Jamal’s Musings - Will PM/PPM Software Solve Your Project and Portfolio Management Problems?

I remember a conversation I once had with a Chief Operations Officer (COO) of a federal government agency involved in several megaprojects, i.e. the projects with budgets exceeding $1 billion. The situation at the organization was really bad: enormous budget overruns, missed milestones and unhappy stakeholders.

The following exchange took place between us:

 

Me: I heard about your challenges and your CEO has requested that I come in and help you with establishing proper project management processes …

COO: Yes, I know. We do have serious problems with our projects. But I just don’t get it; after all we have MS Project software installed on every desktop in this office! Even receptionists have it!

Me: You know what? You better come to my project management training too, at least, to the first module …

 

But all joking aside, I have been asked this question on pretty much every consulting engagement of mine:

 

Can we address our project (portfolio) management deficiencies by installing appropriate software?

 

The short and not very diplomatic answer to this question is unequivocal NO. And here is why:

Imagine that you can’t play a piano. As a matter of fact, you know nothing about music. Will the purchase of the best piano in the world address your inability to play? Probably not …

Another, more technical example. Imagine that you know nothing about accounting to the point that you can’t tell the difference between the debit and the credit. Will the installation of the most advanced accounting software on your desktop or laptop instantaneously make an accounting expert out of you?

Case Study – Portfolio Scoring Model - Western European Pharma

Company assets were in dozens of billions of dollars in 2012 whereas its income was measured in billions of dollars. Despite an overall strong position of the organization, the executives of the company were somewhat concerned with a slow growth in revenues (4-8% per year) and net income (1-3% per year). Consequently they felt that the company was been falling behind the competition and, in the long-term, in danger of losing the leading position in the pharmaceutical industry.

The case study below is focusing on the organizational R&D projects – both pharmaceutical and diagnostics – while ignoring the maintenance and stay in business ventures.

Strategy

Just like in the previous example the company executives have developed a very clear unequivocal strategy void of any ambiguous goals. The strategy consisted of four pillars:

  • No OTC products – the company decided to avoid the generic drug market altogether and focus on the prescription drugs only due to IP protection and higher profit margins.
  • Five research areas – the company decided to focus its R&D efforts on five key pharma field including cardiology, cancer, infectious diseases, diabetes and neuroscience.
  • Focus on personal healthcare - attending to the physical needs of people who are disabled or otherwise unable to take care of themselves
  • Personalized drugs -  drugs that can customized exactly to the needs of a particular patient, including the exact dosage and combination with other medications.

Scoring Model

The portfolio committee decided to employ the following variable in the construction of their scoring model:

  • Market Attractiveness (How many patients are out there?)
  • Strategic Fit
  • Innovativeness
  • Risk (both technical and market)
  • Effectiveness
  • Cannibalization
  • Core competencies
  • Competitors
  • Financial (Revenue)

Table 1

Selection Criteria

Points Awarded (Maximum possible 135)

Joker

News - Downloadable "Energy Efficient House" Requirements Specifications

NOTE: In order to save space I am posting only the “Product Features and Requirements” section of the document. Click here to download the full version of the “Energy Efficient House Requirements Specifications” in the MS Word format.

 

F 1.0 - West Coast Style

Table 7

Feature ID

Req ID

Requirement Description*

Priority

F 1.0

R 1.1

Post and beam construction

See note below

R 1.2

Exposed timber structural members

R 1.3

Extensive glazing and skylights

R 1.4

Open floor plans

R 1.5

Integration of interior and exterior spaces

R 1.6

Wood finishes on both interior and exterior (stained)

R 1.7

Flat or minimally canted roofs

R 1.8

Orientation to views or natural features

R 1.9

Integrated with natural setting, extensive use of native trees and landscaping

*Note: at least six of the above nine requirements must be satisfied.

 

News - Downloadable "Energy Efficient House" Project Charter

Project "Rainforest"

Problem/Opportunity Statement

In order to capture a new and high growth energy efficiency market in the real estate sector ABC Construction shall design and build a new luxury energy efficient house.

