The Agile Revolution

Linear thinking, prescriptive processes and standardized, unvarying practices are no match for today’s volatile product development environment–or any “exploratory” project, for that matter. As processes swing from anticipatory to adaptive, project management must change also. It must be geared to mobility, experimentation and speed. But first of all, it must be geared to business objectives.

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The Professional Services PMO

One manager’s clients asked him to assist with improving the effectiveness of their PMO. They made it clear that the office was only responsible for the professional services arm of the business–and they weren’t prepared to discuss extending the scope of the PMO to include the product development team. Read on for more on this unique situation…

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The PPM Promise

Why isn’t project portfolio management delivering on its promise in so many organizations, and what can be done about it? It starts with building a strong foundation of processes for idea generation, business case development, project review and selection. Here are guidelines for making it happen.

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Collaborative Effort

Collaborative technologies have been looming on the horizon for some time, and now with fresh impetus from Web 2.0 and other developments, they are playing a greater role in the planning and execution of various business initiatives. That’s because application development requires many entities to coordinate their activities and collaboration–whether virtual or otherwise–and has become a ubiquitous way of software development.

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Technology is the Answer! Now What Was the Question Again?

There is a plethora of choices out there and many companies are taking a hard look at newer Web service-based architectures and technologies to address deployment, performance and interoperability needs. However, many of these technology decisions are made well downstream from the business and, in some cases, downstream from application design and development. This minimizes their effectiveness and in many cases causes expensive IT initiatives to fail.

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Topic Teasers Vol. 60: Adding to Agile Proposals

Question: In our attempt to move to an agile-driven organization, management has asked my team to be involved with responding to a proposal that, if we get it, could provide an increase of 50% in our gross income this year. Since we’ve always complained that we weren’t consulted before contracts were signed, now the pressure is on for us to be very wise regarding what we add to the company’s submission. Are there any rules of proposal development for agile teams?

A. Yes. Just like rules for creating speeches can make the difference between wowing the crowd and expounding to a bored audience, learn the correct way to write proposals. Hint: It is better to win the business than look good and have a fancy document.

B. Yes. Many colleges and universities have degrees in contract writing. At least one person on the team should have at least 12 hours of formal education before you include the team’s ideas in the proposal. The good thing is that this training can also be used for PDUs.

C. No. Those who become skilled in contract negotiation and responding to proposals are housed in a special procurement department. They have eked out their skill sets through years on the job. While you can sit in on meetings, don’t risk looking foolish. Always defer to their ideas and decisions.

D. No. There is so much political intrigue and price fixing involved in Request for Proposals (RFP) or other versions of how organizations solicit bids that not much depends on the actual proposal submitted by your organization. See if anyone on your team knows anyone in the potential customer organization who could leverage the decision to your advantage.

Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

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Operational Requirements

On development projects, operational issues should be factored into the requirements or you could end up with a product that meets all the business requirements but is too costly to maintain and support in the real world. To avoid this, consider adding a seat at the table for operations to participate in the requirements gathering stage.

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Product Qualities Approach, Agile Style

Using product quality to deliver business value in agile development is vital. This article provides a how-to for progressive change agents interested in delivering products that generate measurable business value for their customers and stakeholders. You’ll learn how product qualities differ from functions, how to identify the right ones, measure them and use improvements to drive business results.

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Agile in Software Projects: Where Does it Fit? Where Doesn’t it? What about Hybrid Models?

Agile is being adopted by many organizations to support the business goals of quicker delivery and lesser costs. This article provides an insight into the scenarios where agile would be a best fit; explains certain situations in which agile might fail; and also highlights the advantages of other software development methodologies and the best projects these can be used for.

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Agile 2006 Roundup

Focused on delivering business value early in the project lifecycle through timely communication and response to requirements, agile development is one of the fastest growing trends in technology. More than 1,100 people attended Agile 2006 last month to learn the latest in agile techniques. Here are some show highlights.

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Topic Teasers Vol. 94: Clearing Confusing Priorities

Question: Whether I’m working on an agile or a waterfall project, we always get an overload of features or activities to complete. In theory, it sounds easy to prioritize them; but in practice, that’s where most of our projects bog down. Defining the order becomes a politely disguised free-for-all. At the end, while we may be able to set up the project, I’m still not convinced that we have made the best long-term choices for the company in our selection of which items we have elected to implement. Is there a fresh way to handle these decisions?

A. The manager or product owner who pays for the project always has the final vote. Even if you know he or she is missing important viewpoints, you should accept those decisions and work your hardest to make them deliverable. If it goes astray, it’s not your problem.

B. A business analysis tool, the Purpose Alignment Model, may be a fresh insight for your management and your team into which items on a Scrum Backlog or a project management plan should be prioritized and which should be done with a minimal amount of cost and effort. Try this fresh approach for a new view of your project work.

C. Rapid application development (RAD), which uses fourth-generation languages and frameworks such as low-code development web applications, is a technique one can use across all industries and on all types of projects. Get a clearer look about the value of each product feature by switching to RAD.

D. Some purposeful activities in modern corporations are not appropriate for project management techniques. Only governmental and not-for-profit entities can gain value by their use, since the need to get a profit or any return on investment is limited in these types of organizational structures.

Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

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The Requirements Question

So, who is the right person or group to decide requirements during systems development? Sounds like an easy question, but to get to the real answer, you need to look at your overall business strategy and the IT/Business relationship. The bottom line: This isn’t for amateurs, and for goodness’ sake, don’t try this at home.

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Complexity Measurement: A New, Comprehensive Metric for Project Management

If properly controlled and managed, complexity will become a critical factor for success in the development and implementation of projects. This paper describes how the complexity of any project can be measured. We will explain how, through its measurement, complexity can provide a significant contribution to management: First, as an early warning indicator that can forecast and forestall possible crises in time-sensitive situations; and, second, from a business intelligence point of view, allowing for identification of the main factors that generate or increase the level of complexity.

