All Posts By

Juan Martinez

The 4-Step Approach To Building A Highly Effective Project Delivery Machine

By | How To, Project Management | No Comments

If you ask different people in different industries what is an effective project delivery organization, most likely you would get many different answers. An organization’s success drivers will determine what area of the project delivery organization gets the most attention.

It has been my experience working with large technology companies and valued-added-resellers that most organizations value and expect efficiency and cost-savings as the major deliverables of a project management office/team. These expectations can be mapped back to the 3 timeless tenets of project management: Scope, Time and Cost.

This is where the rubber meets the road, where you can separate amateurs from professionals—where a project manager can draw the line and show up as a mere coordinator or a professional project manager. Being able to align the project management methodology with the organizations strategic direction is a not a simple task and one that can definitely provide fruitful rewards for the brave souls that embark in its pursuit. The approach will depend on the type of organization and PMO size or lack thereof.

In the 10+ years managing projects of all sizes and different technologies and also by reading and sharing experiences with other PMs, these steps have allowed me to deliver projects successfully and effectively:

  1. Assess
  2. Plan
  3. Implement and adjust
  4. Repeat steps 1-3

These steps are the approach I employed when I join a new organization. I take a new assignment/job in order to project manage a new technology (not necessarily new technology in the market, but new technology for me) or to enhance the organization’s PMO.

In the assessment phase I sit down with the delivery team, services manager and executive sponsor. I dive into the organization and concentrate on two very important activities which are: 1) find out everything about the existing project management process and 2) start managing existing/new projects right away. This allows me to learn the culture of the organization and determine what is in place and what is missing. Individually I will review historical data/records to get a picture of what has worked and what has not.

Once sufficient data points have been collected and the company’s strategic plan is understood, it’s time to develop the enhancement plan. As most PMs know, we have to be sensitive to the words you use when joining a new organization. If you come across as the “fix-it-all expert”, expect resistance and lack of support for your plan in some cases.

My experience is that once the plan has been determined and drafted, it is best to start implementing it immediately. I want to be clear: it depends to a large extent on the type of organization you are in. In a large organization with an established PMO, executing the plan right away can be and most likely will be viewed negatively since you have to review it with the organization’s PMO for feedback. The best feedback I have experienced is the one that the field gives you. Sometimes I find that organizations have processes in place but they do not necessarily translate to using them to deliver projects.

Armed with feedback from implementation of the plan, it is time to make adjustments to the plan right away. What worked? What can be improved?

As you continuously repeat the process, you will start noticing that efficiency is improving. Efficiency in resource allocation and time frames are optimized. I found that this platform of constant process improvement portrays a sense of control and order that most of the customers I have worked with appreciate and expect. Once you reach this level of operation in your organization, in my experience, I have noticed that scope creep situations are dealt with head on and resolved professionally and justly with customers.

Photo credit: x-av via Flickr

juan martinez, IDS, Project Management, IT Project management, activity vs results, IT, PM, Integrated Data Storage, 2013

IT Project Management, Activity vs. Results

By | How To | No Comments

juan martinez, IDS, Project Management, IT Project management, activity vs results, IT, PM, Integrated Data Storage, 2013

With over 10 years of project management experience I have fallen into this trap multiple times. The trap of simply creating status reports with no new information, sending emails with no new results, or having status calls to review the same issues that have been dragged on for multiple days or weeks. Although status reports appear as progress, sometimes it is nothing more than busy work.

As a project manager, it is easy to be swallowed by this phenomenon of “busy work” to avoid having to deliver bad news to the customer, not face off with the unresponsive engineer, or to deal with the mindset of a micro-manager. I recall documenting activities just to cover my bases so when a project hits the wall and the situation is escalated to the highest levels of management, I would have tons of information to justify why it was not my fault. Even though I cover my bases, projects would still be in trouble.

As project managers, we have access to a wealth of important data. This key information helps provide honest feedback about our effectiveness and usefulness as project managers. Previously I found myself giving the excuse that I don’t have time to track important data such as project duration, resources involved, or customer profile details. Without this critical data, project management is like flying an airplane on auto-pilot where no feedback is provided to the controller. With no input to the autopilot, the risk and the probability of the plane landing in the wrong destination increases exponential. For our projects, this means tasks are late, out of budget, or out of scope.

From working on large multi-country programs to working in a regional firm managing several smaller projects in parallel, I have seen all aspects of IT project management. Each position offered a gold-mine of opportunities to assess my effectiveness as a project manager and in return, these opportunities materialize in the form of metrics about specific projects that I’ve overseen.

Every time I took a results based mindset, the respect for the PM profession grew within the company. Performing the activity of providing status reports without facts is decent for some time, especially if it is presented with flashy dashboards and presentations. But eventually, this approach will simply become another attachment that will not be opened when it hits a client’s inbox.

Don’t get me wrong, activity is a good thing. Activities focused around results through status reports, emails and status calls are effective as long as the data is 100% fact-based and accurate. You get your facts by tracking metrics on all your projects and by bench-marking against them. This will give you a historical trend that will allow you to optimize your resources, time, and money.

Once you start tracking results, you will bring added-value to the organization and that translates to owning your destiny as PM.

Photo by @CurveTo

Clear for Project Takeoff? The Importance of a Check List

By | How To, Uncategorized | No Comments

Like a Pilot before a flight, it’s critical a Project Manager have a check list before any data infrastructure project begins

project check list blog header 1200Over my 10 years as a Project Manager, one of the most important documents to have ready before we do the kick-off meeting with the customer is the check list. The list that I’m referring to is the pre-installation check list. In the technology world, whether I’m deploying a storage upgrade, networking upgrade or data migration project, there is a check list of items that must be in place before the installation crew travels to the site.

I have a friend who is a pilot for a large commercial airline and he tells me that before every flight he runs through a check list with the co-pilot. The check list is a spectrum from very basic checks to very important items crucial to the flight’s integrity. Same list for the same type of plane every time. One check list exists and must be reviewed for landing as well.

Similarly for project management, lessons learned and experiences earned provides us with the information to generate our own check lists for specific projects. It is our job to make sure that we review the check list with the stakeholders to assure integrity (on time, on budget and on scope) of the project. This basic exercise has saved me many times from having engineers travel internationally and not having the site ready (power, space, cabling etc.)—something, obviously, I want to avoid!

Another similarity to airline pilots is the constant communication the pilots maintain with the control tower. This is to check that the flight is on course per the determined destination. Similarly, we as PMs must have constant communication (status meetings, minutes, personal calls etc.) with the stakeholders to make sure we’re on course (scope and time).

<blockquote>It has been my experience that when basic project management steps are overlooked or not consider, the consequences down the road are very painful.</blockquote>

It is well known what the consequences are of a plane off course, the worst of which being a crash. Our project’s consequences are not nearly as drastic, thankfully, but we could end up with unsatisfied customers, projects delivered late, over budget and with poor quality.

It has been my experience that when basic project management steps are overlooked or not consider, the consequences down the road are very painful. Thus, check lists, along with constant communication, are necessary elements to increase the chances of delivering our projects on time, on budget and per scope.

Photo credit: atomicshark via Flickr