 

Objectives

ABC Construction shall design and build a 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom West Coast style energy efficient (ENERGY STAR certified) home by March of 2011 .The scope of the project shall consist of the following features (see Table 1):

Table 1

Feature ID

Feature Description

F 1.0

West Coast style

F 2.0

Five bedrooms

F 3.0

Four bathrooms

F 4.0

Square Footage - 3500-4500 sq feet

F 5.0

Two floors

F 6.0

Energy efficient

 

ROM Budget and Schedule

Budget - $1,400,000 +/- 150,000

Timeline - 9 months

Importance Factors

  • Scope and Quality - 70%,
  • Budget - 15%,
  • Time - 15%

 

Project Feasibility

This project is valuable for the ABC Construction from three perspectives:

Jamals Musings – Requirements Elicitation Is Not Easy – Airline Check-In Kiosk

Let us review some of the questions an experienced requirements analyst will ask in the process of eliciting of requirements for this particular process. Let us assume that the key steps in this process are:

  1. Initiate the program
  2. Identify yourself
  3. Find the reservation
  4. Check visa
  5. Check in luggage
  6. Select seat
  7. Select meal

Here are some of the questions that may be asked just for the first three steps in the process (see Table 1):

Table 1

1. Initiate the program

What options will the user have to identify himself/herself?

2. Identify yourself

With a Passport:

  • Do all passports follow the same encoding standard?
    • If not, then how many standards exist?
  • What happens if the machine is unable to read the passport?
  • If the machine is able to read the passport what happens if:
    • Passport is real and not expired?
    • Passport is real but expired?
      • Will the user be issued a boarding pass if this is an international flight?
      • Will the user be issued a boarding pass if this is an internal flight?
    • Passport if fake?
      • Should the kiosk notify the police?
        • Does this mean that every device needs an interface with an airport police department?
        • Does this imply that we need to deploy some kind of software in the airport police headquarters?
      • What should the kiosk “do” while the police if being notified?

 

With a Credit Card:

Jamals Musings – Requirements Engineering compared with Project Scope Management

It is worthwhile to compare the requirements engineering process with the project scope management flow (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

As can be seen the “Collect Requirements” process corresponds perfectly to the “Elicitation” phase in the requirements engineering domain. The “Define Scope” process includes all of “Analysis’ and the beginning of the “Specifications” stage. Work breakdown structures are finalized once the “Specifications” phase is complete. “Verify Scope" and “Validation” correspond one to another perfectly, while “Control Scope” includes both “Requirements Tracking” and “Requirements Maintenance”.

 

This is an excerpt from my new book “Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects” that is being published by CRC Press The book should soon be available on Amazon.

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About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @ www.thinktankconsulting.ca

Jamal's Musings - Project Management in History: The Viking Longship

The Vikings were the Norse warriors, explorers and merchants who raided, explored and settled wide areas of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Iceland, France, Spain, Africa, and Italy. They started their expansion by executing multiple raids of the English shores. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Viking raiders struck England in 793 AD and raided Lindisfarne, the monastery that held Saint Cuthbert’s relics. Their raids continued to increase in frequency and the number of participating troops, until in 865 AD the Great Heathen Army led by the Brothers Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan and Ubbe Ragnarsson arrived in East Anglia and established their presence in the Northern England until they were driven out by the English king Harold Godwinson in 1066. The archeologists and linguists recently came to a conclusion that all British towns that end with "by" - for example, Ashby, Corby, Crosby, etc. - were founded and named by the Viking invaders.

Interestingly enough Harold lost the famous Battle of Hastings in the same year to another descendant of the Vikings (Normans) who settled in the Northern France a hundred or so years prior to the events, future king William the Conqueror (or William the Bastard as he was known before the battle).

According to the Russian "Primary Chronicle" three Viking - or Varangian as they were known in Russia - brothers Rurik, Truvor and Sineus were the first kings of the Russian royal dynasty that spanned from the 9th until the 16th century. And, yes, famous (or infamous) Russian tsar, Ivan the Terrible who was a last ruling member of the Rurikid dynasty can trace his roots directly to the Swedish warriors, who arrived in Russia almost seven centuries prior to his birth.

After establishing their foothold in Russia, many of the Vikings travelled South to the Caspian Sea and farther to the Byzantium Empire, where many of the enlisted in the much-feared Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Emperors.