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Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities

Coal plants be gone. Power plant repurposing projects around the nation highlight the compelling case for redevelopment and use of cleaner energy. These projects also offer points of reference for policy makers, public managers, business leaders, and community stakeholders to retire power plants in their localities by fostering enterprises focused on clean energy. Industry analysts predict that environmental and economic factors, including new federal regulations, will lead to the retirement of dozens of aging coal-fired power plants in the coming decade. Many old generating plants occupy strategic locations in urban areas, often with access to valuable waterfront. These sites present tremendous opportunities for new civic and private uses such as riverfront housing, shops, and offices, as well as museums, parks, and other community amenities.

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Feds Lead the Way in Making Training Evaluations More Effective

U.S. government agencies are taking heed to the recommendations outlined in a 2009 ASTD report, The Value of Evaluation. In 2009, the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) published The Value of Evaluation: Making Training Evaluations More Effective, a report that revealed how well training evaluation was meeting organizations’ business needs. Responses to the 26 questions led to disturbing conclusions, particularly that “Only about one-quarter of respondents… agreed that their organization got a solid ‘bang for the buck’ from its training evaluation efforts,” the report states.

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We Have Arrived…

“Investment in learning and development remained steady through one of the most challenging business years in more than a decade.” Despite a challenging economic environment, more than $125.88 billion was spent on learning and development in 2009. While the use of social media has skyrocketed in the last 18 month…

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The Weary Middle

After a recent survey of 2,001 midlevel leaders worldwide, combined with additional contemporary data, Development Dimensions International (DDI) offers suggestions for organizations to prepare their midlevel talent to ensure business success in todays postrecession workplace. DDIs report, Put Your Money in the Middle, defines a midlevel le…

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One to Watch: Wasuthorn Harnnapachewin

As a senior consultant for one of the top three coaching firms in Thailand, Harnnapachewin has been involved in more than 150 human resource development projects. Her experience working with clients from a wide range of industries has given her unique insights into the talent development field. She is passionate about helping businesses achieve sustainable growth through more effective people development.

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World-Class CEOs Are Made, Not Born

(From Business Wire) — Experts devoted to the study of leadership point to character and competence cultivated over decades as precursors to success. RHR International, a leader in the field of senior executive performance, believes it is possible to accelerate this cultivation timeline as well as the development results. In part one (“Defining World-Class Performance Dimensions”) of a 2-part edition of its publication, Executive Insight, RHR International outlined the criteria that define world-class leadership performance in the Chief Executive position: Read more.

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Workers Agree: Company Culture Matters

(From Business Wire) — As many companies continue to focus on recession management strategies such as cutting costs and increasing operational efficiencies, Randstad’s latest Work Watch survey reveals company culture is a critical driver of business success. In fact, two thirds of working adults (66 percent) believe that company culture is very important to the success of their organizations. The survey also found that employees believe company culture has the greatest impact on employee morale (35 percent), followed by employee productivity (22 percent). Twenty-three percent of younger workers, ages 18 to 34, say it plays the biggest role in building job satisfaction. While company culture may be the secret weapon companies need to retain workers and increase productivity and morale, it has suffered during the past two years. According to survey respondents, 59 percent believe that recent economic events have had a negative impact on company culture. With layoffs, reduced benefits and wages, morale has suffered and many workers are feeling disengaged from their employers. “Companies that will perform well will nurture the factors that make their employees feel happier and engaged at work, more connected to overall results, and more motivated to make a strong contribution,” said Eileen Habelow, PhD., Randstad’s senior vice president of organizational development. “Going forward, companies can’t ignore culture. Rather, it should be addressed as a critical component of their overall business strategy.” Read more.

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Why is a Mobile Learning Strategy Important?

With mobile learning getting a lot of interest recently (roughly 50% of businesses surveyed say they have plans to implement some form of mobile learning in the foreseeable future), it’s becoming clear that many companies don’t have a plan to successfully create a sustainable, robust mobile learning strategy. This is evidenced by the quick jump from talking about goals and roadmaps to the proverbial “We need an app for that!” conclusion that is being reached in meetings and boardrooms across all industries and company sizes. This rush to deploy without proper planning is a big oversight and will ultimately make it difficult to understand if your mobile efforts are successful. A mobile learning strategy can help give your work grounding and a solid base on which you can build. This approach helps you bring mobile in where it will provide the biggest impact. A metered, reusable framework is far more useful than a scattershot approach. When apps are pumped out and then discarded it’s often because they didn’t perform as expected. These apps likely don’t fix the problems that were considered but not dealt with fully during the design phase. Perhaps the app shouldn’t have been built at all. Maybe its focus should have been narrower, or altogether different than what it turned out to be. A mobile learning strategy’s importance is not only limited to savings during the design and development of the applications that may be created. Real, actionable metrics can only be established for individual efforts when the bigger picture is considered. What will you measure? How will you know when you are successful? What sorts of changes are you able to and prepared to make when you start to get data back from your learners? The creation of a strategy will allow outside stakeholders to help weigh in on your anticipated mobile learning efforts to come, giving your work a much needed validation. The strategy’s strengths will help build support throughout your organization, creating trust between your partnering departments and content creators allowing them to create great work. The concerns that could arise about the focus of the efforts or how it fits in with or aligns with other work will already have been addressed. This proactive approach works with other facets of business planning, why would mobile learning be any different? Over the next few weeks, we’ll investigate topics related to this, covering the building blocks for a mobile learning strategy, the effects of creating one, what happens when you neglect to create one, and then finally how to get started on implementing your completed strategy. Come back and check