Buffers or the Fear for the Unknown

Isn’t  it interesting that in the second decade of the 21st century after yet another CHAOS Report tells us that only 21% of reviewed projects deliver the agreed scope on time and in budget that many of us still cling to the illusion that accurate estimation is merely a question of training, practice and discipline? What amazes me is that I know a handful of people who can consistently correctly guess how long a project will take.

Most of us mortals regard projects as an adventure into the unknown. At the beginning of the journey you have scant information about what you have to deliver and then your sponsor has the nerve to ask you exactly how long it’ll take or imposes an unrealistic deadline.

Continue reading “Buffers or the Fear for the Unknown”

Are Business Requirements Modern Alchemy?

In the Middle Ages Alchemists were often regarded as charlatans or fanatics who were convinced they could change iron into gold. I hope that the comparison with Business Analysts is not accurate. I have to confess as a methodologist I once belonged to the second group, torturing poor subject matter experts for hours with my methodical stringency in the search for the holy grail of the “Truth” of the requirements.

Recently I was training a group of Business Analysts at a global bank. Proudly they informed me that all their projects were now “agile”. As we went through various elicitation techniques I realised that few of the participants had any experience of Use Cases, Scenarios or even with Data or Process Modelling. Instead they showed considerable proficiency in analysing code or listing User Stories.

Where has all the methodology gone? Continue reading “Are Business Requirements Modern Alchemy?”

Project management in internal Projects – a Survival Guide

I was pleased a while ago when I read Oliver F. Lehmann’s proposed project typology. He included a number of characteristics of internal projects that I recognised. As an external consultant I regularly experience that companies behave quite differently when their own employees are allocated to internal projects, particularly in business departments.  “Just do it,“ seems to describe it nicely.

In customer projects there is at least an attempt to adhere to a particular methodology, as in the end there is a price tag on the endeavour. Internally, however, it is often hard to identify a clear owner or sponsor. You do have lots of stakeholders that do not agree about the project’s objectives or its requirements. Scope is described vaguely at the start so the project lead, who can feel lucky if he or she was privileged enough to enjoy a two-day crash course in project management, discovers there is no clear framework for his/her work and has to improvise. Worse still if he/she and their “team” will only be working part-time on this project. There are after all more projects, tasks and other (often unspoken) priorities. Continue reading “Project management in internal Projects – a Survival Guide”

Outsourcing or Hollowing Out

Thanks to the likes of General Motors, Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 80’s transferring internal or public services to external contractors has been regarded as progressive and above all cost-saving. Anything that does not belong to the core business is regarded as ballast that would be better in the hands of “specialists” who are reputedly cheaper and deliver better quality. It sounds temptingly logical, especially when senior management has a focus on short-term profits.

In the meantime business finds itself in a tricky spot: there are repeated reports of glitches and outages, poor quality and almost extortionate dependency. Spontaneous “insourcing” is then practised to minimise the damage, but it is often a doubtful quick fix. Continue reading “Outsourcing or Hollowing Out”