Archive for November, 2006

Don’t Make Me Think

dontmakemethinkAlthough this book isn’t new, it is an excellent read, and I recommend it to all our project managers who develop applications and have usability on their minds.  The book discusses user interface and user experience design, and how software applications and web sites have to keep things simple, name things what they are, reduce clicks, simplify navigation.  We at Tenrox used a lot of these concepts in redesigning the R9 user interface, and we intend to use even more of these principles in redesigning some of our frequently accessed features to make it faster for users to get things done: things like initiating new projects, creating new users, creating multiple client invoices, and other routine tasks.

The book is: Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
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PM by Email? I Doubt It.

In his blog "mind this," Lars Ploughman recently summarized a flurry of activity about a post he had made about email as a collaboration tool. His original post received a lot of attention from several industry contributors. Here is Lars Ploughman’s summary of the post and its feedback.

Ploughman’s "10-to-1 rule," which shows how 10 emails dwindle down to 1 possible action, does a very good job of showing the perils of using email to manage projects. Although much of the feedback to his original post is against email, and in favor of more collabortive tools, the reality of the workplace is that we do use email instead of collaborative tools. Email has become "good enough."

Additionally, the “management-by-email” syndrome is not limited to just projects. Many companies still use spreadsheets and emails to manage many of the processes in their business. Email is used to:

  • Get approvals for documents, changes or proposals
  • Check project status
  • Inquire about outstanding issues or previously submitted requests that went unanswered
  • Exchange various type of spreadsheets that contain budgets, plans, timesheets, expense reports, invoices, and project financials

It is amazing that any company would tolerate such lax controls in today’s world, where compliance and effective internal controls are such an imperative in every company’s operations. In a "manage-by-email-and-spreadsheet" environment, the opportunity is ripe for fraud and errors, lack of accountability and a culture of denial.

Extensive studies and research show the dangers of managing projects, people and financial processes using email and spreadsheets. We will bring more of this research to your attention in future posts.

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New Study Validates Process Controls

Here’s a frank and informative article in the latest CIO magazine about the differences between high-performing IT organizations and the rest: the bottom line is better controls, and real consequences for unauthorized changes within a project.

The article is here:
CIO Magazine, "Are You In Control? Innovation demands discipline as much as it requires freedom." by Michael Schrage. November 15, 2006.

The article takes some very nice stats from a report by the IT Process Institute (buy the full report here). They amount to resounding support for the workflow-driven approach:

The findings quantified distinctions between IT shops that live for the average and the few that take process leadership seriously. Elite IT performers weren’t just two or three times better than median performers—they were seven or eight times better. High performers—roughly 13 percent of the 98 sampled—contributed on average eight times more projects, four and a half times more applications and software, four and a half times more IT services, and seven times more business IT changes. They implemented 14 more changes with half the failure rate.

And what separates these elite performers from the rest? Schrage explains in no uncertain terms:

Two controls towered over all others in impact and importance: Do you monitor systems for unauthorized changes? And are there defined consequences for intentional unauthorized changes? No ambiguity or nuance here. The key discriminator between the best and the rest was that elite performers rigorously monitored and punished unauthorized changes. They had situational awareness of change.

Schrage goes on to make some excellent comments about the value of control over change:

It’s not the work we’re supposed to do that undermines our productivity; it’s our black market economies of unauthorized changes—no matter how well intentioned or essential. We misunderstand the true enterprise costs of change.

As a firm believer in the value of process controls and well-managed workflows, I’m glad to see this validation come from the ITPI and CIO magazine.

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Upcoming Webinar

Tenrox will sponsor a great webinar with guest speaker Warren Treuhaft of MaineGeneral Health.
The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, November 21, 2006, 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific. Click here to register.

Warren will share MaineGeneral Health’s journey from realizing their business challenges to the evaluation and selection of a project management solution, the implementation process and expected return on investment.

Warren Treuhaft has over 2 decades of experience in the IT industry, successfully managing and technically leading, analyzing and developing both internal and commercially-based applications. Warren also serves as the President of the Project Management Institute’s Maine Chapter.

Join us to learn more about how and why MaineGeneral Health implemented Tenrox Project Workforce Management in their PMO.

Who Should Attend: Chief Financial Officers (CFO), Chief Technology Officers (CTO), Chief Operating Officers (COO), PMO Directors, Directors of IT, IT Managers and any other Executives involved in the management of internal projects and resources.

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Is PSA Dead?

For years the hot topic among service companies (and vendors trying to sell them software) was Professional Services Automation (PSA). Traditionally, PSA has focused primarily on managing billable work and teams. Yet, more service organizations are demanding a solution that can be used across their entire organizations to manage all internal, shared service and billable project work, expenses and processes. Unfortunately, PSA solutions are large, self-contained proprietary suites that do not easily interface with other systems such as project management, finance, payroll, human resources, or procurement. Companies are faced with having to “rip and replace” existing systems—basically forfeiting existing IT investments and acquired knowledge. More companies are looking for solutions that do not require this “rip and replace” approach.

As a result, single dimension PSA products are being replaced by workflow-driven Project Workforce Management software.

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The World is Flat

Thomas Friedman, the award-winning New York Times writer has written a great book entitled: “The World is Flat.” This book is part of the backdrop and rationalization as to why service organizations need Project Workforce Management Solutions. Here’s is part of a review from Publisher’s Weekly:

worldisflatexpanded1_1 “Before 9/11, New York Times columnist Friedman was best known as the author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, one of the major popular accounts of globalization and its discontents. Having devoted most of the last four years of his column to the latter as embodied by the Middle East, Friedman picks up where he left off, saving al-Qaeda et al. for the close. For Friedman, cheap, ubiquitous telecommunications have finally obliterated all impediments to international competition, and the dawning ‘flat world’ is a jungle pitting ‘lions’ and ‘gazelles,’ where ‘economic stability is not going to be a feature’ and ‘the weak will fall farther behind.’ Rugged, adaptable entrepreneurs, by contrast, will be empowered. The service sector (telemarketing, accounting, computer programming, engineering and scientific research, etc.), will be further outsourced to the English-spoken abroad; manufacturing, meanwhile, will continue to be off-shored to China. As anyone who reads his column knows, Friedman agrees with the transnational business executives who are his main sources that these developments are desirable and unstoppable, and that American workers should be preparing to ‘create value through leadership’ and ’sell personality.’ This is all familiar stuff by now, but the last 100 pages on the economic and political roots of global Islamism are filled with the kind of close reporting and intimate yet accessible analysis that have been hard to come by. Add in Friedman’s winning first-person interjections and masterful use of strategic wonksterisms, and this book should end up on the front seats of quite a few Lexuses and SUVs of all stripes.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)