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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

August 3, 2009

e-Builder is a software company that develops web-based, capital program and project management solutions. The company's flagship product, e-Builder Enterprise, helps facility owner/operators, and the architecture, engineering, and construction companies that serve them address the challenges associated with the planning, design, construction, and operation of complex capital projects. The company recently released version 7 of their product, with new functionality such as the structured workflow engine, a business process automation tool.

Recently, e-Builder was selected for Constructech Magazine's list of 50 Hottest Companies for 2009 and Buildings Magazine's list of Top 100 Products.

July 31, 2009

Well, in almost all of the past articles of this series of 10, I have focused primarily on the problems, hurdles, and challenges associated with implementing a risk-based process in any organization. In this 9th article, I will stress 5 steps to success that I deem to be essential.

1 – Make sure they get it!

In article #8, I stressed that the support of upper management for the risk-based effort is absolutely critical. I will add here, that such support has to be genuine. I have many times experienced upper management “support” with said management believing that the changes necessitated by embracing a risk-based business process would impact those personnel “down the ladder” and would not make meaningful differences in their everyday responsibilities. This very-wrong interpretation typically accounts for their quick agreement to support the effort (“Great, as long as it is for everyone else and it does not impact me!).

I experienced this situation first hand in Egypt years ago (one of many such experiences). The “Big Manager” on location had called us to Egypt to bring risk-based processes to his exploration/production effort and made, while we were present, great pontifications to the gathered employees regarding just how important it was to embrace the new risk-based process. Of course, probabilistic analysis results, usually, in results expressed as ranges and probabilities (a typical cumulative frequency curve, for example). Later, when speaking with one of the “Big Manager’s” direct reports, that person indicated that when bringing information to the “Big Manager,” you had better not show up with a range of answers – he wanted THE number! Just another example of saying one thing but meaning another. This subject is expanded upon greatly in the book Risk Assessment and Decision Making in Business and Industry – A Practical Guide, 2nd Edition.

The lesson here is that management has to be prepared regarding the impact that a switch to risk-based processes will actually have on them and the way they do business. This leads me to the education aspect of this article.

Read more at PM World Today.

July 29, 2009

6. Say it, forget it, write it, regret it.

If you write an email where you denigrate and berate someone, there is now written evidence that you did so, and it WILL come up at your review. That said, this is not an implicit suggestion that you go close your coworker's door, roundly and soundly berate them, and leave feeling smug. Rather, what I'm trying to suggest is that you should write down whatever it is you want to say and then leave it sitting for an hour or two. Maybe overnight. If you have a close friend with whom you work, or you're personally close with your boss, you might ask them to review it prior to sending. Let's look at it another way, shall we? You're either right, or you're wrong. They're either right or they're wrong. In most cases it's a combination of all of those. If you're 100% right, you have nothing to lose by waiting to cool off before you send that note, and if you're 100% wrong, you'll thank me later. I can't tell you how many times I've violated this rule (usually directly to my boss) and had to apologize later for acting like such a jackass.

7. Socialize!

I truly hate enforced socialization, free beer notwithstanding. I loathe it. I would rather have my arm broken in most situations. However, when my sales team hits their numbers for which they've been struggling all quarter, and they invite me to join them in a celebration, how do I look if I turn them down? When the company throws a "company appreciation" thing, and they're (purportedly) trying to appreciate me, how do I look if I don't go? Right. If you go out with them from time to time, if you hang out a few times outside of work hours, you look less like a machine and more like a human. People are more likely to respond positively to someone with whom they've spoken personally than someone who seems a black box to them.

8. Tell them your hopes, your dreams, your fears!

Okay, maybe you don't want to go that far, but have a personal conversation with the people in your office. Get to know their kids' names and their spouses' names. Tell them what you do in your spare time. Become human. Topics to avoid include Star Trek, Star Wars, which of the two is better, fart jokes, sexist comments, and the intricacies of any code you're working on at the time. Listen more than you speak.

9. Document your work

My CEO was telling me about working on computers way-back-when (think "vacuum tubes" -- he's pretty old) and asking a kid sitting next to him, "How did you do that?" The kid responded, "I'm not going to tell you!" For quite some time, IT was a magical kingdom wherein only the wizards (IT folk) could live happily, and we guarded our secrets jealously. This is pretty
common for a new knowledge-based field. Look back at the history of guilds and so forth. That time has long since passed, however, and "job security through obscurity" really needs to go away. Other people must be able to understand what you've done, why you've done it, and how to fix it if you're unavailable. No one thanks a person who leaves a company in an incomprehensible mess. You will gain far more job security by professionally documenting and resolving problems than you will by trying to become indispensable by keeping it in your head.

