Monday, February 16, 2009

Single Input Window for Portfolio Management

For past 2 years, my search has been for a portfolio and resource management tool with least amount of dependency on hierarchy and least number of inputs.

In short, my ideal state of application is to maintain a single input window based on which meaningful results and custom inputs can be added if required.

MPP, Excel Sheet Templates and other open source applications, provide this feature. However, each ask you, as multiple project manager, to fill in details in multiple sheets. In MPP, you can roll up multiple projects to create a portfolio dashboard. So this means, you need to maintain project inputs for multiple projects seperately.

Similarly with other tools. They are all correct. But to manage a team till 45-50 people does not require the elaboration in these tools. I have seen the excel sheet system work for my VP with a team size of 150-180 people.

Hence I decided to explore it myself with Excel. Keeping fingers crossed to see how good the application can be for young, over worked project managers in my team and for myself to stay ahead in reporting review meetings.

Stay Tuned...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

That First Thing - pAIN!!

That First Thing is always a pAIN. pAIN starts everything!. The emotion to "cry" always associates with everything first. This starts right from our entry into the world. The happiness of doing anything first successfully also manifests in "cry" than laughter. In Pain, we do only cry!

1. Cleaning the Inbox: That First sorting out a data backlog is a pAIN. Post that phase the desire to see it that way, will sustain it in a happy setting. It is rewarding to see your inbox clean just as you wish a clean table, clean desk, clean house. Strongly Advised!

2. "Close the Work": This refers to Documentation and Training, which is continously ignored. It is not a batch activity. Doctors ensure the patients file is updated with their comments/ recommendations. Just because their case was successful, their job is not "closed" until the file is recorded, updated, shared and archived for future reference.

 In work, "Close the Work" to ensure that you hand off your work to others with documentation, test results, log files, training presentations. This is self-quality. No process adherence will teach you this. Remember, doing That First closure work is time consuming, pAINful.

3. Minimize Waste: A simple "finance rule" most self help blogs and finance management web portals advice - Get out of Debt. Stay out of credit cards. These are leakages and waste your hard earned money. Plugging loop holes is an idea to minimize waste. Stopping That First expense is a pAIN.

 In work, minimize waste by

    a.) Delegation: If you are not good at something, that some one else is available, Ask for help. Request to get the piece done. Doing everything, because you know it, is NOT good. That First Ask for Help is a pAIN.

    b.) Repeat Steps: It is not bad at all. Monotonous repetition enables you to specialize and finish your job on time without stress. The key is to find the repeatability of the work and ensure work gets done that way. It is then easier to bring in more people to complete the job. Urge to be best, makes you an adventurer, constant RnD person. Practicing That First systematic repeat steps, is a pAIN

    c.) Verify and Certify: For any work, documentation is key. Accounting people and CRM industry realize this well. Any expense or income is duly noted, verified, certified and circulated. All contact details and history record of relationships are keyed in, for enough statistical analysis. If you have a work, verify and certify yourself that it is good to be circulated. That First time to criticize your own hard work, scrap it and improve it is a pAIN.

4. Take a Break: Just "DELIVER" it: Bad times call for less work and no thinking. Things are bad, not because of you. They are bad, inspite of you. The effects are not controlled. Take a Break. Chill out. Do many things that occur as they come. Many conflicts might happen. Mistakes should occur. That First delivery, without support is a pAIN.

Every first thing you attempt is a pAIN. It is stretchful, not stressful. We need to cry for having taken to do it.

Attempt it three times and you will be happy to see the results.

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Storyboards and Questions

The major deliverable in e-Learning is storyboards. The name definitely has its roots in movie industry and is copied as best practice when CBT and WBT's evolved.

However, do we retain the same importance, format, effort, discussions when we create storyboards in e-Learning courses.

First - We have changed the way storyboards are created. The term "write storyboards" is more the order of day. Do storyboards get written in movie industry ?

Second - Shouldn't storyboard be crafted with sketches, final characters, objects ? It is conveniently replaced by ID's writing "graphic/animation description".

Third - Do Visual Designers work on storyboards or only use them for development using software ? In my company and my past experiences, no VD works on storyboard, but use the storyboard.

Result - Storyboard, which should be the main input source and pivot point, anchored baseline, falls as the first deliverable to just inform the progress to the customer ? How many times, honestly, have you worked directly from issue logs and customer/quality team comments without updating the storyboard ? What sanctity do we accord to storyboards then ?

Isn't this a classic case of "Copying the best practice, but removing the 'best' from the practice" ?

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How many projects can a PM handle?

My own data always told me for past couple of years that I cannot handle more than 2 projects at the same time.

Many of my ex-bosses in interest of optimization would assign me to projects in multiple phases.

However every time I get to 3 projects, I always found myself reaching my "break point."

Was wondering if it is really true.

Yesterday, I saw my colleague running 2 parellel projects. I realized through "Step back" the reasons my data was shouting loud at me and I have been egoistically ignoring them for a while.

A manager of small teams/groups, with processes evolving with customer requirements, there is human touch transactions that is very necessary. These take up time that keeping the big picture is a matter of self discipline than a corporate demand.

But this does not still answer the question of "Maxed out @ 3" data.

How many projects do you over see at a single time?

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