Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Project management tools for Agile projects

This is a post by guest blogger Steward Copper

A few days ago I was attending the IT Project Management Conference and participated in a survey. All the attendants were asked one question: "What project management tool or solution do you use for the Agile projects?" Among the Top-10 Agile tools there were the ones I'd used to manage, plan and track my projects and processes - MS Excel, Pivotal Tracker, Comindware and VersionOne. So, let me share my thoughts and experience of using them for task management, sprint and iteration planning, daily meetings, burn-downcharts creation, project tracking and other Agile techniques.

MS Excel

The tool is a standard part of the MS Office package. The main general advantage of choosing it for your next project is that almost everybody is familiar with it and you don't need to spend time for the team training. It's used by many Agile PMs because it:

 - allows to create a product backlog while listing user stories, placing estimates and deadlines;

 - allows to plan iterations or sprints (it's good to create a template on a specific sheet);

 - allows to group tasks into sprints using a using a standard group tool;

 - allows to add any kind of comments for the tasks, stories and other entities using a standard commenting tool;

- allows to support daily stand-ups while filling a sprint progress data;

- provides very high level of flexibility while drawing graphs including burn-down chart, creating custom reports including digital dashboards and so on.

Excel helps many of us to manage projects but it's not so good for remote teams and big projects. Some managers don't use Excel because it doesn't provide the set of predefined processes.

Pivotal Tracker

The tool was created as a SaaS issue tracking system and evolved into a complex solution to support all the main processes of an Agile project. It's chosen thanks to the following:

- it's developed especially for Agile projects and uses Iterative Management Workflow approach;

- it allows to create iterations or sprints including tasks (tickets) of different priority;

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to develop effective professional relationships

We all know how important it is to build effective professional relationships. Relationship management is a very important skill for every professional that wants to get ahead. This article will focus on how effective relationship management helps the CIO to get ahead.

The top IT job is very complex and demanding, effective relationship management enables the CIO to build rapport with his/her peers and will most certainly make the job of managing IT much easier.

Before proceeding, it is important to define what the term "effective professional relationships" means. The CIO should spend most of his time interacting with his peers in order to understand the organization's needs and provide adequate IT solutions. Furthermore, the CIO needs to be able to convince other members of the organization that a particular IT project will deliver positive outcomes to the business. Effective relationship management are the ones that enable the CIO to effectively interactive with every member of the organization in order to enable him to achieve his objectives.

The following points provide useful insights on how to develop effective professional relationships.

Know your company and the people you work with


This should go without saying, but it is really important that CIOs know their business. What I find interesting about IT management is how broad the role really is. As an example, a Supply Chain Manager is required to know all about supply chain.He is not meant to know anything about how to operate the email server. However, the IT Manager, the one who wants to do a good job, is required to know not only about IT but also about every other area of the business. Obviously the IT manager is not required to know everything  in detail, however he needs to know enough about every area of the business in order to have systems in place that support the various business processes. I find this quite interesting and is what makes the job so interesting.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Good Product Manager vs. The Bad Product Manager

Today I came across the Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager courtesy lecture at the Stanford university by Ben Horowitz, I believe this post is a classic for product management.

I have summarized Ben's points as follows:


 Bad Product Manager

  • Always makes lots of excuses.
  • A bad product manager is not the product's CEO.
  • Lacks in communication skills. Bad product managers don't communicate well with the engineering team and tend to blame them when things go wrong due to bad communication.
  • Puts out fires all day and complains that is swamped by questions and interruptions.
  • When things go wrong they quickly point out that they predicted they would fail and the "powers of be" didn't do anything about it.
  • Bad product managers focus the team on the feature that the competition is building.
  • Bad product managers get confused on how to position their products on the market and how to leverage it.
  • Bad product managers don't know how to work with the press, they don't manage the press.
  • Bad product managers always want to be told what to do.
  • Bad product managers don't produce status reports on time and are not disciplined.
  • Bad product managers don't take responsibility and tend to blame others.

Good Product Manager