Project management is mission critical

Project management is mission critical

Just like analysts, project managers, are to provide added value and will play a crucial role in the success or failure of a project. So when you use them you have to do it right. If not, you are adding a force multiplier to project failure. In other words you are committing self inflicted harm or sabotage.

Work, Workplace, Office, Computer, Desk, Laptop

Picture courtesy of Max Pixel – http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Computer-Work-Office-Laptop-Desk-Workplace-1515801

Say what?

The above might seem obvious. Project management is mission critical but very often project management is left to the run off in our labor pool. This gives the profession a bad name. Even worse, by association, it ruins the reputation of the people or organizations that hire or engage them. Body shopping shop and “rent a body” outfits benefit from the idea that project management is a thirteen in a dozen job that translates into overpriced meeting transcriptions and carbon fiber Outlook calendar “automation”. In reality the customer is of way better with a real good secretary and people who know how to organize a meeting.

Project management done wrong doesn’t add any value to the project. On top of that it causes expensive and annoying overhead where the death weight of the PM becomes a nuisance at best. Potentially it becomes a fatal burden.

The 3 critical skills of a project manager

People skills

People respond to you in a way that depends on you threat them. They are a mirror. If you step on them for your own agenda or to protect your billable hours it will be noted and never forgotten.

Diplomacy

Some people state that diplomacy is the fine art of telling people to go to hell and feel good about it. Well, maybe. There are two cases for diplomacy in project management when the situation or relationships are bad and cannot be fixed:

  • Neutralize saboteurs, idiots, bad politics and hidden agenda’s in the most eloquent and pleasant way possible in order not to jeopardize the final outcome of the project.
  • It’s what you do to keep the above occupied before you get rid of them if that’s an option. In that regards PMs are morphine. They make the bad elements believe things will be fine, to make sure it painless while they’re terminated.

A PM needs to fight and defend the people they work for. If you do not agree with the people you work with or cannot agree with them because they are wrong, you have to walk away. If not, you’re just there for the paycheck at the expense of others and the project.

Subject Matter Expertise

Don’t bother sending a PM that’s not a subject matter expert. It’s a waste of time, effort and money. If the PM doesn’t understand the area of expertise, can’t learn fast and doesn’t trust the team experts it will never work out. Perhaps even worse is that many times they don’t care and the subject matter is seen as the dough to be put through the generic project management cookie cutter.

It ruins moral to be led by an incompetent, uncaring PM that is unable to truly weigh the pros and cons to the benefit of the result. In such cases they are dead weight, holding back progress and ideas which results in a very predictable failure. You’ll see burn outs, depression or people who walk. in the end it all signals the same. They don’t want to or cannot deal with the crap anymore. Results do matter and in the end no one buys a journey or services. We pay for results.

Conclusion

Do it really well or cut the bullshit and get on without one, the results without a PM are always better than with a bad one. I know it’s a dog eat dog world out there and that’ just how things flow but when a dog comes to eat your lunch you don’t play victim to circumstances. You act or you perish. A quick search reveals many are having issues with project management instead of being helped by it. It doesn’t need to be that way.

I’m a Veeam Vanguard 2017

I’m a Veeam Vanguard 2017 I learned tonight

I came home tonight after a long day at work. The day was one of trying to solve some weird remote client issues, helping colleagues, supporting the devs, etc. There was also some fun whilst teaching some PowerShell skills to a colleague. It keeps them motivated and it also showed him future path were thing can and are going. Which reminds me of the good feeling being part of the Veeam Vanguard program gives me. Speaking of which …

What put a huge smile on my face tonight was an e-mail confirming I was invited to the  Veeam Vanguard program again in 2017. Excellent news! And yes I did accept. What did you think!?I’m a Veeam Vanguard 2017

Being a Veeam Vanguard

So yes, I’m a Veeam Vanguard 2017. The Veeam Vanguard program is to me is about sharing, learning and growing through interaction with some of the finest techies any company out there could ever hire. It is full of hard core, highly skilled and experienced technologists from around the globe. They range from intensively hands on types deep in the trenches to real architects & strategists.

