Archive for November, 2011

Stakeholder Analyze for Project Managers

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There is a different level of engagement among stakeholders. Some are really involved because their stakes are high and their risks are greater, while some are more interested in being informed. Scrum has a small story to show the difference between a stakeholder you really need to focus on and one who is not as involved.

A pig and a chicken walk down the road. The chicken says to the pig, “should we start a restaurant together?”

The pig answers, “What a great idea! What should we call it?”

“We can call it Egg and Bacon”, says the chicken.

“Hmm, I will be really involved putting my ass in the pan, but you will not be as committed when you are just laying eggs!”, answers the pig.

This is the difference between stakeholders with stakes and stakeholders who don’t.

When starting a new project invent everyone that might have expectations on the project. Then you can organize them after their interest and power over the project. This gives you a clue of you will need to manage that specific stakeholder so that you put your energy on the right ones. This helps you see identify key people not just the one that sounds much.

 

Everyone who is affected by the project will have an opinion on how the project will affect them personally and their organization. Users want the best software and customers want it for free. Sales people want a unique product that creates a great business value for as many potential customers as possible. Suppliers want a larger share and your development team wants to use only state of the art tools and technologies.

 

Your responsibility as a software development manager is to make sure that the right thing gets done, in the right time and in the right way. To make this happen, understand the needs and strategies of the different stakeholders. The responsibility of the software development manager, therefore, is to make sure that everyone gets what they want. This makes him the middle man negotiating with all stakeholders. Your aim is to give everyone something – so they feel like a winner. I want to point out that making everyone happy to a certain extent is a key role of the software development manager.

 

The Process of Managing Stakeholders

If a project manager’s main concern is to get all stakeholders satisfied lets analyze the flow of the work. Stakeholders have interests in the project and communicate their expectations, when all expectations are recorded a prioritization can be made based on strategy and stakeholders power. Because you got limited resources you will not be able to do everything that everyone wants so you will need to make a lot of trade-offs in order to get everyone committed and satisfied. The worst thing you can do is not to be clear that all expectations will not be fulfilled

Many companies just record expectations and write down requirement but never sit down and really prioritize what is important and really drives business value; therefore, it is common for developers working on features that are more of a decorative art and good to have stuff than real business value. This is not the developers mistake is the business and project managers’ mistake, programmers might implement a function perfect. It’s quite common to make the wrong thing in the right way.

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Min Pensions was appointed to one of Sweden’s top 100 sites 2011 by IDG!

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Internetworld 100 bästa sajterna i Sverige 2011

Real glad to hear that IDG/Internetworld has appointed www.minpension.se to on of Sweden’s top 100 sites in 2011. Anders Lundströms the CEO of Min Pension i Sverige AB comments the appointment at Min Pensions blogg. For more information about the nominations and the top 100 sites look at Internetworld.


At point of Action and at point of Decision

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For me enterprise mobility is about enabling companies to get their strategic information at point of action and point of decision. People have become used with specialized context application in their personal life from there smart handheld devices. Now almost every knowledge based worker has a device that enables them to have internet wherever they are. People will expect to have the same important information about their work life as accessible as personal life information. This is of course a big challenge, there is many aspects like; Security, Integration, Infrastructure, Governance, Deployment, Maintainability and so on.  Over the next years we will see allot of change within the enterprise mobility area. Now the infrastructure and the devices have developed so that this is possible to do for the ordinary company. This will result in many intreresting solutions.


Enterprise mobility and point of action


The value of choise is only valueble if you are competent to handle the choices.

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Today my guest blog post on http://blogg.minpension.se/2011/11/08/vardet-av-valfrihet/ was published. I’m wrote about the value of freedom of choice is only valuable if you are competent to handle the choices. If you have more choices than you can handle you only becomes stressed out.


Pressure and Agility

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In a TV episode of the show Mythbuster, Adam and Jamie are investigating what can be done with duct tape. They build a rope bridge that is over 10 meters (30 feet) with duct tape, then they both walk over the bridge. They show that it’s possible to build a 10 meter (30 feet) rope bridge with just duct tape, thanks to its elasticity – it stretches when it’s weighed down.

But there is a difference between Adam and Jamie. Jamie is about 10 pounds heavier than Adam. When the duct tape reaches its maximum elasticity, vibrations start to interfere with the construction. It takes Jamie 5 times longer to climb the bridge than Adam because of the vibrations.

You’re wondering, how does this relate to software development?

When increasing pressure (and expectations) on a group to stretch to their maximum ability, the group needs to focus more on fending off all vibrations than on getting over the bridge. This slows down people. Plan-driven processes are harder to stretch because it isn’t as flexible.

But when working under high pressure, plan-driven processes can be a good thing. It’s when you don’t have clear lines or possibilities that generate much discussion. How far are we prepared to go this time? Can’t we make an exception this time? Can we squeeze that in?  This elasticity creates vibrations and the focus on the project isn’t as good. Negative vibrations become noise as we talked about earlier.  A more bureaucratic organization doesn’t stretch and therefore there is less noise under pressure.

Going back to Adam in Mythbuster, the conclusion is that he might use duct tape to build a bridge, but Jamie, who is 10 pounds heavier would gain if he builds it with rope that doesn’t stretch as much. Using the same argument, high pressure projects probably would gain if they were more bureaucratic, to help project members focus more. Being bureaucratic helps increase focus on a project and keep the speed up.  Too much pressure under uncertain circumstances, on the other hand, lowers the speed because you have to adapt to all vibrations.

A Small Anecdote from my Carrier

My team had plans for a big release in a couple of months.  Two days before the release,  some business managers were nervous about us closing down the system for too many hours. They had pressured another partner and convinced him about the need of the system’s availability and uptime.  So it didn’t look good that we were closing the system for 8 hours on primetime.

They started putting pressure on our development team by asking them to start earlier and finish deployment more quickly. We thought of a way to satisfy this demand.

We worked on a new plan, beginning with doing a full backup starting at 10 pm the day before and closing down the system at 6:00 am instead of 9:00 am. This lowered the planned downtime by 3 hours.

When the vice president started calling specific developers and maintenance personnel, they felt the pressure and focused more on the pressure than on the actual plan. When people felt pressured, quality suffered and the downtime became much longer then planned.

What did this all cost? Coming with an alternative plan took one day and five more people – longer time than if the original plan was executed. Hope it was worth the value of the relationship with our partner.

If you’re always flexible and preach the value of flexibility you could some day be pressured to go a little too far. Everyone probably would have gained if I only dared to stick to the original plan and not allowed a late change. Changing plans the night before actual battle is seldom a good idea.

Have you missed the Dubt tape hour on Mythbusters? Here is the episode MythBusters: Duct Tape Hour 2


Leadership vs Management

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Leadership is about understanding direction while management is administering the journey as efficiently as possible. A leader shows the way, develops long-term strategies and plans, and inspires others so they have a clear understanding on the project’s future success.

By informing others, the organization will have the ability to adapt in a self-directing way. Leadership is about pulling the organization towards the future. Management is more about short-term planning.

Complex organizations need managers to coordinate the work, so that the right priorities are established and reached. Managers push the organization towards goals on a daily basis. Leadership is about helping people to cope with change, while management is about helping people coping with complexity. Leaders set direction, mangers plan and budget. Leaders align people, managers organize and supervise staff. Leaders motivate managers’ control.

You can quickly see the important differences between leadership and management in this classic story. A group of workers is cutting their way through a jungle. The workers in the front will be cutting the undergrowth and cleaning it out. The potential managers will be behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding development programs and setting up work schedules. The potential leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation and yells “wrong jungle” (Covey, 1989).