Archive for the ‘ Manage up ’ Category

After 1st Systems Delivery … Just Doesn’t Fit

In the previous post, we reach our initial code delivery … the code & configuration worked, but there were gaps. It’s work & it’s close to what the client was looking for in the requirement … but as close as it can be, it just doesn’t with the external system, business process or results and missed some critical scenarios.

Even though the overall system work as clients needs it, there are some major functionality delivered that mismatch what the client had in mind. At this point, the client will realize the original requirement doesn’t fit some of the business scenario, the integration with the other system or what the business needs.

At this point either the project is restarted or requirement/specification redesigns are required for the various sections. In either case, a cycle of SDLC from requirement to validation of delivery is implemented in the form of a few large change request.

Requirement: Another joint application meeting is done to define the requirements & also define what is broken.

Specification: Defines specific conditions that was misaligned and apply the fundamental tweaks to systems functionality to fit what the client needs

Code Implementation: Revising the code while making functionality are not broken, also getting more clarification from clients.

Delivery Validation: Being more proficient, the client would quickly confirm the core changes are working to what business needs.

When the system just doesn’t fit business needs, some changes are needed. Although this phase of change is usually missed in project planning, because the project manager wouldn’t have account the requirements needs to be redone. Most would expect that period of code fix is needed, but not a redesign.

Since it needs a simplified instance of SDLC for system implementations, this means more work is needed and … pushes the project scope, cost & time to increase quite a bit.


Pain Free Client Relationship / Managing-Up

One of things that happened to me a few weeks before. Where I talked to another manager to discuss on some details that was missed much earlier on the project & the project manager was upset that this was discussed with the other manager … and it ended up in a conflict.

One of most relatable SXSW session I attended was “pain free design sign-off” by Paul Boag. Honestly, this was really about managing clients & which gave me another point of view.

This session was for web design, but it definitely apply for any IT solution implementation
Problem: All of us are too defensive on deliverable/solution/process we provide

Solution: Collaboration, Not Confrontation

The session showed us the nightmare scenario about how a IT project goes downhill when the client start to micro-managed your project & ending up with you & your client in fights & ending up no communication situation.
What the client is looking for:

– They wants re-assurance that he is making the right decision
– They feel in control of the process, since they end up living with the decision
– They needs to be confident on the result, allowing him to justify his sponsors & others
– They personally like the deliverable
6 Steps of Collaboration:

Let clients understand their role
– Make sure your clients are defining the problem & not suggesting the solution
(Since that’s what they hired you for)
– If clients are suggesting a solution, ask deeper questions to understand why they want that solution … hence defining the problems
Have a strong methodology/process
– Clients understand your process & the work being done
– Allow the client is reassure the decisions being made are educated & reasonable
Include the client early & often
– Don’t go away after you got the requirement
– Understanding the client & their preference
– Allow the client feel in control of defining the problem & shaping the result of the deliverable
Educate the client about decision being made
– Guide them the decision through educating them
– Give them confidence in you, your process & your deliverable
Ask specific feedback
– Not just ‘What do you think?’, such as ‘How does this meet your business objective’
– Let them understand why the deliverable meets their needs
Avoid say NO!
Not to make the decision for them & minimize conflicts
– Make sure you provide the reasons on parts of the design & let the client say yes
– Make sure you provide the consequences (cost & work) on adding for this & that
… Then, let the client say No

This way clients are more inclusive on decisions, when the deliverable arrives, clients are less likely to flip.

For any one that’s interested, here is the session:

Somethings are just not a decision for you to make … even though you know what’s is the best choice/solution; You need to bring it up with the client or manager & provide a case to allow them to make the right decision. After the session I realize that it was not that I provided a bad solution, but it was because I didn’t get the decision maker involved in the process.

Be collaborative, not confrontational.

My SXSWi Experience: Day 1

I’m at South by South West right now, my first conference I have every gone. There are definitely lots of things happen. Everyone owns something apple; 4/5 of the people are using iPhones & 3/4 of laptops are macs.