These are people that elevate me, teach me, educate me and, every now and then, make me feel very humble due to the depth and breadth of their knowledge. While I have my strengths, I sometimes feel out of my league among them. But that’s OK. Not being the smartest guy in the room and group means I’m learning and advancing. It makes it interesting and the diversity in skills and technologies make for a better stronger group that can deal with wide variety of challenges.

Everybody contributes to help each other, customers and clients which is good for us, for everyone using Veeam products and for Veeam. Veeam builds great software, has stellar support and delivers the value I look for in an ISV.

So to Veeam, thank you for the trust in me, my skills and professional abilities to make me a Vanguard in 2017. I’m happy and proud to be one.

How tech debt happens

Introduction

While I plan our actions to improve or add new functionality I always refer back to my “map” on where we are, where we need to go. It helps me see the terrain, the problems, challenges, obstacles, opportunities, possibilities in the grand scheme of what I call in big words my strategy & doctrine. Sometimes it’s big in time, complexity or budget and sometimes it’s a small target of opportunity that has both immediate & long term benefits. On of those targets of opportunity is to make sure that every upgrade/migration of Hyper-V workloads lands on a generation 2 virtual machines running on Windows Server  2016 Hyper-V. Seemingly unimportant, yet … when you understand how tech debt happens you’ll see it does make a difference when done with a plan.

How tech debt happens

I have witnessed tens of millions wasted over the years by organizations that fell into every tech debt trap there is. Never forget that it’s not just bad because of failed goals and added costs but also due to being stuck and missing out on opportunities. It’s astonishing to see how bad it can become. Even at organizations that like to act and profile themselves at being modern, agile and in full digital transformation mode. Look, buzz words & glossy brochure like pictures on an “infomercial” website don’t make you the real deal. Yet while I spend many words on illustrating how tech debt happens, it’s easy to sum up.

How tech debt happens

Technical debt exists because people don’t realize what it is, how it materializes and how badly it effects the organization. And for the record, not every legacy is debt just like not all redundancy is bad.

Avoiding Tech Debt

So how do you avoid getting tech debt? Well by understanding you get  into it and doing something about it! The lack of process or understanding (even worse, I rather have no process but with understanding) to the real nature, causes and effects of technical debt. This leads to decisions void of any consideration of the implications. There’s a ton of individual reasons all across the board that will create tech debt.

Business pressure

One of them is “business” pressure, the need to be seen as in charge and get things done. This “can do” attitude is a killer of improvement and competence. It leads to an environment where what sucks can’t be pin pointed because people focus on showing how good they are instead of finding and fixing what’s broken. They have to or they cant constantly answer “Can do” to every request. In short a 100% can do culture will make you fail.

The results are many. let’s look at some of them. Having ITIL and a change board that is so ridiculously heavy in overhead because it’s the blind leading the blind and serves only to have the checkbox ticked. After some time the process is simplified and automated (send in docs that no one reads but it does lead to an approval e-mail) and over a longer period of time it’s ignored. This leads to a constant barrage of last minute specification changes without a clue as to their impact.

Scope creep & scope dumping

Scope creep: non-managed changes or perhaps better worded and more realistically, changes by people with no technical clue but a lot of pressure and a desire to please other people of server other needs. There’s also the opposite, scope dumping: Ill considered scope reduction by people who need to make deadlines or avoid complexity they don’t want to deal with, often under business pressure.

Integration is still important

Lack of integration is another. Yes we all know we need to reduce plumbing in IT but the reality is that good, necessary plumbing avoids a truck load of problems. If you want to avoid spending too much time keeping the lights on you’ll need to do good plumbing to avoid flooding.

