The Project Management Institute is turning Agile

The Project Management Institute has recently made announcements about incorporating agility into its project management programs. Ken Schwaber, one of the founders of the agile project management concept, has welcomed the changes by the PMI in his recent blog post, Agility and PMI, stating that the PMI’s traditional predictive approach has experienced less than a 50% success rate (on time, on date, with the desired functionality) whereas the agile community has traditionally enjoyed a far higher success rates over time.

The question that I would ask regarding Ken’s success statements are – is Ken demonstrating his agile bias in his blog post by only considering software engineering projects and the successes that he has personally experienced over the years? How would an agile construction project work for the construction of a new bridge or a tall building that has never been built before? How would Ken manage a 100 million dollar software and infrastructure project in a truly agile manner with enough planning and financial reporting to keep the project sponsor(s) happy?

I don’t believe everything can be planned 100% upfront and expect that almost every project would experience some form of change, whether it be scope, cost or time. I am almost certain that a project such as the construction of the Burj Khalifa would have had numerous variations during the construction phase as the engineer’s uncovered issues during the construction of the world’s tallest building. So in my mind, change is expected, and the selected project management methodology should cater for it in an efficient and effective manner with predictable outcomes.

This leads me to my next point – what is the cost of change in a traditional well planned construction project? I would expect the cost of change to be significant considering all the upfront planning and estimation effort that has already been applied to the project which will need to be reviewed and re-estimated after the variation has been accepted. Are the change management processes in traditional project management frameworks too rigid and causing us to incur significant additional costs that are not required? If you believe they are, my question to you would be how to have a defined scope, light weight change management process, few defects, a known end point and accurate estimates of the final project cost for a construction project such as the Burj Khalifa?

I believe that the project management methodology and governance procedures for any project should be proportional to the size of the project. I believe that smaller projects that are run over a short period of time would be better suited to an agile approach. I also think that many projects would benefit from a hybrid approach bridging formal and agile methodologies. I don’t believe that the Burj Khalifa could have been built in a totally agile manner with just in time planning and iterative engineering on such a significant project.

After working in the industry for some years and discussing project management methodologies with a number of well-respected project managers in a variety of industries, the conversations often uncover agile aspects in many projects that have been managed using the PMBOK or PRINCE2 frameworks. I remember talking to the project manager of a construction project building a new multi storey building. The interesting part of this project was that at the time of constructing the foundations they were not aware of exactly how tall the building was going to be. They simply catered for the tallest option and continued with the construction of the foundations. Doesn’t that sound a little agile to you?

I am intrigued to see how the PMI puts this all together and hope that it will be something that we can all benefit from. I am particularly interested in how the planning, change and reporting processes are going to be handled and if given the opportunity, I will participate in the beta certifications.

 

Where to buy an iPad2 in Australia?

I thought I would be able to go down to the Apple store and buy an iPad2 – what a crazy thought!

If you are in Australian and want to purchase an iPad2, you need to “Reserve” an iPad2 through your local Apple store website and clicking on the “Reserve” link.

The websites are updated at 9PM (assuming local time) each night and you can only reserve from what will be available for pick up the following day, which is quite nice.

Automatically backup your WordPress site to Amazon S3

This morning I decided that I needed to review my backup strategy for this site. My current backup strategy is quite simple (and probably flawed) – I rely on the web hosting company to make regular backups and I periodically download a manual backup of this site to another machine, however neither of these options are really appealing or bulletproof.

I decided to have a look at the WordPress Plugin Directory to see what Plugins were available that would automatically manage my backups and one caught my eye – Automatic WordPress Backup. This Plugin backs up your content, creates a MySQL database dump and copies the uploads directory to your nominated Amazon S3 Storage bucket on a regular schedule. This option was appealing to me for a couple of reasons – the low cost of storage and the durability of the S3 service.

I installed the Plugin from my WordPress back office however the only catch was that the Plugin had a slightly different name in the list – it was known as “WP S3 Backups”.

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Once I  installed and activated the new Plugin, a new option became available under the “Settings” menu called “S3 Backup”. This is where you configure your Amazon S3 Bucket, backup options and schedule.

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Shortly after saving the configuration, the first backup automatically started running and my backup appeared in my Amazon S3 Storage account. There were two files that were uploaded, once that contained all the selected options in the image above and another that only contained my “Uploads” directory.

Another nice feature of this Plugin is that you can actually download recent backups from within your WordPress site.

Facebook has open-sourced its data centres

This morning I came across an interesting new website from Facebook, opencompute.org. The Open Compute Project is an initiative run by Facebook where they have ‘open sourced’ their data centre’s by publishing the details. The details include all aspects of the data centre, server technology and equipment used, and they have even included the actual CAD drawings that were used to build the data centre.

Facebook’s intention is to build more efficient data centre’s through collaboration with the entire industry.

We started a project at Facebook a little over a year ago with a pretty big goal: to build one of the most efficient computing infrastructures at the lowest possible cost.
We decided to honor our hacker roots and challenge convention by custom designing and building our software, servers and data centers from the ground up.

The result is a data center full of vanity free servers which is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art data centers1.

But we didn’t want to keep it all for ourselves. Instead, we decided to collaborate with the entire industry and create the Open Compute Project, to share these technologies as they evolve.

To find out more about this initiative, follow these links:

Google Page Speed Online

Google Page Speed has been released as an online tool under the Google Labs banner.
The website quotes Page Speed as:

What is Page Speed Online?
Page Speed Online analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates.

It is a handy tool to find out what Google things of your website performance, so why not try it out?

Leading a Software Development Team – Do’s and Don’ts

I recently came across an interesting blog and thought that it was quite true, so I reposted it below.

What to do

  • Do scale horizontally by creating more teams of about 7-9 people
  • Do have a vision for the product and team
  • Do appreciate that every team is different, so allocate projects appropriately
  • Do motivate your teams
  • Do allow people to move between teams
  • Do have sessions to discuss the product vision, strategy, technology and process
  • Do involve the team when determining the team/product name
  • Do allow your teams to make their own decisions especially if they are the ones with the expertise
  • Do involve your team on any decision that impacts how or what they work on
  • Do encourage a development methodology that matches the team and the project
  • Do pay attention to every individual’s personal development plan

What not to do

  • Don’t scale teams vertically by adding more people
  • Don’t create a team with more that 10 people
  • Don’t call people resources, its not cool and is really offensive
  • Don’t assume that people in teams are interchangeable
  • Don’t compare teams to each other when highlighting weaknesses
  • Don’t pitch teams against each other
  • Don’t create fake deadlines
  • Don’t force standardisation of tools and processes across teams
  • Don’t hire product managers who don’t have a clue about software development
  • Don’t exclusively use KPI’s to drive your teams
  • Don’t force your teams to work overtime, even asking is bound to create tension
  • Don’t assume that double the people equals half the time

I am going to update the list overtime with my experiences and things that I think may help you better manage your team.

What makes a successful project manager?

I was part of an online session this evening with Marco Cattaneo, and below are his thoughts on what makes a good (successful) project manager.

  • Second guesses them self – they re-evaluate their answers from time to time
  • Prevents overtime
  • Sees the bigger picture
  • Gets buy-in
  • Knows they do not know everything – not afraid to ask for support
  • Has an informal network – including mentors
  • Understands the art of asking questions

When I think about it, I think this list is pretty accurate, but I could probably expand on it one day!