Friday, May 10, 2002
PRINCE2. Because I believe in the superiority of PRINCE2 over the PMI approach discussed in my last entry I want to provide a few links to educate readers who are not familiar with the UK standard for project management. As mentioned in my last entry, Linda and I reviewed a book titled Prince 2: A Practical Handbook in which we both discussed how PRINCE2 compares to the PMBOK.
In addition to the official source of PRINCE2 and the PRINCE2 user group given in the last entry, the following are resources which will reveal the inner workings of the method:The last resource has many interesting documents, including an excellent PRINCE2 Briefing Document available for free download, and a clear description of PRINCE2. You can also purchase Understanding PRINCE2 by Ken Bradley, which is one of the best books I've read on the subject.
A quick overview of PRINCE2 is shown in the following illustrations:You'll also find information about PRINCE2 on the old Project Management Newsletter page that we haven't updated in ages, but keep around because of the traffic it receives.
Thursday, May 09, 2002
Project Management: Getting a Handle on Learning How. This entry is going to be long because it's a culmination of answers to frequently asked questions about what should be a straightforward subject.
The Basics. Although we've addressed this topic in many previous entries there are a few basics. First, project management has three elements (PMBOK processes notwithstanding):
There are two internationally recognized approaches to project management:
- Planning - defining scope, developing work breakdown structures, analyzing activities, identifying risks, estimating costs and resources, and identifying stages.
- Scheduling - who does what when, ensuring that there are no resource conflicts, and assigning resources in the most efficient manner.
- Control - managing cost and schedule against the baselines (planned vs. actuals), resolving issues, managing identified and emergent risks, reporting status and managing quality, deliverable turnover and stage completions.
What Project Management Entails. I won't rehash it here because I wrote a fairly lengthly piece about project management in my Friday, February 22, 2002 entry here.
- The Project Management Institute's (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) that is described in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, which is the American National Standard classified as ANSI/PMI 99-001-2000. Linda and I both reviewed the PMBOK 2000 on Amazon. To an extent the 1996 version remains valid (it remains the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) standard 1490-1998).
- PRINCE2, which is the UK standard and, in my opinion, a more effective approach than what is set forth in the PMBOK. Two sources of PRINCE2 information are Official PRINCE2 page that is maintained by the British Government, and the PRINCE2 User Group. If you want a quick summary and to also see how PRINCE2 stacks up against the PMBOK read my and Linda's reviews of Prince 2: A Practical Handbook that we posted on Amazon on 29 and 30 June respectively. In the next few days I will write an entry that is focused solely on PRINCE2.
Resources. The best software and books on project management depend on the types of projects that you manage and your present level of expertise. If you're managing simple projects, such as relocations, upgrades and other common infrastructure projects, you'll find the approach set forth in Getting Started in Project Management by Paula K. Martin and Karen Tate. See Linda's 15 December 2001 or my 17 December 2001 review to see why we so highly recommend this book, especially to occasional project managers. It does not bog you down in unnecessary details or overly complicate project management. Your most effective tools are an Excel spreadsheet and checklists for those kinds of projects. One of the best project management programs for small, uncomplicated projects is CAN-PLAN, which was developed by William McMillan. The software is free, but is commercial quality.
If you're managing complex projects you'll definitely want to read Visualizing Project Management by Kevin Forsberg, Howard Cotterman and Hal Mooz. This is the book that Linda and I recommend to beginners and experienced project managers alike, and is, in our opinions, the best book ever written on the subject. See Linda's 16 March 2001 review (well worth reading) and my 7 December 2000 review for details. Our preferred tool is Project Control Panel, used in conjunction with SureTrak Project Manager. If you're managing complex projects that span the enterprise, or multiple projects, the best tool is Niku Workbench, formerly ABT Project Workbench, and part of a more comprehensive suite of enterprise-strength project and program management applications called Niku Portfolio Manager. This suite is used in IT departments of all of the top international companies and many of the top consulting firms, and is to IT project Management what Primavera's P3 is to the construction industry - the de facto standard.
If you are a seasoned project manager seeking advanced skills I recommend Total Project Control by Stephen A. Devaux. This book extends beyond control to encompass three important areas that begins with project selection, and adds to how projects are planned and scheduled. These areas are:
Governance and program management tools that the author introduces are powerful and ensure that project selection is based on profitability and business goals. While there is an entire body of knowledge on project selection techniques, what sets Mr. Devaux's approach apart is his tools are incorporated into the project management process as opposed to merely initiating it. The tools are:
- Set of tools and approach for governance and program management.
