Topic Teasers Vol. 7: Using Agile Hardware

Question: The software developers in my IT department are hardcore agileists. I maintain legacy systems and do operational work. Is there anything I need to know about the agile world that could affect my work with hardware?

A. Yes. Cloud computing is an agile practice and a major trend that will probably be discussed in your workplace soon. Learn about it so you don’t look dated and out of touch.

B. No. Agile is only for software developers at large shops like Google who need to support online retail sales and search engine banks.

C. Yes. All hardware purchase and installation projects should be converted to a Scrum process for the greatest impact and cohesion between teams.

D. No. The government has legislation pending to block agile practices as potential antitrust violations.

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5 Tough Integration Questions

There are a lot of misconceptions about software integration. The concept can be deep enough to evoke hundreds of questions specific to a company’s back-end systems. Here are five common questions that many sales reps dance around, possibly because of either shortcomings in their products or a lack of knowledge on how integration is really implemented.

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Topic Teasers Vol. 89: Chasing the Shifting Target

Question: I’ve just been asked to begin to document how my projects and those of three fellow project managers meet the company’s strategic objectives. That’s not really part of what I do at work right now, so I’m embarrassed to admit I understand the term, but have no idea how to prepare what management is expecting. To be honest, that seems a little fuzzy and I prefer to deal with facts and figures. What shall I do?

A. Strategic objectives are marketing magic created to convince stakeholders that an organization is doing well. They are not important to a project manager or a project team, and if assigned you should quickly refuse their care and maintenance. Otherwise, when the company reports do not look good, you will be blamed.

B. While many project managers are familiar with a company having strategic objectives, and even a lucky few are allowed to know what they are for the assigned projects, not many realize that tracking them is very much a numbers game that is well within the skill sets and abilities of most of us.

C. Only the sales team has access to the numbers you would need to create strategic objective reports for upper management. They can manipulate sales numbers to make them look good, so the VP of Sales should ask his staff to capture the data and create the reports.

D. While having strategic objectives sounds good, all that matters is that the project teams are creating the deliverables they are asked to construct or create in the Project Charter. Since you are not involved with choosing them, you cannot fairly be asked to track them throughout the organization as it will take time away from the project work that should be your focus.

Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

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Letting Go Of GMO

The U.S. appetite for food free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has gone from a growing fad to a trend. Sales of non-GMO-labeled products grew 28 percent in 2013 to about US$3 billion, according to market research firm Nielsen. The project teams tasked with shepherding these products to market must negotiate a tricky, time-consuming process of securing—and verifying—the right ingredients.

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Successful CRM Systems Start With a Customer Focused Philosophy

Organizations from different business sectors are using customer relationship management (CRM) systems to help boost sales and revenues. They may have mixed results in terms of their sales and revenues. Various aspects to help to ensure a successful CRM implementation are discussed in this article, taken from best practices and the author’s personal experiences in reviewing existing CRM applications and implementing new ones.

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Big Agile: It’s not just for small projects anymore

One stereotype for agile approaches is that they only work for small projects. However, it is different today. This article identifies how agile techniques are used as part of the day-to-day project operations of major organizations round the world and cites examples from,, and a Chinese telecom.

It lists some of the most popular techniques for scaling agile approaches beyond a single-team project, including these: get it right at the team level; firm the big picture and flex the details; and encourage a culture of organic coordination.

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Lessons From the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (Part 2)

In this ancient guide to project management, we learn that profiting from the past is a critical part of both project planning and risk management. It can bring to light the full socio-economic implications of actions, which ties to the project management realm of professional ethics and responsibility. What better way to learn all of this than through history’s greatest empire? In this second installment, we look at two crucial lessons derived from the empire’s sales tactic.

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Old World Out

In a drastic departure from a project management approach heavy on control and prediction, rolled out an in-house Agile development methodology in just three months. From resistance to breakthroughs, here’s a look at how they did it, with some lessons that other organizations can apply to their own transformation initiatives.

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Topic Teasers Vol. 85: Figuring COST, Not Cost

Question: We are in financial trouble. Even though my team carefully researches costs for new hardware and software with multiple vendors, somehow as time goes on the expenditures on each implementation always costs up to three or four times what we budgeted. Is it us?

A. You are being “taken” by sales people from your hardware vendors who are behaving like used car salesmen. They quote you a low price to get your management’s approval, but when it comes time to actually install you have to add on many necessary extras you really need that they never revealed.

B. It is probably you and your team if you are only figuring initial hardware costs in your project budget. The total cost of any new installation should be calculated both in immediate costs and in long-term costs over the life of the equipment, including non-tangible expenses. Only then can vendor offerings be fairly compared and evaluated.

C. Management should not expect project teams to be pricing hardware. This should be done exclusively by someone from the purchasing department. Your only role is to install whatever arrives on the dock. In this way, if the costs go up you and your team escape the blame.

D. Since recent costs for information technology (IT) items have quadrupled over the life of the equipment, you should multiply any future vendor contract pricing by four and alert accounting how much cash to have on hand in the immediate future. Always pick the lowest bid, as in today’s market all hardware is basically the same.

Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

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Salary Negotiations, It’s a New Day

The other day I had a candidate say the following words to me in response to my inquiry to their annual income,It is just like buying a car or that diamond ring and the salesman asks how much you would like to spend. Why would you divulge how much you currently earn so that the company can make an offer for as low as they think it will take to get you in the door? It doesn’t seem like a good idea at the car lot, and it definitely doesn’t sound like a good idea when you think about a salary that will affect your livelihood. I have to say, all I could state in response to this was You’re right!

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Mexico’s Superpower Status

With U.S. and Canadian vehicle sales heating up, Mexico’s automobile industry is shifting into overdrive. As the export-oriented sector produces record numbers of cars—more than 3 million units in 2014 and more than 4 million expected by 2016, according to PwC—many of the world’s major automakers are launching projects to meet demand.

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Topic Teasers Vol. 80: Compliance Without Power

Question: We recently developed new accounting software for internal use to create invoices. Due to interest in tracking benefits realization and also capturing customer reactions to evaluate our success, my project team has been asked to stay on and address any issues for six months. One of the sales representatives gives special discounts and terms but fails to enter them into the new system for billing, and the angry customers call my team. I’ve told his manager, but the behavior continues. It makes the process improvement statistics for our software look bad and is costing us money. What can I do?

A. If talking with the sales representative’s manager didn’t work, talk to the manager’s manager. This sales person should be fired.

B. Take the salesperson to lunch. See if there is anything bothering him. Try to help him solve any work-related or personal issues, so that he can focus more on entering the correct data for billing.

C. Alert the representative by e-mail when the invoices will be sent out for two months. Give him a deadline to enter any unique terms not covered by the default pricing tables in the software. Copy his manager.

D. Prepare a second training class on how to operate the new software and schedule all of the employees in the organization who use the software to attend. If one person isn’t using it correctly, perhaps there are more.

Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

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