In the XXI century a branch of the Norman royal family headed by the Roger I conquered Sicily and ruled there for the next two hundred years. Vikings also reached the shores of North America where Erik Thorvaldsson and his son Leif Ericson established several colonies in what is today known as Newfoundland.

Case Study - Small Software Product Development Company

Introduction

Thinktank Consulting was approached by the management of a relatively small software development company that was looking for some help with their issues. At the time they had approximately ten to fifteen small clients that they sold their product to and were obligated to support these clients to generate cash flows to sustain the company. At the same time the firm was selected to participate in a tender for a very large contract with one of the larger players in the Asian telecommunications market. The management felt that they had a very good chance of winning this contract providing they can produce a major upgrade to their product.

Problems

The issues mentioned by the executives of the software house included: excessive workloads, projects (both from Professional Services and Product Development areas) frequently being late, Change Requests implemented for customers frequently required rework and “buggy” upgrades to the existing software product.

Constraints

Quality and richness of features of the new version of the product was of the first priority to the company, because of its Asian bid. At the same time the management was concerned about maintaining the cash flow generated by the CRs requested by the existing small customers. Time factor was also important; however the senior management has indicated that they were willing to be somewhat flexible in order to obtain superior quality.

Jamal's Musings - Project Management in History: The Katana Sword

Katanas, or as we also know them the samurai swords, emerged in Japan sometime between the 12th and the 14th century during the Kamakura Period. Historians believe that katana has replaced the longer and heavier predecessor tachi because it could be drawn faster, thus allowing the samurai to draw the sword and strike down the enemy in a single motion.

Katanas were extremely sharp; the sword was designed to cut through the iron-plated armour. The legend has it that the best katanas forged by Japanese blacksmiths could cut through four to five individuals standing next to each other in one single stroke!

Another legend claims that katanas were responsible for saving the Japanese from the Mongol invasion in 1274 when badly outnumbered Japanese warriors were able to hold off an invading army of Kublai Khan until their fleet was destroyed by a typhoon.

Modern weapons experts consider katanas to be the best cutting tools ever made by humans as they combine two unheard of before attributes: razor sharp and yet resilient blade that could withstand considerable blows. The eternal problem that the blacksmiths had to deal with for thousands of years before was the fact that the hard steel was very fit to be sharpened, but the tempering (i.e. heating followed by fast cooling) process left the steel very brittle and susceptible to breaking from blows.

On the other hand, the steel that has undergone a slow cooling process remains relatively soft and thus better able to withstand strikes without breaking, but loses the ability to maintain the sharp edge.

Thus the Japanese weapon makers had to deal with the eternal and seemingly unsolvable issue: how do we make the sword blade hard enough not to lose its edge when sharpened and yet soft enough not to break when struck by other weapons?

They came up with an ingenious solution to address this centuries-old problem. The first step involved selecting the best samples of low-carbon, soft steel and high-carbon hard steel available. The each piece is repeatedly forged by heating and folding it numerous times to create a layered structure and work out all the impurities.

Later a high-carbon band of steel is heated again and bend into a U-shape, whereas the soft, low-carbon piece is inserted into the center (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Article - How To Write A Great Project Plan?

NOTE: See also the “Downloads” section of the website for the Project Plan template.

The Project Plan Contents

Revision History Table

Like any important and constantly changing document the Project Plan should contain a “Revision History” table (see Exhibit 1). The purpose of the table is to record version number, version date, name of the person making the change and a short revision description.

Why should we keep a record of all the changes made to the document? First, one can expect to make up to several dozen revisions to a project plan during the planning and execution stages. Stakeholder feedback, customer-initiated updates and technical project team inspections act as a source of updates and modification to the document. By the same token, during the execution stage change requests, various risks and other events may have an impact on various aspects of the project. Committing all of this information to the memory of the project manager is probably not the most efficient use of his brainpower.

Secondly, people have the tendency to save the files they receive via e-mails to their computer hard drives. As a result they continue referring to the older versions of the document while the newer, “fresher” versions have already been posted in the project documentation repositories. Therefore, “what version of the document are you looking at?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in conversations between the project manager and the project stakeholders.

Exhibit 1

Version Number

Version Date

Added By:

Revision Description

0.1

01-Sep-2009

John Smith

First draft of the document

0.2