Thursday, November 28, 2013

In the Spirit of Giving Thanks…Several Things for Which Business Analysts are Grateful

So, let’s be real here…The list of things for which we have to be thankful is endless.  Furthermore, there are a number of items on this list (like life, health, family, freedom, and so forth) that precede the particulars of our profession.  In this season (and dare I say in any season), however, we should give thanks in all areas of our lives.  Accordingly, here are just a few things for which business analysis practitioners can be grateful. 

1.       A more solidified discipline - Thanks in large part to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), business analysis practitioners now reap the benefits of a defined (and commonly agreed upon) discipline.  This more solidified discipline facilitates many of the other items on the list.  Thank you IIBA (and all supporting business analysis practitioners) for helping to move our profession forward!

2.       Companies that understand the value of business analysis – Even well-seasoned practitioners face certain obstacles in organizations where there is no fundamental understanding (and support) of the business analysis discipline.  While the seasoned practitioner may find ways to overcome these obstacles, it is truly a pleasure to work with organizations who do understand business analysis and the value it can bring. Thank you organizations (profit and non-profit alike) who understand and support our discipline!

3.       Business stakeholders who want to be involved - Of course it is part of the practitioner’s responsibility to find ways to engage stakeholders.  However, it sure is nice to work with stakeholders who are not only passionate about what they do, but are motivated to give the input necessary to help us help them.   Thank you passionate stakeholders!

4.       Collaborative teams – Although a skilled practitioner may find a way to get the job done in spite of a team not working well together, it is far better to work in a collaborative environment.  Recall a previous article called “Marshmallow, Spaghetti Sticks and String…Oh My! How to Encourage BA and PM Collaboration.”  The article recapped some of the keys to collaboration between business analysis and project management practitioners, as originally shared by Paula Bell in her interactive conference session “Let’s Collaborate Not Tolerate…”  Although the session (and subsequent article) focused on the BA and PM relationship, collaboration with others on the team is also very important.  Thank you collaborative team members!

5.       The opportunity to learn and grow as a professional - It may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when business analysis training (as we now know it) was scarce.   Now, there are numerous courses, webinars, conferences and more to help all levels of practitioners - from the neophyte who is trying to grasp the basics to the seasoned professional who desires to explore more advanced concepts and techniques.  Thank you training providers for supporting us in continually improving!

These are just a few of the things for which business analysis practitioners can be thankful.  Certainly this list could be longer.  So, as a practitioner, for what things are you thankful?  In the spirit of the season, feel free to share items from your list here in the comments.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Blogger, Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The History of Project Management

If project management is defined as the act of assembling people to systematically achieve a shared goal, then it has existed for many many years. Despite new method developments and technology changes over time, project management has kept its core goal intact: to deliver successful projects in a clear and effective way.

The video below, produced by the Association for Project Management's (APM), celebrates four amazing decades of the project management profession. Narrated by APM president Dr Martin Barnes CBE, this short film takes you on a journey through the most significant projects over the last forty years and showcases how integral project management was to their success

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Agile Project Management: 3 Steps to Better Spring Planning & Execution

Traditional project management involves very disciplined planning and control methods. With this approach, distinct project life cycle phases are easily recognizable. Tasks are completed one after another in an orderly sequence, requiring a significant part of the project to be planned up front. This type of project management assumes that events affecting the project are predictable and that tools and activities are well understood. But as we all know, this is not always the reality.

Today, business processes are more complex and interconnected than ever before. Additionally, they reject traditional organizational structures and involve complex communities comprised of alliances with strategic suppliers, outsourcing vendors, networks of customers, partnerships and even competitors. Through these alliances, organizations are able to address the pressures of unprecedented change, global competition, time-to-market compression, rapidly changing technologies at every turn.

This is why teams often turn to agile project management – a fast and flexible process that rides on the principles of change, uncertainty and making realistic estimates. agile project management is emerging in the industry as it is a highly iterative and incremental process, where developers and project stakeholders actively work together to understand the domain, identify what needs to be built, and prioritize functionality. This approach consists of many rapid iterative planning and development cycles, allowing a project team to constantly evaluate the evolving product and obtain immediate feedback from users or stakeholders. The team learns and improves the product, as well as their working methods, from each successive cycle.

Here are three steps to produce a successful sprint-length project, from the planning process to final execution:

3 Steps to Better Agile Project Management – An infographic by the team at LiquidPlanner

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Get Ready for Enterprise Project Management

Many high-growth organizations find themselves outgrowing their existing project management practice and tools. With a growing portfolio, project information becomes more and more scattered pushing the capacity of resources beyond their limits. The project management leader inherits the responsibility of project delivery without the appropriate tools in place to deliver the desired results demanded from their stakeholders. So, these organizations arrive at a fork in the road and are faced with the decision to either scaling back their project intake to align with their current capabilities or change their approach by adopting an Enterprise Project Management (EPM) system.

