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  • Dean Waye 8:50 am on October 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bill O'Reilly, , Communication, Consulting, Education and Training, , , , , Project manager   

    Dear Customer, 6 Things Project Managers Don’t Tell You 

    Project Management Knowledge Areas

    NImage via Wikipedia

    (I wrote this 3 years ago(!), before moving back to technical presales.)

    1. I have fewer people than you think, and that’s good

    No matter how big or complex the project is, I never have enough people and that’s okay, because adding people leads to additional lines of communication, self-sorting into groups or specialties, and a tendency to shirk (someone else will do it). A small team has its own risks, but overall you can’t beat the esprit de corps, the sense of being needed, and the nimbleness.

    2. I use my project management tools sparingly

    In a perfect world, we would live inside a project plan, having deep discussions about Earned Value and Critical Paths. In reality, I use the tools of my trade less than I would like to, because the messiness of your world spills over into mine , and those tools don’t  keep up well. Instead, I use other means to manage my projects, especially…

    3. There is a reason you see me so often, even though I live far away

    I recently made my 400th onsite trip to a customer site. In 3 years. The team that actually works for me (in my industry, it’s software development) hardly ever sees me, and lives all over the world anyway. You see me so much, to you I’m local. It’s even possible that I know more people inside your company than you do. But forget the project plans and status reports (no, not really), my main job is to get the different parts of your company, and your other vendors, to work with me, to talk, and be reasonable.

    I once saw a show where someone discussed how to be treated well as a guest on the Bill O’Reilly show, and the simple answer was, go to his studio. If you attend via satellite, he’ll cut off your mic, etc., but sit across from him (or anyone) and the tone changes. Get people outside their email fortress, and real stuff happens.

    Making real stuff happen = project management.

    4. Project management is the worst job in the world, except for most of the others

    It’s thankless. It’s stressful. The hours are terrible, and the true hourly rate (annual salary divided by # of hours worked) is not as much as it should be. But for a certain type of person, the kind that doesn’t like to be comfortable for long, the kind that likes to struggle, it’s the best seat in the house. Especially if you’re the ‘Outside’ type in the next section…

    5. There are 2 types of project managers, and I am not the one you think I am

    Most project managers are ‘inside’ project managers. A smaller percentage are ‘outside’ PMs. Here’s the difference:

    Inside PM: The budget for the project is coming from the same company that issues your paycheck. That means, in her job, delivering within budget and on deadline are ultimately the definition of success.

    Outside PM: The budget for the project is coming from a customer, or other outside entity. So, ultimate success is some combination of making sure your own company makes a profit this time while making sure the customer is happy.

    See the difference?

    If you are an Outside PM, you know that customers can still be happy even if a project is late or goes over budget, as long as the final result’s perceived value is high (whereas an employer is NEVER happy when you go over budget).

    Read that above line again. Twice. But keep it between us.

    6. If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t be here

    Thanks in part to organizations like PMI.org, plus the international standardization of project manager credentials, and growth in IT globally, the number of unfilled positions for Project Managers with proven track records is still pretty good. PMs who consistently show a profit (or don’t lose money) have even better options.

    PMs are continuously recruited. We are here because we are interested in your company, or the project, or both.  So as far as customers go, you’re alright :-).

    Hey, I like you.

     
  • Dean Waye 5:21 pm on September 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: brian wansink, , Business and Finance, Business model, Cialdini, clay shirky, , , , Project manager, ,   

    Is Project Management Peaking? 

    Arthur Rudolph

    Image via Wikipedia

    After catching up on Brian’s progress, I started wondering if my own job was easy to outsource to the other side of the world, and decided it wasn’t. Well, it is, though not really. But I started doing a little thought experiment on what might make it obsolete altogether.

    The Thought Experiment: What could make most software project managers obsolete?

    Project managers, in the best cases, can add a lot of value. The best (paid) ones manage undertakings that are either:

    (1) complex, and would surely never happen without someone experienced in the challenges and tools to manage them

    (2) necessary, but hard to make a profit on, without someone who knows how to do that

    (3) fraught with risk, where the PM’s main contribution is to manage the project in a way that avoids loss or ‘failure’

    The above are general enough to suggest that PMs will always be with us. But can a case be made that 10 years from now, most won’t?

    There are a lot of project managers in the world today. There are nearly half a million PMP-certified ones, and most people in a project management role today are not PMP-certified.

    For #1 above, what if complexity gave way to smaller sized efforts? The inefficiency of communications between departments, teams, individuals, or countries yields once the complexity subsides.

    Likewise for #2 and #3, more and more software profits are based on services and other add-ons, where ‘regular’ managers with some project management knowledge could become the norm.

