Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Project: Move back to SA

The clock is ticking, the countdown has long since begun. A mountain of paperwork, process and planning awaits me. Having started the process off a few weeks ago with the dreaded trip to South African High Commission in London, where I got my citizenship revoked, I now prepare myself for the second journey, this time to apply for my 18 month old's relative visa. This time round I'm going more than prepared, I just hope they don't mess me about. With less 7 weeks to go to finalise the move, the visa application takes about 3 weeks...fingers crossed.

So what does a relocation plan look like?? Some people say that relocating one's family between continents is one one of the most stressful projects, if not, the most stressful project in one's life. How do you prepare for such a move? There's so many variables to consider, logistics, and timetables. Each task brings about new dependencies you haven't thought about.  All of these delays take time, for example, just to name a few:

  • Insurance policies can't be cancelled more than 14 (motor vehicle) or 28 (household) days in advance. The computer system only allows for cancellation as long as it's within the allowable time window! Imagine that - you sign up for insurance and pay up front for the entire year, and then to simply cancel based on a forward looking date is next to impossible...grrrr! So you have to pencil in days in your calendar to remind yourself not to forget about calling up your insurers within the time window. So can't mark those tasks as completed until you know for sure your policies been cancelled.
  • Similar note - beware of the AA.  Reminds me of the clip from lethal weapon - read the fine print in the terms and conditions page 19.   Apparently, leaving the country doesn't count as an exceptional circumstance, and you're not allowed a rebate on your annual policy of £150 just renewed last month, and you can't terminate the agreement on the day you're leaving the country - bottom-flippin-line: No refund due.
  • Inland revenue - you can't really sort your income tax out without getting the P45 from your employer. So if you want to be an eager beaver and prepare in advance, no chance. First wait until your notice period expires, get the P45 and then inform inland revenue. All of this should ideally be done whilst you're in the country. 
  • Sorting out relocation companies and vehicle import - this deserves a separate post....
  • The biggest headache is sorting out the house for renting. If you're like me and take your time fixing up things, i.e. just being content with living with the problem, then before you know it, all of these add up and bang - one problem after another to fix.  And somewhat ironical that the tenants will move into a much better house than what we were living in :p But joking aside, it's really important to ensure the house is in order, safe and free from major defects - which should mean less worries for the landlord...
Anyway, just take a look at what an initial brain-dump of a project plan for relocation looks like:

Saturday, 19 March 2011

I've resigned from my job...

Yesterday I handed in my resignation letter, giving notice of 8 weeks, my last day at work targeting 13 May 2011.  It was surreal, and I had a deja-vu moment just as I was writing up the letter, it was as if I've seen myself doing this before in a dream...I've had a few occasions of this deja-vu where I could almost predict what's going to happen next, or the situation seems really familiar...

Even though I've not formally accepted a job offer so in theory I don't have a job waiting for me, I was duty bound to let my employer know of my intentions to leave.  Some might say this was a foolish move, but I was faced with an unusual dilemma: I had a got a new job at my company and was going to start with my new team this week, I was in the process of handing over my old job and join the new team.  We were going to plan my next set of work and was being assigned to a critical project where the CEO was the main stakeholder.  This was a critical project where the stress was going to be high and the pressure to deliver, enormous.  Knowing that I'd made the decision to leave for South Africa, I felt duty bound to come clean with my new manager - it could have went either way:  I could be put on this project and commit to working through my notice period, or take on other tasks the company felt they needed help with, or my employment be terminated immediately, or stay with my old team...

It turns out however, that my new boss was very understanding and appreciative. I wish I'd made the move to his team years ago. In fact, his team is considered the crem-de-la-crem of the company (working on advanced development), and I felt honoured to have got the job, competing with eight other extremely competent colleagues...and now I was leaving!!  So my new boss says he understands completely, family should always come first, and it was the right thing to do instead of waiting to take on new tasks and then spring the notice on him suddenly.  He was very quick to resolve everything with HR and my old manager, and we came to an amicable agreement.

I would work with my new boss for the rest of my stay with the company, working on an invention of mine called "Talking EPG", bringing it to closure before I leave...What a wonderful way to stay motivated for my remaining 8 weeks!  I was dreading going back to my old job and didn't want to take on the other stressful project.  

