IT and Informatics Cooperation: A Lesson from Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneetches”

IT Informatics CooperationDo you remember the Dr. Seuss story “The Sneetches”? It starts with a four simple lines:

“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.”

But the stars did matter — to the Sneetches, at least. The story describes a cultural rift that emerged between the star-belly Sneetches and the plain belly Sneetches, and the arrival of a man with magical machines that could add or remove stars as needed, for a fee of course. The story is a parable for how damaging (and costly) it can be to a community when there are divisions between two groups of people – and how difficult it can be to mend those divisions.

So what, you ask, do Sneetches have to do with EMR implementations and healthcare Information Technology departments? Continue reading

5 Key Steps to Identifying User Requirements: A Lesson from Rosie the Dog

One of our recent Project Management Quotes of the Week was: “This is meant to fix a problem we don’t have.”  While in this case an application analyst was referring to a patch that needed to be applied to a server, IT projects are sometimes implemented without fully identifying user requirements.  In other words, they try to fix problems the users don’t have or, even worse, don’t fix problems the users do have.

Identifying User Requirements in IT ProjectsWe experienced this when we bought our dog, Rosie, a new dog bed.  She always hung her head off of her other one, and we assumed it was because the bed was too small.  But apparently hanging her head off the bed was an unknown user requirement. We tried to fix a problem she didn’t have.

How do you make sure that you’ve gathered the user requirements and help ensure that your IT project will be a success by meeting those requirements? Start by following these steps: Continue reading

“I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news: You are not a decision maker.”

Decision MakingIt’s one of the hard truths of life and projects: We can’t all be decision makers all of the time. And, even if we are one of the decision makers, we can’t all make all of the decisions all of the time. Some decisions get made for us.

Management and leadership courses often talk about being a great leader by “empowering” staff to make decisions. It’s a wonderful concept, no doubt about it. But it can also get out of hand quickly. If you’re in a leadership or management role, do you really want everyone involved in making every decision? Maybe not. Consensus can be a great thing, but it takes a lot of time to reach and if everyone is spending their time making decisions, who is going to actually implement those decisions? Continue reading

Seven Project Management Lessons from Football

Project Management Lessons from FootballFall.  It means cool crisp nights, the changing color of the leaves, and … FOOTBALL.  Football and projects are actually quite similar when you think about it.  Plays in football are like individual tasks, and a first down, or series of plays, like a summary task in a project plan. When your team scores a touchdown, they’ve achieved a milestone task, but haven’t won the game yet.

With the start of football season upon us, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the project management lessons we can learn from football:

1. Everyone knows what the goal is.  This may be obvious, but no football player goes into a game wondering why they are there and what they are doing.  Everyone on the team knows what the goal is.  Make sure everyone on your project team knows what the project is to accomplish and why it’s important.

2. Every project needs blockers to help reduce the risk of obstacles. Continue reading

Project Management Lessons from Christmas Carols

Now that Christmas is past, but we’re still within the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to evaluate the project management lessons we can learn from our favorite Christmas Carolerscarols.

Let’s start with the positive lessons and project successes we learn from Christmas carols:

1) Deck the Halls
Quantifiable, actionable tasks are listed. “Deck the halls with boughs of Holly…Troll the ancient Yuletide Carols…Strike the harp and join the chorus …..Follow me in merry measure …” The task list is clear and succinct, and in a specific order.

2) Deck the Halls (again)
Sufficient slack time is built into each task. There are plenty of “Fa la la la las” included in the project plan to ensure adequate time in the schedule. Resources should be able to complete decking the halls before they begin trolling the carols and striking the harps.

3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Initial planning is thorough and documented. Just like Santa Claus, a good project manager makes his (or her) list and checks it twice prior to beginning the implementation phase (delivery of presents).

4) Jingle Bells
Project requirements are well-defined. By the time the second verse ends, we have all the information needed to scope the project. We know how many horses will be needed (one), whether the sleigh will need a cover (no – it’s an open sleigh), and where we’re headed (over the fields).

Christmas carols also can illustrate some common project management pitfalls and mistakes:

1) The Twelve Days of Christmas
Resources are overallocated. Wrapping 364 gifts in 12 days is an unrealistic expectation, and puts the already narrow project timeline at risk.

2) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Failure to assess risks and plan for contingencies. Santa should have checked the weather report well in advance of Christmas Eve. And having a reindeer with a glowing nose as your contingency plan? Who does that?!?!

3) Frosty the Snowman
Inadequate resource planning. Frosty isn’t overallocated, he just plain doesn’t exist at the beginning of the project ….. er, song. Relying on a magic hat to create the resources needed for the successful completion of your project just isn’t realistic. Additionally, the resource is, at some point, going to melt.

Happy New Year from everyone at Trillium Professional Services!

7 Essential Skills for International Project Management

International Project ManagementYou’ve been hired as a project manager for an international project. The last few weeks have been spent coordinating with the client. After multiple Skype meetings, hundreds of emails, and fifteen versions of a budget, everything seems ready. Then you step off the plane in a new country and realize everything feels different.

Project management in your own country is difficult enough. Add in a new language and a cultural divide and things can get complicated. Below is a non-exhaustive list of seven skills I have learned to be essential when managing a cross-cultural project. Continue reading

9 Hi-tech Sites for the Low-tech Project Manager

When it comes to new technologies, it is nearly impossible to keep up. There are always new methodologies and software we should know about in order to stay relevant. It can get overwhelming. Luckily, there are several websites out there that can keep you in the loop. Here are 9 hi-tech sites with a wide variety of resources for the low-tech project manager:

1. Google alerts

This might be obvious for some, but Google alerts are a simple and effective way to keep you up to date on just about anything. If you wanted to know when new Project Management software comes out, Google alerts will send you an email allowing you to be among the first to know. This is an under-utilized feature of Google and will help you keep up with anything related to Project Management.

2. TechCrunch

According to their website, TechCrunch “is a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.” In other words, they know what’s happening in the tech world and really want to share their info. If you enter “project management” into the search bar in the top right corner, you will find the latest startups, software, and news relating to project management. Continue reading

“I Can’t be Overdrawn. I Still Have Checks Left”: Project Portfolio Management and Checkbooks

Project Portfolio Management“I can’t be overdrawn. I still have checks left.” We have all heard this before, or at least know the intended meaning. It’s a reference to overspending and not being careful with your finances. After all, if you have checks left to use, then there must be funds to back them up, right?

Wrong! Not knowing how much money is left in the checking account leads to overdrafts. So why do some people avoid looking at the balance of their bank account? Because they don’t want any bad news, which they know is waiting for them when they finally do look.

How does this apply to project portfolio management and further to a Project Management Office (PMO)? Continue reading

Five Rules of Engagement for Working with a Project Management Consulting Firm

If you’ve hired a consulting organization to provide project management services, it’s likely because your internal staff:

A. May not have the experience you want or need for the project to be successful
B. May not have the skills to manage the project
C. May not have the bandwidth for the project(s) you have in your portfolio
D. A little of all of the above

Rules of Engagement for working with IT Project Management FirmSince projects are often one-time occurrences, you might want a resource who has previous experience on one or more projects of a similar nature, and many times that means hiring a consultant. Or, perhaps you have the best team of technical resources around, but need the project management oversight to ensure the project stays on track and that communications and status are flowing through the appropriate channels. None of these reasons for hiring a consulting firm are bad ones. They are just the simple truths of business.

When you hire a consultant (whether us or another firm), there are a few basic, universal guidelines that we both need to honor: Continue reading

International Project Management: 3 Ways to Improve Your Relationships with Foreign Governments…And Maybe Domestic Ones Too.

International Project Management“Why not??” I yelled at the customs agent in the airport. “Sir, you don’t have the right paperwork to get in our country with all those cameras” he responded while distracted by the long line of arriving passengers behind me. “We do!” I replied, “We have a letter from a local organization asking us to run a digital arts program for children.” He looked at the line once more and flatly responded, “That’s not enough. You need a letter from the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Women and Children, and the Ministry of Education.” How were we to know that we needed letters from three different Ministries? And how were we supposed to get those letters?

The challenges of working with government bureaucracy are not new. Everything is globalized and many projects are expanding across borders. Governments around the world can be your best friend or greatest frustration. Bureaucracy does not have to be a roadblock. Here are 3 ways to improve your chances of building successful relationships with governments around the world. Continue reading