Project Management as a Soft Skill?

From my last post on IT Soft Skills, someone asked:
 Why list project management as part of soft skills?

Like all soft skills, project management can’t just be learnt on an manual. It must be nurtured through experience to gain the skill sets.

The goal of project management is to balance between scope, time & cost.
In layman’s terms, project management is to complete a specified result on the time you set before the money runs out.

To do this, an project manager will need to:

• Communicate effectively
• Organize & coordinate activities
• Track & the progress of the plan & financials
• Negotiate with other about resource
• Analyze & manage risk
• Prioritization
• Lead & manage the team

Most of these would be classified as communication, interpersonal or leadership skills … all of which are classic soft skills.

Essentially a project manager needs a good set of soft skills for accomplish a successful project. That’s why even though the project manager don’t physically work on the project, they play a critical role in projects (Especially in IT).

It a good reminder that project management derived from a set of soft skill and the importance of gainings such skill.


Soft Skills to Help Information Technology Field

Even though IT is more technical than most departments, we still need to work well with others. There are a lot of soft skills required to be the best person for the job. Here are some that I found useful:

When meeting with business/users, IT many times need to tell how things work … you are more less educating the user

There is always something new added into the system that you don’t of; you will need to learn & adapt the changes & then code along with it.

Drawing Diagrams:
Drawing how data flows is much easier than saying if … then … except … else …

Separating Problems & Solutions:
Knowing the difference between the issue/problem your internal customer or clients
    – Problems lead to Requirement
    – Solutions lead to Specifications
If the user is providing the how the tables should manipulated … you’ve got a problem. (Pun)

Project Management:
A lot works in IT are project-esque, including adding a functionality, modifying reports(2 day project). IT can show business/management that plans & processes in place.

Task/Time Estimating:
Time estimation shouldn’t just be pure coding/configuring … remember you take time to check e-mail, bugs that comes out, look-up functions/data structure, SQLing, question that you are waiting for confirmation …. All of this is the time you need to complete the task. It might take 2 hours to do the code only if we exclude …, but that’s still time used that delays your work.

Patience is need when explaining a few times … others need time to understand, because they are not the expert, you are.

Tons of work rely on other tasks, you will need to follow-up; because something with higher priority always comes-up … if you just wait, you might be waiting forever.

These few items are just the tip of the iceberg, soft skills is way more than just talking & organizing; a lot of it is being considerate to the people in front of you.

What are some other non-technical skills needed to be better in IT?

Content Strategy FTW: New Focus – Soft Skills & IT

The “Content Strategy FTW” session really got me to really look at what’s missing for my blog. In essence, I want to show the the good, the bad & the ugly soft skills can impact IT & how to learn from it.

New Mission:
    “Soft Side of IT: Bettering Soft Skills in Information Technology

Honestly I’m not changing my content, instead by looking at the what, with what,
by whom, to whom, what next; I now know that what’s the intention for this blog.

I’m really looking forward to this focus & I hope you will too!

“Content is King”, Right?
How much time do you spend on it?
Is it just all about selling?

Content Strategy is important, Shouldn’t this be obvious for any website? why is it still bad? That’s what Kristina Halvorson spoke about at the Content Strategy FTW session.

Content Strategy, so what?

Who owns the Content?: Marketing? Corporate Communication? IT? Sales? … Who?
– Projects are focusing on wireframes & functionalities … content can be filled in later by a fresh-grad copywriter in a week. There is a huge gap in the industry where Content is an After-Thought … currently, it just web content is a mess.
Problem: Copywriting != Content strategy
– Content is not just about the What … but it’s also about the
What, Why, How, When, Where, Whom, By whom, how often, What next.
– Content-side needs to be involved from the start (at least, much early than now)
Example of Focusing manage content: (Sell, Sell, SELL – Session used former
– Just list prices & just pushing to sell, sell, sell? (Obviously done by sales)
– The content would then link to a list of prices & packages … It’s just a digital salesman … that’s not really content that help (How can we help)
– Shows readers why are they there? Showing rather than listing benefits?
– Audience matters
Developing content strategically:

Audit: Figure out what your corporate site/personal blog/tweets are about & know why people are looking at it
Ask: What, Why, How, For whom, By whom, With what, When, Where, How often & What next
Analyze: Review values & quality of content & how your audience absorb content?
Align: The strategy & process in content creation … create, deliver, govern (repeat…)
Assume Responsibility: As you put content online, you are publisher … so take care of your content

Content is why they are coming to the site, not because you design is cool …

I will add a link to the podcast when the session is added on
In the meantime, here is the ustream session from the audience:

Here is an 40 minute interview (Start 13 minutes in) by Kristina Halvorson

Oh yeah, if you want more details …. she has a book called “Content Strategy for the Web

NOTE: I still have lots of learnings from SXSW, so I will continue to bring some of those notes on to the blog (if applicable)

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.

Lessons Learned – Days after SXSW interactive

It’s been a few few day since SXSWi, I’m still buzzing on from the energy & amazing ideas from it. Honestly, I forgot how much can happen one day to the next.
I found myself keep on changing everyday to fully experience SXSW.