10. Lighten up

Laugh at jokes, even if they're at your expense - especially when they're at your expense. When making jokes, make JOKES, not insults. Accept jokes at your expense, but never make them at someone else's. Remember, you can choose to make friends at work, or you can decide that some people with whom you work aren't worth your time. Either way, you have to work with them. Be gracious. Be helpful. Be professional. Above all, be polite.

I hope with these few points y'all will see what I'm getting at and lighten up a little bit. Remember, if everyone thinks you're a jerk, and you think everyone's a jerk, it's quite possible that the majority opinion is correct.

July 27, 2009

Hello again, Gentle Reader. Today I was reading Slashdot as I scarfed down a burger, and I came across a long-standing complaint from a relatively new IT worker.

The title of the post was "How Do IT Guys Get Respect and Not Become BOFHs," and the guy who wrote it seems to be in a bit of a quandary.

This is one of those long-standing "complaints" that IT whiners... err... staffers have, and I gotta tell you, it makes my blood boil. There's a line from one of my favorite movies (Grosse Pointe Blank) where John Cusack says, "If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there." Similarly, I want to point out to all of my IT brethren, "If people are treating you like something that's stuck to the bottom of their shoe, there's a damned good chance that your own attitude caused it."

This is not to say, of course, that there aren't jerks in the world, and it's certainly not to say that we don't encounter them. The nature of IT is such that if you have one jerk in your company, you are eventually going to have to interact with him or her. Put your best foot forward, and do your job.

On that note, I'd like to offer 10 humble points and pointers for my brethren.

1. You don't know everything; stop acting like it.

You didn't go to law school, graduate school, nursing school, college on an athletic scholarship, paramedic training, screenwriting seminars, business school and the seminary. You might have gone to a couple of those, but you know what? You don't know everything. The fact that you can defragment a hard drive does not give you the right to treat someone else with disrespect because they do not know how to do so. I guarantee in most cases, that person knows more about their job than you do.

2. It's not usually the user's fault if they get infected.

Often I'll hear IT folk complain about having to clean a machine from a virus, and usually derogatory comments about the user are made during this tirade. Alright, guys, really, c'mon. Most infected machines happen that way BY ACCIDENT. When you denigrate a user for something outside their control, you are really only asking them to avoid you in the future, and, trust me, you REALLY want your users coming to you at the FIRST sign of trouble, not after they've been infected for six weeks.

3. If there weren't issues, you probably wouldn't have a job.

IT folk often complain when they have to solve problems that are well within their job descriptions. I've never really understood that. I see it as a 2-pronged situation. First, well, I've got something to do. Not that, in my particular job, I'm usually lacking. I've worked hard enough and long enough that I've entered into a position where it's also my job to be proactive and steer our company through upcoming hurdles prior to encountering them.

IT, however, is by nature a pretty reactionary field. Much of our time is spent reacting to problems. That brings up my second prong. Look, mom, job security! You see, it's the rare company that's going to employ you full-time if they have no problems. My suggestion would be stop complaining and understand that it's your job.

4. They're users, not losers.

This is very similar to point 1, but it's a bit more subtle. The problem is that IT folk who understand subtlety probably don't often make this mistake anyway. You see, by making jokes about your users, by calling them dumb, by bitching about them after work, you're fostering, in your own mind, an Us vs. Them mentality. There's an Eastern philosophy that translates roughly to say-do-think. The idea behind this is that if you say something long enough, and if you start to do things to back up what you say, eventually your brain will believe it, and it will become true. If you constantly refer to your co-workers as idiots, you'll start to do things that reinforce this, and you'll start to believe it consciously and subconsciously. This will not make you welcome at the company picnic.

5. By the way, it's losers, not lusers.

Stop using stupid tech speak. It makes you look, at best, aloof, and at worst, lazy, stupid or geeky. Spell words out properly. Somewhere along the way you were presumably taught things like grammar and spelling, comma-splices and capitalization, alliteration and repetition. Use these things. Communicate professionally. This means using actual words, not 3l33t speak. If you wouldn't write it that way to your grandmother, don't write it that way to anyone else. If you cannot spell, use a spell check utility.