"Talking EPG" is a project I started about 5 years ago aimed at enhancing accessibility for digital TV. Essentially for people who don't like reading the text on the Electronic Program Guides, they have the option of the TV speaking out the text for you. This was before the days of iPhone/Android, nowadays most modern devices have some sort of speech capability. Soon it'll come to TVs and Set-top-boxes.  I wish I could say my invention became public before anyone else, but alas, my company was too slow to pick it up (I'll write about that in another post on Innovations soon to come) and other company has went public and are already selling these boxes in the UK.  Anyway, accessibility is a passion of mine, one that I hope to pursue in the years to come.  So my new boss says they need parts of my Talking EPG to integrate with another project they're running...without hesitation, I jumped at the chance!!

Working on my own creations would be a nice way to go, and also leave the stressful part to the whole moving back to SA.

So I have 8 weeks to:
- fix my house up, find a letting agent and get a renter committed
- sort out all the paperwork for SA home affairs
- get relocation companies to quote on the move
- agree everything with new employer (actually sign a contract when it's ready, hopefully there's going to be a contract)
- sort out vehicle import
- sort out paperwork for UK

I should be back in SA by June time...fingers crossed

Monday, 14 March 2011

Review: Good Boss, Bad Boss by Rob Sutton

Fight as if you're right; listen as if you're wrong.If you plant a seed in the ground, you don't dig it up each day to see how it's doing.Beware of your inner jerk. Peformance, humanity...Self-awareness.Bossholes

...are just a few snippets that stand out for me. This piece is not just an opinionated work by Sutton, it's a culmination of a life time's research, backed by professional studies, research and personal accounts from the workplace. Although it could be said the vast majority of the material is from US companies, the problems of being a good/bad boss/manager are relevant to all countries & cultures - humanity.

This book can be read by managers and subordinates alike - If you're a manager, then hopefully you'll leave your ego at the door, open yourself to new insights, allowing you to question yourself, an exercise of introspection; if you don't experience an "aha" moment, then you're either a very good boss, or just an asshole...for those people reporting to managers/bosses, you'll find the material useful in managing your boss, to detect signs of "bossholes" and possibly change you ways, e.g. don't take it personal, find methods to deal effectively with an asshole boss...


It's unbelievable how I found myself looking back to scenarios in my own professional life, and of late, have had to deal with some really difficult people, including my bosses.  I can personally relate to having a boss who is so full of himself that he barely listens to people, or appears to be listening, but doesn't heed a word being said. Once he zones in on a train of thought, for his understanding and for all intents and purposes "rightly or wrongly" (his famous quotes) assumes his way is the best without giving a chance to the others for trying out their ways....on top of that, the guy builds upon his 20 years of industry experience and always uses that as leverage against his subordinates. Instead of teaching the ropes, this guy is just plain bossy - a manager without any form of coaching skills, of rather selfishly keeps the skills and experience preventing others from learning.  Among other the things, this guy was notorious for delaying meetings, extending the meetings to have "educate me session" with no cause for concern if you've got other commitments to attend to. Not to mention, he takes over meetings, and wants to be involved in the detail...I've also had bosses where after having been completely honest about issues, does nothing to improve the situation...At first I thought it was just down to UK management style and culture (i.e. being aggressive, in control, focussing on production production production, less on people people people) - but then I later worked with some brilliant managers that were very good coaches, mentors and leaders.  So it's good not to generalise... Anyway, one should always take time to assess the situation, as the saying goes to "soss it out" - and if you don't like what you see, or the person you might become as a result of working for a crappy boss, then walk away.... 

If only they could read this book and learn a thing or two. But even then, as the example cited in the book, even if you give the book to your asshole boss as a gift, he won't get it, think that he's an excellent boss...afterall a leopard can't change its spots, you can't teach an old dog new tricks....unless you empty your tea cup ;-)  And yes, I'll be reading the The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't in the near future...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

What's in a nationality anyway??

After 33 years of being considered a South African, I found out today that actually I, along with my wife, are not South Africans any more. Our SA citizenship was lost automatically on acquiring British citizenship because we had not formally applied for permission, or retention of SA citizenship BEFORE applying for UK Naturalisation!

My fault really :-( I was impatient to get my UK nationality sorted out, and I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. So what I did back in 2009 was apply in parallel. I thought I could get my Home Office letter proving  I'm not yet a UK citizen, send that off to SA Home Affairs at at the same time apply for UK naturalisation...but it didn't work out well, because as soon as I got the letters from Home Office, the naturalisation application followed suit the next day!

So I could've sent the SA retention application anyway to see what would happen, but decided against doing that because if for some reason the SA people called the UK Home office then that letter would've contradicted the status with the Home Office...so I said, not a big deal...I'm pretty much free to travel the world on a UK passport and I could zip in and out of SA on visits to the family...

