Archive for November, 2010

Should Quality be a Variable

All Project Managers know that there are 3 things you should control on a project:  Scope, Schedule and Cost.  Recently I have found myself questioning other variables such as Quality as a mechanism to reduce the duration or cost of a project.  What are the consequences of varying the level of Quality when it comes to project deliverables and how do you decide which activities or deliverables should be sacrificed?

From an IT development perspective, there is a difference between sophisticated, well-designed code and sloppy code slapped together that is lucky to compile.  A developer that thinks through re-usability, portability, and maintenance does not do so without expending a certain amount of effort.

Personally, I have always believed that eventually the “price” of poorly designed, “it will do” code comes around whether through higher maintenance costs or poor performance.  However, I have heard others make an argument that depending on the business needs, sometimes quality can suffer to satisfy a goal related to making a particular budget or timeline.

What do you think?  Have you seen quality used as a variable to help a project stick to a budget or timeline?  How did it turn out for you?

November 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm 1 comment

Deferred Requirements – More Harm than Good?

I could use some input.  Many requirement management frameworks state that you should include out of scope and/or deferred requirements in your specifications.  While I understand the nature of this direction, I find myself wondering if it sets a false expectation.

On the positive side, capturing these requirements and referencing them in your documentation provides comfort to the stakeholder who provided them that their input was not ignored.  However, documenting these requirements does nothing actionable, which is why I struggle with the value of including them in the specification.  It does not guarantee that the requirements will be worked in a future project.  Unless someone facilitates turning those requirements into a corresponding project, we may find those same requirements still sitting in a document years later.

As an alternative, as a Business Analyst, I have typically taken any deferred requirements and worked with the stakeholder to determine if they truly warrant a project of them own.  If a business case can be made, I help them get the request submitted.  If the Business Analyst is not in the position to help with this step in the process, then it could end up being passed onto someone else, who fails to take action.  Either way, having requirements documented offers little assurance that the work will be done, in my opinion.

If you have experiences, positive or negative, in the handling of deferred or out-of-scope requirements, let me know your thoughts.

November 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm 6 comments

Why I Love Twitter

Every morning, I check my favorite Twitter streams to see what I missed the day before.  I love Twitter.  I know many people may think that nothing of value can be said in 140 characters but I find it as a great place to find new ideas, thought-provoking tidbits that can be easily consumed in minutes.  And you have access to millions of people and perspectives.  I saw a tweet the other morning that said that if you want to develop as a leader, you need to make sure you are reading something at all times.  For me and my schedule, Twitter gives me a great place to quickly review many thoughts and then decide which ones to invest more time in by following the author or reviewing links they have offered in a tweet.

This morning, I came across two tweets that had links to articles that I found interesting and relevant throughout my day.

@twailgum re-tweeted (RTd) a link to a blog from Peter Kretzman.  Peter’s blog is called CTO/CIO Perspectives.  The post that was shared was regarding the use of the term ASAP and the need to use it in a balanced, thoughtful way.  Great references and examples as well as a logical way to determine the best time to use the concept of ASAP.  Not an hour after reading this article, I was in a meeting discussing the balance of getting to market (ASAP) versus investing more time and making sure everything is 100% perfect before launch.

The other tweet was from @chrisbrogan.  Chris is pretty well-known in the world of Twitter and other social media channels.  He actually tweeted about a blog post from another person I follow on Twitter Alexandra Levit (@alevit).  Alexandra shared with us in her blog post about surrounding yourself with people who help you develop professionally.  Here’s how she stated it –

Being in such good company allowed me to learn at an accelerated pace, and it also enhanced my professional profile and reputation.

What a great thought to surround yourself with others who make you want to continue to learn and grow!  Ironically, I had a lunch appointment with some fascinating people.  The people I was dining with shared some of the stories of their various positions at companies in the past.  I found myself thinking all afternoon about what they shared and how I could apply my takeaways into my own professional situations.