July 24, 2009

Visit the nearest bookstore and you will find uncountable volumes on team building, hiring, and personnel management. Browse the Internet and you will discover scores of articles, blog entries, and other content devoted to the topic. There is a good reason for this amount of attention to the topic. A leader cannot act alone and is only as good as his team. When we talk about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Jack Welch, we mustn’t forget that there are people behind them, a team that supports and enables them.

So, given the abundance of writing on the subject out there, why this article?

The answer is simple: on an average, organizations suck at it — all the books and articles and other knowledge notwithstanding. As a consultant, I see a lot of environments, and the sheer number of teams that have a potential to be absolute stars, but are mediocre at present, is astounding. I would like to inspire the reader and provide some ideas for changing things for the better. I cannot be in every organization all the time to fix the problem, so this is simple way of leveraging the reading audience for maximum result.

What exactly is a winning team?

I believe that every leader should strive to build a team that possesses the following three qualities of greatness:

Effectively achieving set objectives

This is the most basic requirement — getting the job done. The necessary conditions for this are cohesiveness, competence, and accountability of the team.

Read more at TechRepublic.

July 22, 2009

Here's the hard truth of it: many of the people sponsoring our projects are unqualified to do so - some aren't experienced enough to be effective sponsors, and even if they are, most haven't been taught how to be an effective sponsor, and what being an effective sponsor means.

At their best, many sponsors can be well meaning, but also be less than helpful. At their worst, they can be downright dangerous to you and your project.

So how does this happen? It happens because we have a bad habit of encouraging the accidental sponsor.

Let me be cynical about this - and it won't be for the last time - when I tell you how project sponsorships are 'handed out' in some organizations: when the Senior Executive meets, and they understand - or are dragged into the understanding - that they need to appoint a project sponsor for a major initiative, it's too often a matter of assigning whoever's next: They say, "we need a sponsor, and I sponsored that last IT project thingy - it's your turn!"

Through some misguided respect for arbitrary authority (and putting someone who doesn't know much about projects at the top of the project heap is about as arbitrary as it gets), and by unthinking deference to seniority, organizations and the project managers in them too often make the mistake of thinking that the person or people the executive have appointed as the sponsors for our projects will be, must be, the 'right' sponsor(s) to help make the project a success.

Read the entire article at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

July 20, 2009

The same old Gantt charts, the same old status meetings... aren't you sick of it? Don't you want a new and improved way of approaching projects? Here are some ways to inject life into your processes and make them more effective.

Connect Microsoft Project to Actuals

Gantt charts are pretty, but altogether useless if you don't know some important facts, such as:

  • Who is available to do the work? Do they have the right skills?
  • Are these estimates and deadlines realistic?
  • Has the team member completed this task or is he still working on it?
  • Have we spent 30% of the budget and only completed 15% of the work?

Integrating MS Project with a resource management solution provides this information. Don't just look at a picture of how you want the project to be. Get a view of how it really is, so you can step in and fix things when necessary.

Replace Status Meetings with Instant Status Views

No one wants to take time from their busy schedule to sit around and discuss what they are working on, how much is left, and how it is going. They just don't. Yet this is necessary data for the project manager, so how can you compromise? Resource management solutions provide project dashboards based on team member time tracked against tasks, so the project manager can log in and see project status within minutes. Saving all of your people an hour a week means more productivity and higher morale. You should try it.

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

July 17, 2009

A collection of previous CIO in Action blog posts on:

* Why you should centralize your IT projects

* Use these four classifications to align projects in your company

* How to prioritize your organization’s projects

* Presentation: How to prioritize your company’s projects

* How to create a project management group in your organization

* Hiring the Super Project Manager

Check them out at TechRepublic.

July 15, 2009

Envision a corporation where project management is a core skill. Where certified and fully competent project managers successfully execute technical and business strategic initiatives alike while managing large and complex teams. In today's economy delivering effectively on strategic initiatives to gain business results and competitive advantage is not only a survival move but will help a company thrive.

Many organizations are challenged by how to assess competence in a project manager and certification alone may be just one component. But how can your company build project management as a core competence if certification alone is not enough? In this article we explore three components beyond certification that can help assess a project manager's competence and steps to take to start building project management as a core corporate competence in your organization.