Little did I realise that I would actually be moving back to SA soon, the idea of going back to work in SA was far off in the future. Just proves how life is so unpredictable.

So after many weeks of email conversation umming and arrrring about my situation with various immigration consultants, which by the way, gave conflicting advice, I decided to go to the SA Consulate today to get things sorted out. What was really annoying though, is that the people I was talking to via email, refused to offer advice, or make any effort in understanding my situation. All I got was "Please come in with BI-529 application, original certificates and we'll see what we can do".  Up at 4AM getting ready for the trip to London, took the 6:43 train to London Waterloo from Eastleigh station. I thought I would make it in good time as the office only opens at 08h45am - but when I turned the corner to Whitehall, looking for the building as I hadn't been there in my 8 years of living in UK, I walk past this long queue of people, and then it struck me I was right in front of the building...lo and behold, in typical SA fashion, people are queuing out early in the cold...a nice introduction of what's in store for me when I get back :-)

Waiting in the queue for 30 minutes, then get called, I speak to the lady at the counter, explain the situation and why I'm there.
"Show me your paperwork"
"Here you go - BI-529, ID book, passport, naturalisation"
"Where's your photocopies"
"What photocopies - nobody mentioned I needed photocopies - see the email. They said bring original documents"
"I don't know who's that person who told you that..."
"Mrs Stone, she works here. I didn't bring copies. Do you have a photocopier I could use?"
"We don't do photocopies, that's not what we're here for. Go and get photocopies and come back"
"I'm not from London, where should I go?"
"Just go round to Charing cross station, opposite is Ryman stationer - you can get copies there. Come back and see me"

I lose an 45 minutes sorting the photocopies out....but the rest of the waiting and the process pretty much went smoothly...

Long story short - I'm in a bit of a mess here because I didn't follow protocol to the letter. And in an instant, one can lose one's nationality...In my heart I'm still African, even though I live in the UK and am naturalised, my heart still belongs in Africa - but I've blended into UK society and pretty much become invisible like the rest of the 60 million sheep living a life of comfort, efficiency, safety and routine...

Advice to you if you're a South African living in the UK that just happened to stumble upon my blog:
- Follow procedure
- Be very patient
- You will lose your citizenship if you don't follow the rules to the letter. Do not apply for naturalisation before doing the SA paperwork...
- By the way, the email address they have on their website for emergencies:

In cases of extreme emergency, applicants concerned should send their emergency requests to:Lusibanet@dirco.gov.za or fax to: 020 783 5198 
is wrong - you should use: Lusibanet@foreign.gov.za
Another trick I found to get information about who to contact - just google "dirco.gov.za" and you'll find some useful sites and contact names popping up...this site contains some useful info not on the consular pages...

Still, it's not a complete loss. I can return to SA as a permanent resident, live and work there without restrictions, the only exception is I won't be considered a citizen of South Africa...if I live there long enough, 3 years, then I'm entitled to regain SA citizenship...or possibly apply for dual-citizenship...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Build Master by Vincent Maraia (Microsoft build secrets exposed)

If you're in the business of software product development and management and are not using a continuous build and configuration management system, then you should definitely reconsider your approach. This book offers insight into how Microsoft handles its product build processes, it's always interesting to learn from the world's most successful software outfit - finding out about Microsoft isn't easy, so any bit of inside info is useful.

Regardless of this book being out-of-date, especially with the influence of continuous integration and delivery, and the large-scale adoption of Agile development processes; where information is freely available on the net - I still recommend this book to those who have little or no experience on effectively maintaining product code, what you'll learn is the following:

  • Processes, techniques and tools to make build, configuration management, integration and testing easier, more controllable and predictable
  • Change the way you think: The people in power is the Build, Integration and CM team, not component developers. Learn ways to control check-ins, find out about Triage and WAR room. Learn about Dogfooding
  • Interesting side-notes on the inner workings on Microsoft, containing memos from Bill Gates himself, Microsoft's management philosophy, etc.
If you're not a fan of Microsoft or your products are not based on Windows, then this book isn't for you. There are plenty of good resource material available on the web...

Friday, 4 March 2011

PMP - Project Managment Professional Certification Course - Day 4

By the way, I haven't yet registered on the PMI website yet, so I've not booked my exam. The guidance is that we should do this asap because as we learnt from the Communications Management process, the chances of recollection after a month are pretty slim. So I plan do register over the weekend. Registration a project in itself!