- Adds profitability as a dimension to project management.
- Proves that critical path method (CPM) is not an anachronistic technique - merely one that's misunderstood.
This book also has much to offer to anyone who has just been placed in charge of a program management office (PMO). One note: Devaux is given to hyperbole at times. He makes claims that traditional project management techniques, such as earned value project management are flawed, yet he bases his approach on them. Look beyond this because his approach is powerful and works in practice.
- [Devaux's] Index of Project Performance (DIPP), which is one of the most powerful project selection and prioritization techniques I've encountered. DIPP is especially applicable to product-based projects because it computes the cost of lost opportunity and the impact of being late to market. For internal projects it provides a clear link to business imperatives, which can bridge the gap between IT and the business.
- [Devaux's] Removed Activity Gage (DRAG). Overlook the fact that the author loves to name techniques after himself because this is an advanced technique that accurately computes the amount of time an activity adds to a project (or can save if the activity is removed). This technique is a powerful addition to the project manager's array of tools for schedule compression and resource management.
- Doubled Resource Estimated Duration (DRED) is a measure of resource elasticity; in other words, some activity cannot be shortened by adding resources and others can. DRED allows you to determine the best use of your resources.
- Cost of Leveling with Unresolved Bottlenecks (CLUB), which is another advanced technique for schedule management, and, used in conjunction with Resource Availability Drag (RAD) and DRAG, give credence to Devaux's argument that the critical path method is a powerful element of project management.
Software Project Management: A Unified Framework by Walker Royce is another source of advanced project management techniques, especially for software project management. If you aren't versed in advanced project management techniques this book will be overwhelming. More important you may pick up misleading information. However, if you are a battle-scared veteran of software development projects and have a full understanding of earned value project management, estimating techniques and development life cycles you'll learn much from this book.
The highlights are:
There is one glaring flaw in this book and an experienced project manager will quickly spot it: the proposed approach to basing work breakdown structures on project phases instead of the decomposition of the system to be delivered will not work. Using Royce's approach there is no clear way of integrating the work breakdown structure with the organizational breakdown structure. Using earned value techniques (which is well covered elsewhere in the book) Royce's approach will not align control accounts (sometimes called cost accounts), making his recommendations contrived and unworkable.
- A project life cycle and process framework that is [obviously] closely aligned to the Rational Unified Process (RUP), and can be fitted to any rapid development or iterative approach.
- An excellent tutorial on effective project controls, with an emphasis on earned value project management.
- In-depth coverage of estimating techniques, with a lot of material on the constructive cost model (CoCoMo), and current gaps in estimating techniques and to where the craft and science of estimating and software economics needs to evolve in the discussion of next-generation cost models. I especially like his distinction between the use of source lines of code metrics for size and function points for scale. There is middle ground.The treasure trove of metrics, including core project metrics, and the change metrics that are given in Appendix C.
This book is better suited for an architecture-centric approach to project management, which means that it's more applicable to product development instead of internal IT projects. See A Practical Guide to Feature-Driven Development for an approach that is better suited for internal projects. That said, I think that this is one of the best books on software project management and one that every seasoned PM should read.
There are two final books that are essential to organizations that are either project-driven or have program management offices:
- Strategic Planning for Project Management Using a Project Management Maturity Model by Harold Kerzner. Linda's 15 August 2001 review on Amazon says it all.
- Project Management Scorecard by Jack J. Phillips, Timothy W. Bothell and G. Lynne Snead. This book is ROI-focused and integrates the people and process elements of project management with a balanced scorecard approach. One of the authors, Jack J. Phillips, has extensive experience and a large published body of knowledge in the domains of HR, ROI and scorecard development. This book has his touch, and covers the essentials of a mature project organization, what to measure and how to measure it.
The approach is as follows:
The book also shows how to translate business metrics to dollar values, build a business case, and communicate status, based on the scorecard, to clients and stakeholders.
- reaction and satisfaction
- skill and knowledge churn during the project
- implementation and progress metrics throughout the project
- From the metrics capture:
- Identify both tangible and intangible benefits and apply them to an aggregate 'true cost'
Where Next? We have a number of resources about project management that you're welcome to use. Among the best are a special project management page, the old Project Management Newsletter that Linda and I used to publish, and a project management discussion forum that we established (but doesn't seem to attract much discussion). You should also surf through the other pages that we maintain via our main site. Nearly every one of the single-topic pages has some project management material.
