Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Project Managers and Client Types: The Conflator

Conflate means to merge or blow together two bodies or readings. So a conflator is someone who puts together separate pieces of information from different sources and creates an imaginary entity that he believes in.

This occurs time and time again with clients who have seen many product demonstrations from a number of suppliers and, in their minds eye, they merge all the good things they saw and believe that what they ultimately bought had all of these wonderful features. Ultimately they discover the reality of what they did buy and it’s guaranteed instant customer dissatisfaction, Also it’s an instant source of modification requests. Imagine you see the images of five famous movie stars, build an ideal composite image and then get to meet just one of them. Now you get the feeling that the conflator has.

In some cases, particularly in software purchases, it not completely the conflator’s fault . Software salesmen do mention possible future enhancements as if they are already in the code. They’re not lying, they’re salesmen.

Managing this type can only be done at the kick off meeting for the project. You must have all the key stakeholders in the meeting and you must ensure that they are made aware of what it is you are planning to deliver. Talk with all of them to check their understanding of what they think they’re getting. Nine times out of ten you’ll find someone who’s really enthusiastic about a particular function or feature that you find out is not available. That’s the time to speak up and fix the misunderstanding. Ignoring it hoping that it will go away is not prudent long term.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Project Managers: Costs and Benefits - a little and often

One of the issues that all project managers face is the need to justify the costs that our projects accrue as they moves through their various phases. In many traditional waterfall projects benefits are only realized when the project reaches the deployment stage. By which time the project sponsors eagerness for the product or function may have waned.

Costs are regularly tabulated and criticized whilst benefits become a mythical land of milk and honey. Like the old western wagon train plodding across the Great American plains the heat and flies are there every day whilst the vision of California or Oregon is a misty and far off apparition. Like the cool mountains that shimmer in the far distance.

Agile and lean development methods attempt to address this issue by seeking to deliver function and benefits in small but regular doses. Even if the full deployment comes no sooner than with waterfall at least the sponsor can point to demonstrable function that they can sell to their bosses and peers within the organization.

We tend to forget that our sponsors are themselves under scrutiny and also have to justify their decisions and compete for resources. So "a little and often" is a motto that all project managers should bear in mind when considering benefits.