Between 2-6, I have gone to 6 sessions today, all the planned ones wasn’t that interesting. The one I had stumpled upon were really good:

The Happiness Project (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
– She talked the different approaches to happiness… must get her book/audiobook
– To have challenges & new things happen to you
– Sometimes the little thing helps, such as making your bed everyday (I am not doing that)
– Have a 1 sentence journal: it’s just so much easier to manage & in a few months, it will be massive & can be reflect on.
– Most of us naturally dwell on the bad stuff & it just make you feel worst & worst; so start by focusing on the good stuff

Eight ways to Deal with Bastards
(After running to 2 session happening at the same time, but found little value … I missed the first 30 minutes of this great session)
– How to work with/for/manage bastards?
– Should you pull other person’s weight if they are not performing
– When an argument heats up … leave
– If you are working under a bastard & they don’t know it, how to handle it? I don’t remember the exact answer, but essentially they said to define metrics with the boss & measure it; then they can see the result. Upon their reactions, then decide on your actions.

This is it for now. To remember the session, I will document the thing I pickup.

Really great podcast at Eight Ways to Deal with Bastards, the whole session was really good.

Getting over Bottlenecks: Perspectives & Priorities

When was the last time you got stuck at work/project, because it’s dependent on others’ part? That’s a bottleneck & it happens to many of us on a daily, if not hourly basis. It even get more frustrating when you find out no work has been done it while you are waiting so you can complete your part.

In IT projects many task rely on each other but I do find that some tasks get dropped until it’s too late & impact the project. To make sure important tasks doesn’t get stuck at a bottleneck, you will need to convince other the importance of the task in their perspective.

Everyone & each role has their own priorities. In order to get someone’s attention, you got to know what’s important to them.

Here are some role specific priorities:

  • Project Manager: On-Time
  • Developer: Making it work as per spec
  • Business/System Analyst: Make sure things doesn’t break
  • Database Admin: System performance & data integrity
  • IT/Project Coordinator: Clear Communication/minimize confusion

(Of course, these are not their only concerns; but it’s important to their role)

In the last post, I mention why project manager will concern about time > money in most scenarios. To get the project manager’s attention, you can focus on how your bottleneck would impact the project time, rather than just requesting to get it done.

Why would we need to do this, isn’t this part of their job?

Nowadays, most of us has a million things to do; as the day goes on, your request can get delay because:
– We/They don’t have enough time
– Other priority overrides
– We/They are juggling too many balls
… or any other reasons
In short, sometimes tasks does get dropped … that’s the reality. That’s why you sometimes need to explain from their point of view, so they will give it priority.

Like requesting for anything, the approach is as important as the ask; It will end up with a difference in results.

Follow-up: Making Sure it’s Done

Follow-up is a basic work skill not everyone has or will learn. When you work in IT for any mid-large company, you are guarantee to work with several layers between the developer and the business users. At this point, getting a task done get troublesome.

Example: Such as getting a developer access to the server.

The task takes at most 5 minutes, the approval & the process takes a dozen days … or forever. It’s not that we need it this second, but such request taking 2 weeks is unacceptable. Although the task/request might of been dropped somewhere within the business process. To make sure things like this doesn’t happen, you got to follow-up.

My Follow-up Tactics:
Sometimes you can’t assume things would just get done, so you got to follow-up.
At first you can give the benefit of the doubt, request gets done.

To make sure requests/tasks gets done, here are my step to follow-up:
1st Follow-up: The request can be left hanging around. This is to make sure the request is initiated.

2nd Follow-up: It’s on someone’s list, but priority is lower. Making sure the request has an estimate completion time, at this point you should give them time to work on the request (amongst other priority)

3rd Follow-up: It on someone’s list, but priority changes & the task get forgotten
At about 50-75% time has gone, double check if the completion is delayed or not.
The purpose of this is to make sure the request is in progress & not dropped due other requests; if it’s dropped, it will them give enough time to complete the task with minimal delay.

4th Follow-up: It needs more time, but no one was notified … this is the point where the project schedule gets delay.At this point, you are annoying the person … so you got to be tactful.

The 1st & 2nd follow-up is need for most cases, in order to make sure the task is clarify with a specified end-time.

I usually won’t use the full tactics if it’s someone I had never worked with before; This method is used only if the colleague is unmotivated or they have too many different priorities … That’s why you follow-up with them & let them set an their end-date.