For project-centric organizations looking to incorporate an EPM strategy in their practice, it is recommended to adopt an approach in which the organization as a whole is plugged into the improved ways of tracking, accessing and sharing project information. EPM takes a holistic approach to managing all projects with great consideration given to their impact on the people, processes and corporate objectives. The idea is to develop a project management environment where projects are treated as a group of interrelated goals that are linked to a single group of people with finite availability and talent.

EPM focuses on a single project’s success within the context of other competing projects and resources, which means the focus on successful scheduling, planning, execution and delivery must consider the success of all projects impacting an organization. At the core of EPM, project-centric organizations need to implement a holistic approach of managing projects within the context of all the activities performed. So, a successful EPM strategy includes enterprise wide buy-in, inclusive processes and a far reaching EPM platform to deliver the 360 degree view across the organizations. The goal of EPM should be to transform your project management practice into a formalized process with a well-defined framework and best practices guidelines.

Many organizations are too late in discovering they are ready for EPM. Like many businesses, initially project management is a means to an end to either deliver what was sold to customers or to deliver the infrastructure to keep up with a growing business. In a typical reactive mode, those “running” the projects realize that they cannot keep up with the pace and are faced with the reality that a change to their processes need to mature in order to deliver the quality results that customers demand.  Although recognizing their growth and taking this first step toward a more mature practice, technology is only one piece of the EPM puzzle.

In order to take a more proactive approach to streamlining your project management practice, consider a EPM Readiness checklist, according to The Project Management Hut:

  • Does your organization have a growing portfolio of projects impacting the bottom line?

Do not wait until your project pipeline becomes unmanageable. If you are in a high growth industry where projects are central to your success, you should incorporate an EPM strategy earlier.
  • Does your project pipeline exceed the abilities of your current resources?

The moment your pipeline of projects is approaching your capacity of resources and EPM strategy needs to be considered. People are the cornerstone to successful projects and preparing your EPM resource plan before it becomes an issue can avoid future losses.
  • Do you leverage any industry best practices?

Getting ready for EPM means you need to build a project management best practices approach to delivering projects. Formalizing your approach builds the ideal culture for the success of EPM in the organization.
  • Do you have a formal process in place?

Establishing a formal process builds the structure to support an EPM strategy. A framework should engage the whole organization so that the holistic philosophy of EPM is setup for success.
  • Are your existing tools falling short?

The best indicator you need to look at EPM solutions is when your existing tools lag in delivering the information to hit project timelines and manage your distribution of work among resources.
  • Do you have executive buy-in for change?

With the introduction of any new EPM process or technology the change management question cannot be ignored. Including a change management component from the top down can mean the difference between the success and failure of EPM.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

20 Reasons Your Project Planning is Taking Too Long

"Project planning" is one of the most misunderstood terms in project management. It is a set of living documents that can be expected to change over the life of the project. Like a road map, it provides the direction for the project. And like the traveler, the project manager needs to set the course for the project. Just as a driver may encounter road works or new routes to the final destination, the project manager may need to correct the project course. 

These days, many organizations spending too much time in project planning. If you want to be agile, you need to deliver software. Planning helps get you there but it can also get in the way if you over do it. According to Founder and President of DAMICON Vin D’Amico, here are 20 ways to tell if your company is spending too much time planning the project, and not enough time delivering it.
  1. The business stakeholders are asking “Is the software done yet?” and you’re still planning.
  2. The requested delivery date for the software passes and you’re still planning.
  3. You spend more time in planning meetings than you do with your family.
  4. Every time you go to a planning meeting, you meet new people.
  5. You have to schedule meetings to plan the planning meetings.
  6. You call meetings but no one shows up any more.
  7. You’ve revised the planning documents at least 5 times.
  8. The planning documents are so complex you create a taxonomy to organize them
  9. The planning document set is so large you can’t use email to distribute it.
  10. Everyone answers “I’ll get back to you.” to information requests yet no one ever does.
  11. Writing the code is expected to take 4 weeks yet the planning has dragged on for 6.
  12. People assigned to work on the project are being re-assigned.
  13. Writing your risk management plan has become a project in itself.
  14. The name of the project has changed at least twice.
  15. Your email distribution list is so long you need Constant Contact to manage it.
  16. Every time you print your planning documents the printer runs out of toner.
  17. The same issues, discussions and debates occur over and over again.
  18. The development team spends more time playing video games than writing code.
  19. The business, tired of waiting, shows you prototype software they are developing on their own.
  20. You’ve been planning for so long that the original project goals are no longer valid.

You have likely witnessed at least one of these patterns in your projects. What’s the cure? D’Amico advises to just stop, test it, and deliver it already!

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