So yesterday covered Chapter 11 Project Risk Management and Chapter 8 Project Quality Management

Again, it is interesting that the team participating in the training, consisting of Delivery, R&D and the Services organisations, did not own the Risk Management and Quality Management activities of the PMP processes, going back to the nature and culture of the company. For sure, we do manage risks, but in our own areas of expertise. In my case, as a Software Project Manager, we utilise the Agile Development Methodology and I do risk management every iteration, during the initiation/planning stage, through the iteration until delivery, repeated every 6 weeks. But that's in my own world of development, as a "development owner", and the development of a software stack, though a project in itself, is usually just a piece of the puzzle, the puzzle though is managed by top management, and they don't call themselves project managers...when in fact, they are - we're not given that visibility. However, I have initiated brainstorming sessions pro-actively myself and contributed to generating the risk register, but I haven't been accountable a program activity apart from maintaining responsibility and accountability for my deliverable.

The same can be said for Quality Management. We don't have a specific Quality Department, although quality is built-in from the ground up as part of our Development Methodology. We have very strict product quality control, including but not limited to Zero MISRA Warnings, Zero Compiler &  Lint Warnings, Minimum Acceptable Line Coverage, Minimum Branch Coverage, Measure Code Complexity, Minimum Defect Criteria, Root Cause Analysis, Rolling QC, Continuous Integration, Component Unit Test, and very strong Configuration Management System and use Static Analysis tools like Klocwork as well as search for Open Source violations with Blackduck. ..So we are pretty solid code product quality - it wasn't easy of course, and we learnt from past mistakes. We have build masters, war rooms, in fact we do way more than covered in the Build Master.

On the Quality Assurance side that, according to PMI is the process of measuring and controlling the quality of the project itself, well, we don't really do much of this - although we do monitor and question if our project processes are working and whether anything can be optimised - but we don't really measure our performance against a baseline, or have metrics in place that illustrate the health of the processes. Certainly worth considering, but again, this is usually a department wide policy initiative that needs top-management buy-in.

As a project manager however, the PM is ultimately accountable for the quality of his/her project. Even though I don't manage the QA of my project personally, I must ensure it is being done and followed to the letter. In the software product development world, projects pretty much have to respect the product rules of development and management, so thankfully, much of the work is just automatically inherited.

Chapter 11 Project Risk Management
Risk Management today is considered the most import thing in the project management arena, since it is very difficult to measure in reality. Some companies use the title "Risk Manager" as a substitute for "Project Manager" in job descriptions.

What is a Risk?
A risk is a possibility than an event with adverse consequences for the project will occur. An event is a point in time. Classic mistake of PMs is to confuse problems and issues as risks.  The opposite of risk is opportunity, which need to be managed as well. Good PMs maintain two registers: Risk Register AND an Opportunities register.
Risk can be considered as a measure of uncertainty. As the project matures, i.e. as we go deeper into the project lifecylce, the amount of uncertainty decreases, but the amount at stake increases. When the amount of uncertainty equals the amount at stake, at the intersection point, the risk is considered to be the greatest, nearing the end of execution.

Exam question: Risk Aversion - due to human nature, some people are risk takers, others are risk avoiders. It's about a person's willingness to tackle risky situations.

Six processes in Risk Management:
1. Plan Risk Management - Planning process
2. Identify Risks - Planning
3. Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis - Planning
4. Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis - Planning
5. Plan Risk Responese - Planning
6. Monitor and Control Risks - Monitor & Control

To Summarise:
Risk Management is identifying the risks, create a risk register, assign owners to risks, actively monitor and control the risks throughout the lifecycle of the project, especially the execution phase. However, according to PMI, the most crucial process in getting your risks sorted out, is the Planning stage.

Exam Terminology
Business Risk - a normal risk of doing business with an opportunity of gain or loss. Business risks dealt with top management.
Pure Risk - risk not related to the business with a possibility of loss only. Project managers deal with pure risk not business risks.