According to the PMI 2007 annual report the number of PMPs globally grew over 300% from 2004 to 2007. While the project management field has experienced tremendous growth the focus has been on the standards, the certification process and the recognition of project management as a profession. What has happened for many organizations over this period is the recognition that the certification alone may not be sufficient to measure competence in a project manager, and ultimately gain corporate competence that delivers results.

Read the rest at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

July 13, 2009

Here is a short blast from the past with some of the information on resource management we've published in the last few months.

    1. Power to the People
    A post from your friends here at the Journyx Project Management Blog on why it is important to give the people (in this case, project team members) a voice.
July 10, 2009

Envision a corporation where project management is a core skill. Where certified and fully competent project managers successfully execute technical and business strategic initiatives alike while managing large and complex teams. In today's economy delivering effectively on strategic initiatives to gain business results and competitive advantage is not only a survival move but will help a company thrive.

Many organizations are challenged by how to assess competence in a project manager and certification alone may be just one component. But how can your company build project management as a core competence if certification alone is not enough? In this article we explore three components beyond certification that can help assess a project manager's competence and steps to take to start building project management as a core corporate competence in your organization.

According to the PMI 2007 annual report the number of PMPs globally grew over 300% from 2004 to 2007. While the project management field has experienced tremendous growth the focus has been on the standards, the certification process and the recognition of project management as a profession. What has happened for many organizations over this period is the recognition that the certification alone may not be sufficient to measure competence in a project manager, and ultimately gain corporate competence that delivers results.

Read the entire article at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

July 10, 2009

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

  • A ‘blame controversy’ arises between a project manager and a customer about who was at fault in misinterpreted requirements.
  • Although a project manager captured the requirements the client requested, the client is unhappy because he didn’t really get what he wanted.
  • Poor interpersonal relations between some members of a project team threaten to undermine the success of a project.

Project managers need to interact favorably and clearly with project sponsors, stakeholders, and project team members. Success in this endeavor is sometimes compromised by stress-creating deadlines, changes to project requirements, ambiguous requirements, frustrated or unengaged project sponsors/stakeholders, and differences in opinions in the project team.

When project managers react to this common stress in a way that is deemed unprofessional, they damage their reputations and the reputation of the entire project management organization. When project managers fail to effectively read and respond to emotions and ‘wants’ of their clients and stakeholders, they may be viewed less as leaders and more as order takers.

Read the rest of the article at PM World Today.

July 8, 2009

Ever start a project without a stable foundation for scope? How did it go? To ensure project success, it is essential that scope be unambiguous and carefully managed. This can be accomplished with the Scope Management Process, which provides a formal set of procedures for planning, executing, monitoring and controlling scope.

The project manager, sponsor and stakeholders use the Scope Management Process throughout the project life cycle to:

  • Communicate project scope so the sponsor and key stakeholders reach the same conclusion about what is and is not in scope. It is normal for different people to read the same documents and have varying, yet valid, interpretations of the scope. To prevent this, scope must be documented, and more importantly, discussed. The scope statement should contain sufficient detail to be able to establish cost, schedule and deliverable-acceptance criteria.

Read the entire article at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

July 6, 2009

This is priceless.

If we're being honest, I'm sure that many of us have days in which we fantasize about walking around the office, knocking over waste paper baskets, kicking printers and yelling obscenities. (Don't look at me like that. What, am I the only one?)

This is not, however, a blog post on anger management. Rather, it is a blog post on change. If you think about it, there are only two ways to address these kinds of issues: turn in your resignation, or become an agent of change.

Here are some links that focus on ways to initiate positive change in your work environment:

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

July 3, 2009

I first found out about the concept of different kinds of money shortly after I was married. I don't mean different currencies or different denominations. I'm talking different types of money based on where it came from, how it should be spent, or what "pot" it is tracked in. My wife and I received some cash for a wedding gift. Even though I was responsible for managing our finances, she told me in no uncertain terms that the gift money we received should not be mixed with our regular "spending cash" or deposited in our checking account. It was given to us as a gift and it should be specifically on gift-like things. I found this annoying and irrational at the time, but being one to pick my battles I let it go and merely grumbled under my breath about it. It years before I recognized why different kinds of money exist, and the importance of understanding this concept when managing projects.