Day 1: Lost … Wow
Day 2: Making notes & Just taking it in
Day 3: Participate & meet the person next to me
Day 4: Walk up & meet the panelist
Day 5: Interact on the hallway

By the end, I have decided to commit into the world of social media

General Lessons Learned from the trip:

  • Try & try again to find your passion, you probably won’t find it in 1-2 shots
  • Time is short, if something is not worth it, then leave
  • Take action into your own hand
  • If you are having second thoughts, kick that thought out & just do it (otherwise you are wasting your own time)
  • Put you time in social media & network with similar interest, don’t do it half ass-ish
  • Read up on people you want to meet, so there’s something to talk about when you meet them
  • Be inclusive

Got to Apply the lessons learned, otherwise the trip = wasted.
Here are my To Do:

My blog need to be rework for better content strategy

– I’m going to find a way to apply the Content Strategy session
– There is still a lot of notes, I don’t know how I will publish it … I guess that will depend on what kind of strategy to use.

Participate in social media & reach out:

– Participate in sites with similar interest
– Try podcasting
– Check out the Toronto social media community

Every other person either are personality in Social media or working at a startup.
My target is to be a worth participant at SXSWi next year !

My SXSWi Experience: Day 4 & 5

Day 4 & 5 was just as great of a learning experience as day 3 or any days before at SXSWi.
Day 4 Sessions:

  • Gary Vaynerchuk Presentation: be authentic, own your brand, don’t waist other people’s time, find your passion & work your ass off on it. I know we heard it before, but he is the prove that it works (Above was from session)
  • Result Oriented Work-Environment: A new work culture where time is not important, only measure results. No gossip/sludge about people not doing their 9-5, as long as you are getting results + meetings would be optional
  • Gen Y Want to Work ‘With’ You, Not ‘For’ You: Most Gen Y is looking for empowerment, not entitlement & every generations has bad lemons, find out if you need to fire them or is it just a bad fit.
  • Passionate People – Key to Success: Figure out your passion & find people who have similar interest & share/build your community

Day 5 in the Hallway:

  • How to Keep Your Blog from Sucking from Josh Holmes: Be consistent, Act professional online & Don’t bad mouth others
  • Alexandra Levit’s Advice: Put yourself out there & work hard at being persistent (for free if you need to), that’s how she got to continue to be a author of multiple book & joining Wall Street Journal.

The last 2 days at SXSW interactive was just as great as before, I got to:
– Meet a session speaker who is a fellow person from Toronto, Meghan Warby … found out there is a social media community in Toronto.
– Meet Ryan Paugh from Brazen Careerist and talked about the site’s growth (a gen Y career networking site)
– Talk to Cali Ressler, author of the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it, about what happens when new management enters into the ROWE environment
– Experience Gary Vaynerchuk talk live, the whole exhibit hall was filled with energy … pure awesomeness. GaryVee also shaked everyone’s hand when we enter the exhibition hall (Me include), it was very humbling
– Had dinner with people we meet on the street from SXSW (surprisingly mostly canadians)
– Got recognized (that’s a first for me) 2 times from the day 3 previous session as the guy that participated in the design workshop; Once at hotel shuttle to SXSW on Day 4 and the other when boarding the plane on Day 5.
– Have a one-to-one presentation with Microsoft blogger, Josh Holmes, on blogging etiquettes
My last memorable event was a walk & talk with Alexandra Levit, where we talked about how she got started to be a successful author & also recognized me from commenting at her blog.

Thank You Austin & SXSW interactive!
The sessions & the experience surpass any expectation I had. My goal is to be a worthy attendee for SXSWi2011.

Thank you to everyone being so friendly at SXSWi2010!

My SXSWi Experience: Day 3

The last 2 day I was there, but very passively listening & only talked to 2-4 people.

Today was my real first day at sxsw & I got 2 free books (1 real, 1 pdf)
– Talk to Dan Roam & personally thank him … he also a signed copy of the Back of the Napkin
– Start conversation with a dozen people .. which lead to me to a free book (Engage)
– Went to the podium for 3 minutes at session to 300 & talked about how to market an idea that started from a toilet making waffle
– Actively Participated in answers & questions at the funemployed un-session
– I left my laptop at a session (ran back 5 minutes later & thank god that people at sxsw are nice & no one grabbed it
– I left all my note for the last 2 day in another (I found out 2 hours later), I got a free ebook – Fans, friends & followers. Plus, we got to check out OK Go videos,
– Saw Michel Condry – director of my favorite film ESOTSM
– Saw an awesome megatron-scarface shirt that I need to get for myself & 2 other people

Oh yeah, here are the sessions I went to:

  • Exploiting Chaos: How to build a successful product when your business is falling apart.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Why words won’t work: Vivid Thinking → Merging word-think, visual thinking to communicate in stories
  • Your Design Process is Killing You: How play pushes the next level of innovation
  • Fans, Friends & Followers: 20th vs 21st century audience
  • Funemployed: an un-session where everybody in the room just share their experiences → Nurture a Network that will value you

Anyways, I will put up my notes & experience for this when I’m back in Toronto