Handing over the key to the kingdom

Relying too much on consulting, external advisors. Always ask your self who they work for and why. Follow the money. The money will lead you to the one paying and than you’ll find out their politics, plans and ambitions. If these are not yours, alarm bells should
Disdain for learning, testing, hands on work. Knowledge comes from understanding and that requires doing. Doing with understanding grows skills, insight an knowledge to be effective when needed. If I want to destroy a company I send in consultants and I make sure they hire the wrong employees. It’s a long term play against my enemies where they fall for the perceived short term benefits for them. When I see a CEO that makes tens of millions and year after year you see the company do down the drain you just know they are not worth the money and their presence makes no difference what so ever. You could have gotten those results way cheaper.

The right stuff

Lack of any real functional documentation and insights is also an issue. You need to have the elements to find out how things are done quickly. That doesn’t mean 100% perfect descriptions to the smalls detail. That’s just windows dressing. Quality trumps quantity. This goes for anything, processes, documentation and people. Beckwith was right when he said “I’d rather go down the river with 7 man than with a 100 shitheads”

Incompetence floats to the top

The lack of a good command & control structure due to not having competent management is also problematic along with a lack of skills, talent & knowledge. Yup, too many Peter principle people looking out for number one will catalyze all bad things. Put the right people in the right place. Hard to do when you think you can but actually can’t … or when power play and politics are way more important than effective results. This leads to lack of collaboration in an environment where everybody survives in isolation instead of thriving  by working together. The results are a lack of maintenance, updates, migrations, rebuilds to improve current and support future needs.

Own the problems

Which brings us to the lack of ownership. Here you’ll often see that a PO or PM only is responsible on paper and doesn’t have a clue about the service. They don’t care about it, let alone about the effects on some other business unit. The deficiency in business and technological leadership, leads to avoiding responsibility. Problems are just thrown over the wall and any issues that appear are just assigned to the “incompetence” of the staff.

Conclusion

Tech Debt has many reasons and that’s why it’s hard to avoid and fix. But it can be done. But you cannot buy your way out or outsource solving the problem.

Heading to the MVP Global Summit 2016

It’s that time of the year where I’ll be making my way to Redmond (Washington, USA) to attend the MVP Global Summit 2016.

image

It’s going to be and interesting one as after 2 years of Technical previews Windows Server 2016 went RTM  last September and is generally available. Our hardware partners are selected for best value and that means early and good support for new releases of Windows. Dell, Emulex, Intel and Mellanox delivered and that means we can already share our first real life experiences around the finished product with Microsoft.

We’ll also be talking shop about future directions and provide feedback on what we want to see happen and need. Next to Windows (which is so much more than “just” an operating system nowadays) we have a stake in SQL Server  2016 and Azure. Azure in all it’s offerings, SAAS, PAAS, IAAS – both public and hybrid use cases.

To do so we need to get there first so we’ll hop on a Boeing (hey I’m flying to Washington, kind has to be a Boeing right?) for long haul a flight to Redmond and go talk shop all week long from early dawn at breakfast to night caps in downtown Bellevue with friends and colleagues.

image

Next to pure technology we also talk about business challenges and opportunities. The best positioned organizations are the ones where the technical people have taken and been given the opportunity to lead. I know it’s scary for some managers that feel threatened by this but when the techies lead the IT side of the business the rest can can focus on the business and avoid the costly mistakes that I see so many make today. Most organizations have failed at getting business people up to speed on IT. I’ve seen a lot of successful organizations let technical people show how the business how to thrive in a mobile and cloud first world. It just makes sense to let your experienced and talented technical people take the lead. Don’t think for one second that they’re just janitors mopping the floor in an outdated server room when not busy handling the “other” facilities. Do that and you will fail painfully. Put away your politics, fears, long term gigantic projects and learn to let fast, inexpensive, simple, small technology solution rule in a federated world to maximize time to market, results and flexibility. If you don’t let go of centralized, long term, overly complex technology projects and old school enterprise solutions – where everything is held by back by everything else – you’ll fail, lose vast amounts of money and time. Don’t!