I hope that if you have not checked out Twitter, you will take a few minutes to check out what it might be able to offer to you in your leadership-development journey.

November 11, 2010 at 7:23 pm 1 comment

Creative Tool

Just saw this great tool and wanted to share!

I’m a BIG fan of mind-maps for facilitating creative thought exploration. A fellow BA (@JenkoUK) tweeted about this tool (Prezi) in August. Prezi (www.prezi.com) lets you build a presentation that helps you lead the audience through your train of thought using phrases and/or pictures. It’s always good to keep tools like this in your toolbox as a BA!

If you have used this tool or end up using it, post a comment & let me know. And if you know of any other tools that BAs could find useful (and moderately inexpensive), post a comment so others can give them a try!

Enjoy!

November 3, 2010 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

Marketing Your Change

I have worked on many projects in my career.  Whether the effort was to deploy new system functionality or a new process to an organization, many were successful yet many were not.  A fundamental flaw, in my opinion, was related to acceptance.  Just like a new product launched into the marketplace, a new system or process has to be marketed in a similar way. 

Marketing is focused on 4 things – Product, Placement, Promotion, and Price.  As a Project Manager or Sponsor, we have to consider these areas of Marketing with as much effort as we work with our IT teams on a deployment plan.

Product – You have to help publicize how your new system or process will make the jobs of your stakeholders better.  Whether it helps to eliminate steps, reduce re-work — plan ahead and setup time to review the changes with the stakeholders.  As compared to just plopping it in front of them and expecting them to love it because someone from their organization provided some requirements.  Make your presentation or materials ALL ABOUT THEM – how it will help them directly. 

Placement – Normally for a new product, this is all about sales channels, placement in the channel (for instance, do you launch the product on an end-cap at the grocery store or a special display at the front of the store?).  For your system functionality or processes, you have to consider Placement in another way.  How do you get this in front of your stakeholders?  Do you launch a special website?  Do you host a launch location – setup a war-room for stakeholders to work from the first day?   Do you push the functionality to their desktops – front & center?  Taking the time to specifically determine the best way for your stakeholders to access the system/process will give them a better chance of happily & easily adopting it.

Promotion – okay, so when launching a new product, you can offer buy one, get one free.  Not so easy when it comes to system functionality or a new process.  Not many IT leaders would be willing to spend the money to give every business sponsor two apps for the price of one!  And two process changes at the same time – not what I would consider a bonus!  Instead, consider how you can work with your stakeholders to get “more bang for their buck”.  Could the new system functionality support another objective?  Perhaps there has been a desire to expand the use of the application you are modifying.  If you are going to have to train a group of users on the new functionality, perhaps you can train a new group of users along with the existing users at the same time.  When launching a new process, maybe you can find a way to share the process documentation with another group in the company who has a similar process.  If they decide to adopt aspects of your process, you might be able to find synergies in resource sharing or training.

Price – Again, unlike a product in a retail store, you cannot do competitive analysis to find out how others have priced their product and set yours accordingly.  Or can you?  If you choose to build new system functionality in-house, why not let stakeholders know how this solution ranks against functionality that was available for purchase.  And don’t just look at the initial costs – do a complete analysis of total cost of ownership.  Hardware, third-party software, maintenance, etc – the whole package from the start of the project through the first 5+ years.  For those stakeholders who want to do what is best for the company, help them see how this implementation (system or process) helps the bottom line!

Building a new system or process is not an easy task.  It takes a lot of work.  Doing everything possible to make sure that your effort is accepted with open arms by your stakeholders is worth it!  You only have one chance at a first impression!

Here are a few sites with some helpful articles regarding communicating about change.

http://humanresources.about.com/od/changemanagement/a/change_lessons2.htm

http://www.schulersolutions.com/change_management_communicatio.html

Marketing comes in many forms.  Communication plans, events, and many more.  In future posts, I will share a few methods that I have used.  Hopefully some of them will spark an idea for you!

November 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm 1 comment


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