    #1 The March Toward Less Complexity

    These are the questions that are on my mind. Because I read a Wired magazine article a few weeks ago that showed how it is traffic from smartphone apps, not web surfing, that cellular networks are groaning under. And because of an article a few weeks ago about how more and more software development is being based on the iPhone/Android model of strictly defined frameworks (the smartphone/tablet operating systems) instead of more general frameworks like Windows, and that this is being done to protect users from malware as well as handset/tablet/iPad manufacturers from the general bugginess Windows users face. The same security model will, I think, become popular across all software, not just phones and tablets, and while it’s good overall, there are implications.

    Also, apps are less complex in general that other software. They tend to be single purpose, and the definition of a successful one isn’t that it does everything, but that it does something well that you find useful. As those companies (or more often individual coders) try to add in more features, they quickly run up against limits on the device itself. In most cases, they create additional apps, instead of bloating their latest success.

    What could this mean for high-end project managers? Maybe very little for the very best of them, because there will always be some complex projects needed, somewhere. Even if it is primarily to care for the current complex systems. After all, there are still people making a living with buggy whips.

    For the lower-end project managers, it might even be a boon, and these are often the types of location-independent project management jobs that can indeed be sent to a different country.

    But for those in the middle it could mean their ranks will be thinned out. As usual, the middle is the most dangerous place to be. Take out complexity, and you’re left with depending on inefficiency for your job’s value. Since much of the inefficiency is due to the size of the community or bureaucracy those PMs deal with, when it is reduced, so is their value.

    If I was in the middle right now, I’d make a 5 year plan to move up the value chain, move down (by relocating to a cheaper place), or move out.

    #2 The Project Manager Yields to the Profit Manager

    Making a profit is hard. Most project managers whom I know never have to think about doing it. Staying within budget, yes. Adding profit, no.

    Staying within budget is like being on the cost of side an enterprise, instead of the revenue side. In every enterprise, there are the people who focus on cost containment/reduction, and the ones who focus on revenue generation. Some management people have to do both, but generally it’s one or the other. The head of HR isn’t thinking about revenue creation, the head of Sales doesn’t care what paperclips cost. No matter who you are, you are one side of this split.

    If your interest, as a project manager, is on cost containment, then the (merely possible, granted) reduction in complexity as a general trend means this role is less necessary than before. Another reality of our modern life lately, the freemium, means the pressure to find additional ways to create a profit will grow.

    Personally, this is where I contribute most of my value as a project manager*, whichever company I am working for, and it’s tricky. At the last company I worked, I eventually had an entire system fashioned for myself, never shared**, that had me bringing in extra revenue for my employer amounting to 10x my salary. I have been sitting on the article I wrote about how to do it for a while now, because I am sure it would kill my career. It was 100% ethically conducted, but why even let the topic come up in conversation with a customer?

    #3 If I Wasn’t Here, You’d Be Screwed

    This where most of the project managers I know live. Their ultimate role is to manage or protect the project against loss, financial, time, or otherwise, by keeping things moving in the right direction. It’s hard work. It’s time consuming, maybe even life consuming. And it’s thankless. It really is a thankless job. But somebody’s got to do it.

    But what is that somebody isn’t you?

    What if the general trend really is toward smaller, less complex, inside tighter frameworks? Or what if the general business model is moving away from high priced services and toward offshore project managers where the first taste is free? If I lived in this space, I’d be the most concerned. Not only could the general trending be against my favor, but most of the project managers in my world are in the same boat, so there’s going to be price competition for the jobs I want. Price competition is bad.

    If either or both of #1 and #2 come true, depending on #3 for your value to the enterprise becomes risky. I could even argue that we see this already… how many project managers now run multiple smaller projects, where neither is big enough to justify their salary?  Specifically, how many of us have seen this become more common over the past few years? I know I have.

    Relax, Maybe I’m Wrong

    I could be completely off base, by the way. Maybe projects will become more complex. Maybe profits will become easier to create (okay, I’m being facetious about that one). Maybe the PM role won’t change much over the next decade.

    Maybe. But I still feel better having thought about the what-if.


    * Interesting note: percentage of project management job listings online that mention the word profit anywhere? Zero.

    (** If you are interested in the basics, you can contact me, but you can’t publish it anywhere. It’s a blending of lessons from this book, and this one, and this one. Oh, and what triggered this post’s creation was the first 3 chapters of “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky. It wasn’t new stuff, it just triggered the other memories. But maybe it would be new stuff to you…)

     
  • Dean Waye 1:20 am on August 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Certification, Education, , , , , Project Management Institute, Project Management Professional, Project manager   

    Dear PMI, I Just Thought of an Article You Will Never Publish 

    Project Management Institute

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear Project Management Institute,

    Thanks for the PMP certification. I have had mine since 2004, and it keeps me warm at night.

    However, I just had a funny thought… an article you will never publish in our monthly magazine: “The Project Manager Who Broke All Our Rules, and Won Big!”.

    Get it?… because you set the standards, so it would be weird to celebrate flouting them. Funny, right? No?

    Well, we can agree to disagree on this one.

     
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