Companies fund projects from different pools of money based on the nature of the project and which financial aspects they are trying to focus on. Recurring projects that are necessary to keep the wheels on the bus are funded out of cash flow—basically, money coming in from ongoing operations is used to fund those projects. Think of this as the regular "spending cash" in my domestic example. These projects are usually expected to provide significant payback rather quickly. They are usually the projects that help keep the company in business and provide incremental improvements in products.

Contrast that with strategic projects, which do not offer the quick payback, and may not offer any payback at all. These projects are typically longer, riskier, and more expensive, and are usually intended to close substantial strategic gaps (real or perceived) or to start the company down an entirely new path. Because they usually aren't going to be done anytime soon, they are often funded from different sources—either from a company's reserves or through long-term debt. These types of projects are similar to the gift money my wife and I found ourselves with after our wedding, money to spend on things we normally wouldn't buy.

[...]

So why does it matter to you as a project manager where the money came from or how it is handled? As long as you don't blow through it faster than you said you would and have to go and ask for more, it's all the same, right? Well, if times are good and your project is relatively small and low risk, chances are it probably isn't that relevant. Unfortunately, times are not the best right now, and there seem to be a lot of expensive, high risk, bet-the-company projects going on right now. (At least, I have seen a lot more, but that may also be a function of my personal experience.) Either way, the kind of money funding your project heavily influences decisions made about your project.

Read the entire article at ProjectConnections.

July 1, 2009

About the Role of Project Manager in Encouraging Efficiency Processes

The Challenge of a Project Manager

The basic role of a project manager is to reach the project objectives while maintaining the given resources. There are two main methods for maintaining the resources:

    * To prevent resource deviations in advance
    * To react correctly to local deviations – in a way that will not affect the overall project resources

In this article I will present an additional strategy: utilizing the potential for improving processes during the project itself. I will present characteristics which require attention prior to intervention (aim of which is improving the project), examples for improving processes as well as the principles that are required in this regard.

Read the rest at PM World Today.

June 29, 2009

Our partner, Cognitive Technologies, is sponsoring a research study on the resource management tools and processes organizations currently utilize and the challenges they face. The study will also highlight how management practices vary by organization size, type, and industry, and analyze any gaps that may exist between the beliefs and expectations of project managers and upper-level executives.

To ensure this much needed research is viable, a large, diverse response pool is needed. Would you like to take part? The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete, and all participants will receive a complimentary digital copy of
the final findings report.

Take the survey now.

June 26, 2009

10. Adopt practices for exploring a variety of perspectives.
We think we see what we see, but we don't. We really see what we think. Remember the blind men and the elephant. Make it your habit to inquire what others see. You'll see more together.

9. Stay close to your customer.
Clients' concerns evolve over the life of a project. Take advantage of that to over-deliver. Stay in a conversation with your client to adjust what you are doing.

8. Take care of your project team.
We've come to accept that the customer comes first…the customer is always right. We can't take care of the customer if we first aren't taking care of our project team. It's a challenge. While there are some things we can do for the whole team, it comes down to taking care of each team member as the individual that he or she is. And to make it more difficult, then we must bring their various interests into coherence.

Read the rest at Reforming Project Management.

June 24, 2009

Factual and anecdotal evidence confirms that IT investments are inherently risky. On average, about 70% of all IT related projects fail to meet their on-time, on-budget objectives to produce the expected business results. In one KPMG survey, 67% of the companies who participated said that their program/project management function was in need of improvement. Why?

A number of leading factors for project failure were suggested by the survey, including the “usual suspects”: unreasonable project timelines, poorly defined requirements, poor scope management, and unclear project objectives. Granted, all of these factors can play a role in project success. But are they the cause or project failure, or just a symptom of some larger issue?

In this article, we will discuss that the root cause for many of these common failure points is really the ability to lead projects, not just manage them.

Download the PDF at PM World Today.

June 23, 2009

Event 360 is the nation's leading designer and director of fundraising, advocacy and awareness events for nonprofits. "Our customers rely on us to run their events seamlessly and help them increase fundraising, so they can focus on accomplishing their mission," says Jim Grohman, VP of Consulting Services. "ProjectXecute helps us to be more organized and more efficient when managing these events. It provides instant visibility into project labor costs, work completed and remaining work. This solution is really going to help us take our business to the next level."

Read more about ProjectXecute and Event 360 in the latest Journyx Press Release.

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