IT is Backed Up – Forever

Consider this dilemma…  The IT department is backed up for six months.  It can’t take on any new projects for that time.  Not even a little 4 – 8 hour database installation.  With a log jam like that, they can’t get anything new in.

Management comes along with a new product evaluation.  Problem is, they need IT to set up a new SQL database so they can test the system.  Oops, can’t do it.  There’s a six month waiting list, and nobody get to the head of the line.

So, management can’t evaluate the product.  Even a product they desperately need.  IT has failed the company in a big way.  The frustrating thing is that most of those IT projects are probably lower priority, or impossible to complete.  Incompetence has allowed such projects to block real work.

The only real solution to an issue like this is “better generaling.”  I.e. better planners who know roadkill when they see it, and pitch it off the road so it can’t block the real projects.  That takes a smart person with a little experience.  Gain a skill like that (and a hundred others), and you suddenly become a valued member of the team.



IT Snow Days

eWeek did a little editorial on “IT Snow Days.”  (See link below.)  Anybody out there read eWeek?  It sure is collapsing slowly – down to 42 pages, and no more Spencer Katt.  The competitor InfoWorld went out about a year back.  Now, I suspect eWeek will follow.  I guess it’s pretty hard to get IT folks interested in industry news.  Anyway…  Here’s the article.


I liked the article because it sympathizes with IT managers who are being hit with economic snowstorms.  It’s really hard these days.  Mostly for me, it’s hard staying motivated when everything around me is crumbling.  Anybody feel that way?  There will be a few snow days to make up for when good times come again.  That’s for sure.



Don’t look like a spammer

Here’s a small piece of advice registering as a user on this (or any other blog).  Don’t look like a spammer.  Because your account will get deleted for sure.  We won’t even ask first.

What do I mean by that?  Make sure you provide a little personal information about yourself.  Nothing that will get you into trouble, but enough to let us know you’re a human being instead of a spambot.  Spammers attack the blogs regularly, trying to register with fake names so they can post “comments,” which are really just ads for crap.  Its a despicable practice, one that requires a complete lack of integrity and moral backbone.  But hey, if your in the spam biz, you don’t have those luxuries.


Building a Project’s Business Case

Forward-looking project managers realize that to avoid failure, they should build the business case for their projects by getting intimately knowledgeable about the reasons why sponsors approved their projects.

Too many projects get the axe because of the lack of business cases that justify their existence. When project sponsors begin to see projects only in terms of costs instead of potential rewards, there are higher chances that the projects would be canceled.

It is not the job of the project manager to build the business case. Ideally, project stakeholders and sponsors evaluate the business value and possible ROI from a project. If the project is seen in terms of generating income or reducing cost, the project will have the green light. This is the situation in the ideal world, but this scenario happens a lot less than one would like to believe.

Forward-looking project managers realize that to avoid failure, they should build the business case for their projects by getting intimately knowledgeable about the reasons why sponsors approved their projects. A project manager should work closely with clients, sponsors and other stakeholders, and ask the following questions:

What problems should the project address?

By interviewing project sponsors, the project manager can determine their goals and discuss the issues that the project would solve. In addition to project sponsors, the ones who are dealing with the issues at the workplace, perhaps on a daily basis, are a good source of ideas about the extent and many facets of the problem. Looking at day-to-day challenges from end-users’ point of view enables the project manager to get a better handle of the requirements of the project in terms of design and technical upgrades, as well as in terms of how it will solve end-user problems.

What are the strategic goals of the project?

Is it an easier system? Increased productivity? Better networking? Conversion to a marketable product? No matter what it the goals are, they must also come from and supported by the end-users.  At the end of the day, it will all boil down to the business value of the project. And by business value, it means cost reduction, better productivity, and the possibility of selling the product or service to the wider public.  Make sure that the goals are clear and the project’s objectives must reflect these goals.

What are the project’s basic requirements and what can end-users live without?

Aside from building the requirements based on the needs of its users, the project manager should also build the projects’ technical and design requirements and ask what bells and whistles it should have. The project may have a lot of feature that do not have business justifications, resulting in features that took too long to build.  Separating needs from fluff allows the project manager to formulate requirements, identify scope, and allocate resources that are important in creating a working version of the project. The quicker the iteration, the better the chances are of project survival.

What is the project’s ROI?

Even at the early stage of the project, it is possible to envision ballpark ROI figures. Because all projects incur costs, a project manager should have a fair idea of when investments will be recovered and generate positive cash flow.

By ExecutiveBrief
Technology Management Resource for Business Leaders

New Years Projects

I’m taking the first day back from vacation to survey my open projects.  I’ve got a video script to write.  And then the video recording, and producing.  The voice-over will occur later.  There’s a product update that includes nothing but maintenance bug fixes.  And a few web site updates.  That’s about all…

Things are really slow.  Reeeeeeeaaaly slow.  I’m guessing it’s that way everywhere.  Our corporate web site gets only half the visitors and one-third the downloads.  Good time to write a short blog.

But think about it…  This really is the best time to launch into some big architectural projects.  After all, nobody’s knocking the door down for product updates.  We have time to rethink things, and retool.  But who feels like doing that?  When nobody cares?

My point?  Economic slowdown has a debilitating effect on product development and project management.  Human beings are motivated by interactions with others, not pure technology.  Product purchases, evaluations, customer demands…  All those intangible things are wrapped up in our management choices.  They are what move us.