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
Availability. Linda and I are now available for consulting assignments, either as a team or individually. Marcia Hopkins will be available in early June. A summary of our experience and qualifications is available on the TEAM Zarate-Tarrani page.
Temporary Absence. Kate Hartshorn will be conspicuously absent for an indefinite period while she is engaged elsewhere. Kate's contributions here were interesting and well-written, and will be sorely missed. I'm looking forward to her return as a constant and permanent addition.
Choices? I read an interesting article by Jason Brooks in the 6 May issue of eWeek titled OpenOffice.org: Serious Suite Alternative. It appears that Sun's StarOffice has an open source sibling called OpenOffice and it's growing into a serious alternative to Microsoft's Office suite of applications.
IT Audit and Security Resources. The following links lead to sites that make available a wealth of material on IT auditing, security, governance and related subjects:Compass America is another source of whitepapers that I've had bookmarked for a long time. The range of topics is wide and the papers will be appreciated by anyone who is interested in IT process improvement.
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
One often overlooked aspect of IT security and service delivery is the importance of facilities management. From an IT security point of view the physical security of facilities is as important as the logical security and administrative measures that are the heart of most security strategies. In the service delivery domain facilities play a large role in reliability, which in turn directly affects availability.
Linda's 19 March 2002 Amazon review of Enterprise Data Center Design and Methodology by Rob Snevely touched upon both aspects. A few years ago she and I wrote facilities management policies and procedures for a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) and we both wish this book had been available at the time.
Fortunately we did save our research notes, and equally fortunate is the fact that our next assignment together was developing a recovery management whitepaper, which tied many of the pieces together. Linda was the lead consultant for the whitepaper, but she and I jointly did a storyboard, which led to another idea that took the form of survival level objectives, which led to an unfinished idea called BASIS. Along the way we also became interested in reliability and maintainability and the related failure mode effects analysis techniques.
The Odyssey brought us back to facilities, and we have maintained an acute awareness of its importance. To that end there are two documents that will get you up to speed with the complexities, issues and factors associated with data center facilities management:
As you dig deeper into facilities management you'll encounter the acronym, RCDD, which stands for Registered Communications Distribution Designer. The RCDD certification program is sponsored and governed by BICSI, a not-for-profit telecommunications association that is internationally recognized. If you explore BICSI's site you'll find conference proceedings and presentations, a resource library and links to related sites. If you work in IT security, operations, business continuity planning or infrastructure the material on this site is valuable.
- Building a web site (also available in PDF format). This document covers logical and physical aspects of the data center and associated infrastructure.
- Data Center Planning Guide from Sun. This document covers the physical aspects and does into detail about site selection, building characteristics, power, environmental controls and other factors that need to be considered.
Monday, May 06, 2002
Sanity and Scaling Back. When I recommended Information Security Policies Made Easy in my 4 May entry someone asked me if I had lost my mind for recommending a $595.00 book. The answer is no, and if I did it's no problem because I have it backed up and stored in secure off-site storage. Seriously, the book will save a significant amount of time and will quickly pay for itself.
However, one can go broke saving money, especially if there are more important priorities that should be funded first. An alternative is to purchase a copy of Writing Information Security Policies by Scott Barman. This $34.99 USD book is a fraction of the price and will give you the information and approach that will assure well-written security policies. Of course you'll have to write them from scratch, but the book's accompanying web site contains a wealth of support material.
Another book that shows the big picture is Thomas R. Peltier's Information Security Policies, Procedures, and Standards: Guidelines for Effective Information Security Management. We've mentioned Mr. Peltier in earlier entries, and this book is one that every security professional should own.
I'll end on that note because I have a scheduled back-up to perform.
Princely Artifacts. I've discussed the UK project management standard called PRINCE2 in previous entries, and have a large number of PRINCE2 documents on my old Project Management Newsletter page. I've recently come across sample PRINCE2 foundation exam questions and the answers, and sample PRINCE2 practitioner exam questions and the answers that will be useful to anyone who is pursuing certification in PRINCE2. There are good reasons to do so if you're doing business or consulting internationally because PRINCE2 is recognized in countries where the Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional certification is given less weight. In addition I have a glossary of PRINCE2 terms that will prove useful. This Zip archive contains the MS Word glossaries in Arabic, Dutch, English, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish. Enjoy.