Categories of Risk

  • Technical/Quality/Performance - Reliance on unproven or complex technology, unrealistic performance goals, changes to technology used, project management risks: poor planning 
  • Organisational - cost, time, scope objectives internally inconsistent, resource conflict
  • External - legal issues, changing owner priorities, country risk, weather

Qualitative Analysis - Essentially tools that allow you to determine the risk factor, by assessing the risk against Probability and Impact, for each assigning a weighting (high, medium, low) point system in calculating the risk factor:
Risk Factor or Risk Rank = Probability score X Impact Score
This is added to the Risk Register

Risk Map - A tool used to visualise the areas of risk according to the risk factors

Quantitative Analysis - is all about MONETARY impact. Tools:

  • Decision Trees  - visual aid that maps the path of various decisions/routes showing the monetary output
  • Simulation - use Monte Carlo simulation, assuming statistical distribution
  • Sensitivity Analysis - ability to assess what will be the impact of changing something on a project (a tool is normally used)
  • Expected  Monetary Value (EMV) - Do not confuse this with EVM Earned Value Measurement - they're not related! EMV is the sum of the values of all possible outcomes of the risk event (random variable) weighted by their respective probabilities

Strategies for Negative Risks

  • Avoid: eliminate the exposure to the risk. Could change the scope of work, remove constraints or use alternative resources or suppliers. This may affect overall project objectives, customer satisfaction and profitability or cost.
  • Transfer: insurance or subcontracting, but remember the accountability remains with you, the PM! Transfer could involve subcontracting the work to an outside organisation, possibly better equipped to deal with the risk due to Resources, Expertise, Experience, Economies of scale. This of course may introduce new risks and costs. Insurance: substitute a known, small cost for an uncertain damage.
  • Mitigate: This is very much a main part of pro-active risk management. Reduce the probability of the event. Focus on the risk factors by acquiring information to reduce the uncertainty. Take preventative steps for example, select more suppliers. Reduce the impact of the event, have recovery plans in place, also keep reserves - materials, resources, budget, time.
  • Acceptance: it may turn out that the risk is not serious enough to warrant the time, energy and money to mitigate. Suitable for low impact, low probability, high mitigation cost events.
Strategies for Positive Risks
  • Exploit: to ensure that the opportunity is realised
  • Share: allocating ownership to a third party who is best able to capture the opportunity for the benefit of the project
  • Enhance: modifies the "size" of an opportunity
  • Accept: no change in the project management plan to deal with the risk
Residual and Secondary Risk
  • Residual: risks are those that remain after avoidance, transfer or mitigation responses have been taken
  • Secondary: risks that arise as a direct result of implementing a risk response
Risk-related Contractual Agreements
  • Fixed price contract
  • Insurance
  • Performance bond
  • Bonuses and penalties
Risk Register
A good risk register contains the following:
  • Category of Risk
  • Event (what is the event)
  • Consequence of event
  • Probability of occurrence
  • Impact
  • Cost
  • Response to risk (Avoid, Transfer, Mitigate, Accept)
  • Contingency/Recovery
  • Risk Owner
  • Status
Depending on the size and nature of the project, one can use Excel or a tool. Read more here

My Own take on the Subject
Risk is an interesting area that can consume a majority of one's time, it is almost a full time job. To manage risk well, the project must have a culture of embracing risks, i.e. in general people are afraid of communicating the risk and wait too long, and when the event occurs and becomes a critical issue, it's too late to say "I knew this would happen all along". People from all levels of the project should be empowered to communicate any concerns they have on the project - active feedback and active response from the project team is required. During the course of monitoring and controlling the project, the PM should ask the right questions - it's not often that people give you the most truthful answer, and generally when a PM requests for a status update on a task or activity, the usual response is "just provide enough info to get the PM off my back" - So more often than not I find myself drilling down to get the answers I seek, and in so doing try to uncover potential issues before-hand...I am a big fan of Tom Demarco - take a look at his books in the side bar. I recommend reading all of them, but it's a pity that having read all of them myself, I find myself in the wrong company environment that don't appreciate the professionalism behind some of these topics, and are quick to dismiss my attempts as academic exercises, not fitting with practicality and people rely on their past experience to manage ongoing projects...In any case, should the right opportunity come my way, I'll seize the it to ensure I implement some of these practices...

Chapter 8 Project Quality Assurance
Main aim of QA is to ensure Customer Satisfaction at the end of the project.
Quality Assurance (QA) - deals with Project Processes
Quality Control (QC) - deals with the product / deliverable
Primary responsibility for quality lies with the project manager.
Exam prep
Quality Initiatives:
  • The Deming Improvement Cycle - always iteratively checking: Plan, Do, Check, Act
  • TQM (Total Quality Measurement)
  • Six Sigma - all about the standard deviation between -3 sigma and +3 sigma, normal distribution. 99.73% normal case, six sigma 99.99% failure rate
  • Failure Mode and Effect Analysis - Fishbone or Ishikawa diagram
  • Design Reviews
  • Voice of Customer
  • Cost of Quality - how do we measure the cost of quality? Important topic
Quality management process:
1. Plan Quality - Planning
2. Perform Quality Assurance - Executing
3. Perform Quality Control - Monitoring and Control

