Friday, October 15, 2010

Continuing Education

Several weeks ago I attended a 2 day class at the Fluno Center (University of Wisconsin Madison) on Project Portfolio Management.  The class was taught by Barbara Schrage, PMP , who previously was Vice President of a centralized PMO in a Fortune 500 company.  

The topics she covered were:

Clarify definitions, similarities/differences: Project, Program & Portfolio Management

Program management processes

Project portfolio Management processes

Out of Scope for the class were:  PPM software applications (which made me a little sad, but I have a pretty decent grip on what there is out there).

During the first day we went over what a portfolio is and some of the challenges of implementing them.  Here I saw all the basics including having staff that are unable to understand resource capacity.  We also spent a lot of time on governance.

During the second day, we talked about integration and strategic processes, mixed in some hands on items (using a pre-made Excel file to help select the right projects; screen shot below)  and spent a decent amount of time getting input from the students as to what they see in their own organizations.

I really enjoy attending the classes offered at the Fluno Center.  Not only do I learn from the teacher, I learn from the people in class. 

The Project Portfolio Management class is an excellent class for an organization that is thinking about starting up project  portfolio management, or for the person that is currently doing it as a refresher course.  Check it out!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Corasworks review part 2

Recently I attended a webinar presented by Corasworks on their updated Project Portfolio manager that integrates with SharePoint  (PPM v.2.0).  This past winter I reviewed their application and they have many new useful updates.

They have included several new templates for managing projects using PMI or Agile methodologies and a custom template to make your own.

Microsoft Project documents still have the ability to push and pull from the product. 
New edition to the timeline view includes the ability to see the critical path (many portfolio software apps do not have this).

The ability to take snapshot of the timeline (so you can look back to see where you were at, at a certain point of time, much like baselineing).  

GANNT chart view with the ability to move items by dragging and the ability to link items via this view too.

A community board for project team members to share updates (which includes a rating system, and the ability to tag items so they are easier to find). I really like this because it could take some of the email discussions out of email into your project site (great place to have all that key communication in one spot).

Section to submit project proposals that will move through an approval workflow.
Updated Risk tracker to easily move a risk to the issues log.

A mobile app so you can see some project metrics, or see all of your tasks.

The mobile app is cool but the ability to update from it is very limited.  In the video it gives examples of clicking on an open task which automatically moves it to 5% (what if I’m at 50%?).  Also you can move KPI to green, yellow or red.  Typically these move based on project metrics you set up, if not and you do it manually that is fine too.  If you move an item to Red I would like the ability to write why it is red.

The mobile app needs more functions like (the ability to view documents) to really be useful and needs a project newsfeed (more below).

Other things I would like to see…

eSignatures for sign-off on sections within the project and on any documents that have signature lines (we currently have a 3rd party app that does this for us).

They talk about web 2.0 social media parts (community part), but I think they need to expand this.  @task is coming out with a new update soon that will include a newsfeed for your project.
I would imagine the project newsfeed would include things like.

“New document, project requirements, has been added” 20Sep2010

“Task, sign off document, has been completed” 20Sep210

“Question titled, help with code for jump uploader, has been added to the community board” 20Sep2010

“New photo titled, here is where we are 20sep, has been added” 20Sep2010

“New video titled, software in use, has been added” 20sep2010

Then you can control this by turning updates off that you are not interested in (say you don’t care when documents are added or updated).

You would see the updates for your project and there would be a view for updates for all projects flowing into one newsfeed.

Also how about a section for what a person is working on for the day?  Nice way for managers to check up on staff (and a great check-up of Agile projects).

Overall Corasworks is doing an excellent job of listening to their customers and bringing in the standard items we need to manage projects.  The key to making this work is having experts in your organization that use the application and training, re-training and offering plenty of training on the application.  Without this you could buy something that no one uses…  Have a plan in place before you implement it …

Friday, October 01, 2010

Agile moving forward

My first experience of trying an Agile methodology was a hit, but we needed to fine tune our process a bit before we tried it again.

Our first step was to put together a template within SharePoint to help us gather and track the project information.   

Here it is.   

At the top there is a link to the Charter, which is just a Word document that captures things like:  

Scope, Business need, Goals, Product description, Assumptions, Constraints , Who’s on the team and their role, Issue, risk and change management, Test plan, Communication strategy, What does done look like

Below that is a list of the most recent documents in the document library (this is also where you will find a Microsoft timeline).

Below that is the project discussion section we used to capture meeting notes in (microblogging).

On the left hand side a link to the backlog:
Here is the information we were capturing in the backlog: 

Each backlog item has some key pieces of information which helps us put it into the right sprint and allows the developer to capture notes.

An Issues log.  As changes were made, and testing happened, if we ran into an issue we tracked it here.

Finally there is the test plan section that pulls the short description from the backlog item.

1 … 2… 3… go!

So with this in hand we started up our next Agile project, which was v.2 of our first Agile project.  There was one big difference with this project in that there was a constraint of  6 weeks to complete v.2 (which included a whole new section to the website, some code fixes, moving data to SharePoint to create a digital workflow with alerts).  And finally the killer … we had to use a QA representative to create a formal test plan.

We put together a small team.  3 expert users.  2 programmers (one php expert and one SharePoint expert). 1 QA rep.  1 PM/Scrum guy (me, it is funny how these mission critical projects keep landing in my lap).  

We started out with normal Agile methodology telling stories and breaking them down into backlog items (remember the backlog items are now in SharePoint).  Then we put together the timeline (keeping that must end by date in-mind).  Meetings were scheduled for the duration of the project which included Mon, Wed, Fri 15 minute status updates (what I did, what I’m going to do and a little show and tell) and one 1 hour meeting on Thursdays (short update, but more show and tell, workflow, reviewing requirements, reviewing documentation, expanding timeline tasks as needed).  

Again all of the meeting notes were captured within SharePoint discussion board and any changes to the requirements were also updated.

Part of our communication strategy was a short weekly update email (by me) sent to the executives (to calm their nerves about hitting the timeline).  Once we had a working prototype I included a short 5 minute video of the product in use (so they could really see we were making progress); this is a great example of using web 2.0 technologies to communicate the project status.

The project was a success!  We came in 2 days early and our client was happy with the results!  And yes, we did get cake!

Lessons learned. …

There were many email discussions about various parts of the product that were not tied back into the project site (it is possible within the SharePoint discussion boards to have an email address assigned to a project to capture project related email).

Timeline is still in Project.  For a project this small it wasn’t really an issue (20 tasks versus the normal 1000 I’m use to).

Small team of experts and many meetings was the key to the success of this project.  If we used waterfall methodology we would of blown by the “must end by date” before one line of code was written.

Project size.  Again this was a small project using experts who have coded similar products in the past.  This was key for the project to hit the end date or come in early.

Celebrating with the Team:

“The agile project management approach ensures constant communication and faster, transparent decision making.”  - Why Agile? And Why it is Not a Silver Bullet WHITE PAPER

Here is a nice overview of Agile: