress. I'll show you how to filter for posts that relate to your project. I encourage you to use the comment feature to respond and react. In some cases, I may ask you to seal your approval of a decision or milestone by submitting a comment.
  2. Email - Still a great way to communicate.
  3. Instant Messaging (iChat, Skype, AOL Instant Messenger) - IM is a great way to resolve easy questions quickly. I'm exploring video capabilities as well. We may conduct a meeting as a video conference rather than crossing the river to meet in person.
  4. Screen Sharing (iChat, UMConnect) - These tools are great for instruction and trouble-shooting.
  5. Document Sharing (NetFiles, Google Docs) - Why take up space on OIP servers when there's room on NetFiles? Plus, NetFiles allows you to control access and is easy to reach when you're working off campus.
  6. Telephone - Still a trusty communication tool.
  7. In Person - Technology is no substitute for good ol' face-to-face but work schedules, project load and distance make this the hardest to achieve.

What I expect from you

  • Hold me accountable for meeting deadlines and objectives.
  • Be understanding if your project is delayed or put on hold for the sake of other projects of higher priority.
  • Willingness to explore technology as a means to communicate.
  • Contact me when you have concerns about your project.
  • Contact Christopher for everything else.

Arrrrgh!

Project life cycleAye, a treasure map to site redesign. Consult the legend.