Cost of Quality - Conformance
Ensuring conformance to requirements - money spent during the project to avoid failures:
  • Prevention - Quality planning, training, process control, field testing, Design validation
  • Appraisal - Process evaluation, test evaluation, quality audits, maintenance and calibration of eqipment
Cost of Quality - Non-Conformance
Money spent during and after the project because of failures
  • Internal Failure - these are failures not visible to the customer that we can fix internally
  • External Failure - this is noticed by the customer and can be the following: Scrap, Rework, Expediting, Additional material of inventory, Warranty repairs or Service, Complaint handling, Liability Judgements, Product recalls, Product corrective action
Operational Definitions - Metrics
  • Metric = measure. A numerical representation of an attribute of interest
  • Criteria - indicators used to compare and evaluate alternatives
  • Performance measurements - indicators used to determine how well the project is being executed
Tools & techniques for Quality Control
  • Cause and Effect Diagrams
  • Control Charts
  • Flowcharting
  • Histogram
  • Pareto chart
  • Run Chart / Trend
  • Scatter diagram
  • Statistical Sampling
  • Inspection
  • Approved change requests review
  • Variability analysis
  • Pareto's law

Thursday, 3 March 2011

PMP - Project Managment Professional Certification Course - Day 3

Today we finished off Project Time Management and covered Chapter 7 - Project Cost Management and Chapter 10 - Project Communication Management of the
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)

Chapter 7 - Project Cost Management
This is section is a bit heavy-going especially if you don't have much experience or real-world practical, day-to-day hands-on as part of your normal job function. In my case, being a Software Development Project Manager, and a somewhat internally focused with 20-30% external customer facing activity, not to mention my company's organisational structure - prevents me from doing any Project Cost Analysis, Measurement and Control. It is very interesting that PMI mandates that this is indeed within the remit of every project manager, surprisingly in my company being pretty large with 5000 people, all the PMs in the training, including senior managers at director level, had little or no visibility of this rather fundamental part of the Project Management Knowledge Area.  But in order to pass the PMP exam, one has to master this area and add it to your PM toolbox, even though I personally will not be using most of this in my current company, but nevertheless will stand me in good regard, when applying for positions outside.

So what is Project Cost Management in a nutshell??  Basically, just as we have to manage the schedule/time throughout the Planning & Control Process groups, we need to ensure that project costs and budget is managed in a similar way. After-all, doing work does cost money. The pot is not bottomless. So the project manager must estimate at the outset the costs likely to incur, and ensure that a budget is allocated that is realistic enough that at the time of execution we are reasonably confident that we'd planned and accounted for the likely costs, and also accounted for contingency, a reserve buffer just in case some unforeseen situations need to be dealt with.  And throughout the Monitor & Control Process group, we have to measure the planned versus the actual costs, and use that to predict the end result.  And in this measurement, make decisions along the way that could steer the success of the project.

In order to do this, there are some definitions, mathematical formulas and graphs that you need to learn, master and apply.

There are three processes to Project Cost Management:
1. Estimate Costs - Done at Planning
2. Determine Budget - Done at Planning
3. Control Costs - Monitor & Control

Important term for Exam: LCC Life Cycle Cost   Aggregates the total costs through all the phases of the product life cycle. 

How do we typically calculate Profit and Loss - P&L?
We start with
     Revenues (amount of money you're going to make)
     Cost of Sales (direct costs incurred as result of supporting this sale)
     Gross Profit
     Overheads (indirect costs - rent, lights, telephone, travel, etc)
     General Admin
     Operational Profit (or EBIDTA - Earnings Before Interest Depreciate Tax)
     Interest Rates
     NET PROFIT (money in the bank)

How do we estimate Cost?
We use the following as inputs to the costing exercise: Scope Baseline (SOW), Project Schedule (Timeline), Human Resource Plan (Resource Estimates at planning), Risk Register (table of scenarios likely to upset the outcome of the project), Enterprise Environmental Factors (Regulation, laws, etc), Organisational Process Assets (list of assets required to help project).
Tools and techniques to cost estimating similar to Time estimating:
1. Expert Judgement - a.k.a. Delphi technique - go ask independent experts
2. Analogous Estimating - use past project experience, hunch-base, gut instincts
3. Parametric Estimating - a multi linear polynomial function linear regression - basically a model
4. Bottom-up Estimating - working from the WBS upwards, aggregate costs
5. Three-point Estimates - use the PERT model formula: Best case, Worst case, Most Likely
6. Reserve Analysis - allocate a buffer - cost of taking care of risks
7. Cost of Quality - if you have a measurable way of determining quality and the costs associated
8. PM Estimating Software - computer-aided tool
9. Vendor bid analysis - compare costs with alternatives, e.g. outsource versus in-house

