Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2009

Microsoft’s Release Candidate for Windows 7 is now available.  Is it time for corporate America to upgrade the thousands of PC’s within their companies?  Most of the larger companies I know chose not to upgrade to Vista.  The Vista OS simply was too problematic and did not have enough enhancements to make the upgrade worthwhile.  Besides, it took us 18 months to complete the Windows XP upgrade not long before.  Is Windows 7 different?  From what I have seen and read, the OS does seem to have fixed the obvious issues that Vista had.  Keep in mind that what everyone is testing is not Gold code yet, but it is pretty solid, which is a very good sign.  Any large organization that has an enterprise agreement with Microsoft probably has already paid for the licensing, but the impact of an upgrade is disruptive at the least.  Windows 7 has basically the same interface that Vista had, so there is a learning curve for employees, unless of course you assume that most employees have home computers, most of them running Vista by now.  If you make this assumption, then employee training is not a huge issue.  Companies could choose to run a mixed environment and just put Windows 7 on any new PC.  This model would allow a slow transition, of course we don’t know what compatibility issues may be introduced and your support teams would have to support and test everything on two operating systems.  I have a feeling that most companies will bite the bullet and upgrade, if for no other reason than to take advantage of the security improvements in Windows 7.  Only time will tell, but this could be a spotlight moment for Microsoft.

Read Full Post »

Hulu and The Walt Disney Company recently announced that Disney, through a subsidiary of ABC Enterprises Inc., has agreed to join NBC Universal, News Corporation and Providence Equity Partners as a joint venture partner and equity owner of Hulu.  This means that Disney now owns 27% of Hulu, the online video streaming web site.  Although Disney will act cautiously when posting traditional cable content to the site, it is the beginning of a very impactful change to the cable industry.  Now that Disney is part of the Hulu family, which includes ABC and ESPN, the content potential is enourmous.  Since Hulu’s business model is based on ads for revenue instead of a subscription cost, it means free content to consumers.  Right now, you don’t even have to register on the site unless you want to watch “R” rated programs.  There is also talk of a premium service offering on Hulu.  I am assuming this means watching the content without the adds, which are required today. I think we are a long way from the masses cancelling their cable service for online alternatives, but there are some that have already chosen that path.  Hulu, along with other alternatives like Apple TV, TV.com and YouTube, is very quickly making the options more viable.  The cable industry is offering intergrated services to add value, such as programming your Tivo with your cell phone or checking voicemail on your TV.  The question is, what will strike a chord with consumers?

Read Full Post »

Do you ever feel that many Executives do not fully understand what Project Managers do?  They think the Project Manager and the Resource Manager have the same skill set?  Granted, that some characteristics of these jobs do overlap.  Both require good communication skills, the ability to build relationships in the organization, and the know-how to get things done.  But there are also some very distinct differences.  Resource Managers, by definition, manage the resources directly.  The resources work for them and as their boss, control their day-to-day activities.  Project Managers must try to manage a body of work with resources that do not work for them and have no control over their priorities.  This brings us to another difference, priorities.  The Project Manager’s (PM) main objective is to get the scope of the project completed within the timeline expected without compromising quality.  This objective is very defined and becomes their number one priority.  The PM gets rewarded for moving fast and checking things off the list.  The Resource Manager’s (RM) objective is much different.  Since they often own the support of a product once it is implemented, this project adds work onto their already busy plate.  Some RM’s may even resist a projects progress because of this fact.  At the very least, they want to ensure that the product is stable and supportable.  After all, it is their team that will be up in the middle of the night supporting a problem application after the PM has moved onto another project.  The RM is motivated by quality and this project may not be a top priority because their priorities change daily.  They are also managing support problems and maintenance tasks.  So there you have it, the PM focusing on schedule, the RM focusing on quality.  The PM must drive things forward with a single purpose, plan for every possible risk, and methodically overcome obstacles as they arise.  The RM must juggle constant issues that arise, react to the changing direction of the products they support, and respond to staffing problems like turnover and sick time.  These are very different jobs that require different backgrounds and skill sets.  To lump them together is an insult to both.  All levels of an organization need to be educated as to the nature of Project Management and what the job entails.  Only then can they give the PM’s the support they need to be successful.

Read Full Post »

IBM recently announced the creation of a consulting services group that focuses on helping customers make better and faster business decisions, presumably using data to make decisions instead of instinct or “gut feel”.  This is not a new concept, although I do agree with the concept for the most part.  There are many business changes that can be made to save the company money and good metrics help you to realize those savings.  Things like reduced calls to a call center, call time reduction, and reduced truck rolls can easily be measured and improvements result in cost savings.  Using metrics to make decisions is just smart management and today’s data warehousing and CRM systems give us more and more data to analyze.  But let’s not forget the variable that never changes, the human factor.  Our employees, our customers, and our vendors are all human and because of that, there is an additional variable that is difficult to measure.  Things like customer satisfaction can be measured in surveys or sales volumes, but it is difficult to really know how loyal your customers are to your company.  Just because they are happy with their service, does not mean that they won’t jump to a competitor for the right promotion.  Can you really measure the overall satisfaction of employees?  Some employees are hesitant to be blunt  and you usually hear complaints from a few vocal employees, not the general population.  How about applying metrics to Project Management.  Sure, you can measure whether or not you met a deliverable date, but if the dates are renegotiated with a customer and the customer is happy with the change, how do you categorize that data point?  You missed the date, which is bad, but the customer is not upset about it, which is good.  My point is that some things in business can be easily measured and we should take advantage of that data.  Others are more difficult to measure and trying to shoe-horn a one-size-fits-all solution to all problems can be problem in itself.  Some things are best measured with experience.

Read Full Post »

Our company implemented Microsoft Project Server 2003 a few years ago and last year, upgraded to 2007.  The tool is well suited for managing projects, which is why the Project Client is the industry standard for PM’s.  The Project Server gives you a centralized view of all projects, essentially a Portfolio View.  It also gives you the ability to view most data through the Sharepoint interface without requiring the expensive client (for non-Project Managers).  In addition to these benefits, we targeted our biggest pain point, the problem of capacity management.   Assuming all your resources are in the system, the data for managing capacity already exists, there is just not a good way to manage from it.  To address this, we built some custom reports that pull data directly from the SQL Server database.  In these reports, we can view all tasks for a specific employee, overdue tasks, and a chart that displays the next six weeks of workload across all projects and resources.  To account for the non-project work that we were competing with, we created a maintenance and support project schedule to block time needed for these activities.  We also created an administration schedule to track folks that are out of the office for vacation and training.  Adding these schedules gave us the total picture of resource capacity.  The system works rather well.  The PM’s now meet weekly with all the Resource Managers weekly and we look at all resources over capacity and negotiate.  We also talk about overdue tasks and how to address them.  This method does require that all PM’s manage their plans daily to keep the data accurate, but the benefit to the organization has been tremendous.

Read Full Post »