Exam: How Accurate does PMI expect the Cost Estimation to be?
There are three levels to the cost estimate. Example, say the actual cost is £100k.
During the initiating phase, the rough order of magnitude estimate should be: -50% to +100%.  (£50k to £200k)
During the planning phase, the budget estimate can be: -10% to +25% (£90k to £125k)
During the execution phase, we should be converging on a definite estimate: -10% to +15% (£90k to £115k)

Once you've estimated the costs, you then use this information to determine the budget. The tools and techniques for determining the budget:
1. Cost Aggregation - add up all the costs
2. Reserve analysis - estimate a buffer to deal with unexpected situations
3. Expert Judgement - again, Delphi technique
4. Historical relationships - past data
5. Funding limit reconciliation - be aware of the limits. E.g. You budget £500k, your boss says £300k. What do you do?

Exam: Terminology to memorise
Capital/Depreciation - two forms
1. Straight line - value depreciates linearly and can be predicted over time quite easily (straight line graph - think of PCs)
2. Accelerated - non-linear, immediate depreciation followed by some asymptotic levelling out. Think of a car's value over time. Learning curve. Two Types mentioned in exam: Sum-of-the-Years-Digits and Double Declining Balance

BCR - Benefit Cost Ratio
Compares the benefits with the costs. BCR > 1 means the benefits are greater than the costs

Opportunity Cost
The opportunity given up by selecting one project over another

Fringe Benefits
The "standard" benefits formally given to all employees such as education benefits, insurance, profit sharing
Other terms also include PERK, benefit, bonus

Discounting - the time value of money, might need to follow-up more here

Net Present Value (NPV)
Value in terms of time zero - what is the value that you would have today, given the interest rate for the period. If you are paying upfront for a cost, and then being guaranteed a rate of return over a period, the NPV must be greater than zero to be a worthwhile investment. To calculate NPV, this is the opposite of calculating compound interest. In the exam, tables will be provided, like here

Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
Average rate of return earned over the life of the project. No need to learn formula for exam. IRR must be bigger than bank rate in order to invest.

Sunk Cost
Sunk Cost - Amount already invested; irrelevant for future decisions.

Profit - Operating income or fee, the amount the organisation may earn for its work over and above the cost of performance

Profit or fee as a percentage of the cost of performance

Payback Period
Payback Period - Amount of time that revenue exceeds the costs, also known as break-even point

Controlling Costs - more equations
Now that you've estimated the costs and come up with a budget from the planning phase, now you enter the project execution phase and you need to monitor and control the beast. What tools and techniques do you use:
1. Earned Value Measurement - measure planned versus actual
2. Forecasting - using the earned value, predict the future
3. Cost Performance index - how well are the costs measuring up against actual performance
4. Performance reviews - are we working the way we should?
5. Variance analysis - analyse the reasons why we're slipping
6. PM Software - use some computer based tool to help

Earned Value Measurement (EVM)
The Earned Value (EV) approach ascribes monetary values to the work contents

Planned Value (PV) or (BCWS Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled)
The value of work scheduled to be accomplished

Actual Cost (AC) or (ACWP Actual Cost of Work Performed)
The cost actually incurred in accomplishing the work performed

Earned Value (EV) or (BCWP Budgeted Cost of Work Performed)
The monetary value of the work actually accomplished

Earned Value Measures of Performance
Scheduled Variance (SV)
      SV = EV -  PV

Cost Variance (CV)
      CV = EV - AC

Schedule Performance Index (SPI)
      SPI = EV / PV
      SPI = 1 on schedule, SPI > 1 ahead of schedule, SPI < 1 behind schedule

Cost Performance Index
      CPI = EV / AC
      CPI = 1 on budget, CPI > 1 good saving money, CPI < 1 costly wasting money

Earned Value Completion Estimates
Budget at Completion (BAC)
The total budget based on the original work plan

Work Remaining (WR)
Budget cost of work yet to be completed:   WR = BAC - EV

Estimate to Complete (ETC)
Updated estimate cost of work remaining (WR)

Estimate at Completion (EAC)
Updated total cost of the entire project. Two approaches: Original Estimate and Revised Estimate

Original Estimate Approach
Based on the assumption that the original estimate of the cost of remaining work is valid
      EAC = AC + ETC

Revised Estimate Approach
The data collected during the past performance can be used to improve the estimates
      EAC = BAC / CPI


Chapter 10 Project Communication Management
All project managers should already be familiar with the art of communication. Well, that's the hope anyway. It is surprising though that most companies don't know how to communicate, and misuse the tools of communication. As a project manager, communication is the most important skill to have in your toolbox. I'm going to quickly rush through this chapter, since much of this was old news - and focus on the stuff that'll be asked in the exam.

Communication Processes
As expected, Communication Management is expected in all the groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Control. I personally would also include it in the Closing group, but PMI doesn't. Five processes:
1. Identify Stakeholders - the PM needs to know who's on the project, his allies, etc
2. Communications Plan - document that describes the communication being used (meetings, whos' who, etc)
3. Distribute Information
4. Manage Stakeholder Expectations - private tool the PM should keep close at heart to know how to handle stakeholders
5. Report Performance - project must adopt a suitable method for reporting project performance

Exam - Communication time Breakdown
Project Manager should spend time as:
- 9% on Writing
- 16% on Reading
- 30% on Talking
- 45% on Listening

Exam - Communication Facts
We retain/absorb:
- 10% of what we read
- 20% of what we hear
- 30% of what we read and hear
- 50% of what we discuss with others
- 80% of what we experience
- 90% of what we teach to others

Communication retention:
- 50% now
- 25% in 2 days
- 10% after 7 days

Communication complexity:
The number of communication channels increases geometrically with the number of people involved
Between N persons there are N(N-1)/2 communication links

Active Listening - Facilitating Listening Behaviours
Verbal: Restate the main ideas expressed to show your interest. Verify you correctly understood what was meant.
Non-Verbal: Show Interest (nod, lead forward, maintain eye-to-eye contact). Be patient, accept moments of silence, be relaxed, show openness.

Good Communication Styles
- Authoritarian - gives expectations and guidance. "Guys, this is what I expect to do, and how we should go about it...."
- Promotional - cultivates team spirit. "People, we can do this if we work together, I know we can, I believe in you..."
- Facilitating - gives guidance as required. "In order to get this up an running, do this, that and...."
- Conciliatory - friendly and agreeable. "Jo, you know I got your back right? Just carry on doing this, you won't go wrong..."
- Judicial - uses sound judgement. "Guys, according to my opinion, it is best we proceed in this way..."
- Ethical - hones, fair, by-the-book. "Look guys, according to company rule book, we shouldn't be doing this...."

Bad (Not-so-good) Communication Styles
- Secretive - not open or outgoing. "Information is power, people must come to me..."
- Disruptive - breaks apart unity of group, agitator. "You will not believe what Paul said about Dave...."
- Intimidating - tough guy, can lower morale. "Do this now you idiot, or else I'll do it myself..."
- Combative - eager to fight or be disagreeable. "Don't even bother approaching John, he's always right..."

Clip 1 of the day: Communication Improve your English

Clip 2 of the day: The Italian man who went to Malta

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

PMP - Project Managment Professional Certification Course - Day 2

So day 2 covered all of Project Scope Management and half of Project Time Management. Chapters 5 & 6 of the PMBOK.

Before we get all PMP, lets get the tutor's jokes/anecdotes out of the way.

What is the origins of the word "Sandwich"? Lord Sandwich, gambling, didn't want to mess his hands so put the meat in the bread, and that became known as the Sandwich. Read the real story here.
The word sandwich that we use today was born in London during the very late hours one night in 1762 when an English nobleman, John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), was too busy gambling to stop for a meal even though he was hungry for some food. The legend goes that he ordered a waiter to bring him roast-beef between two slices of bread. The Earl was able to continue his gambling while eating his snack; and from that incident, we have inherited that quick-food product that we now know as the sandwich. He apparently had the meat put on slices of bread so he wouldn’t get his fingers greasy while he was playing cards. It’s strange that the name of this sex fiend should have gone down in history connected to such an innocent article of diet.

Funny clips, not related to the course:

Second clip - Public Health Agency of Canada

Chapter 5: Project Scope Management
There are 5 processes to the Scope Management Process:
1. Collect Requirements - part of the Planning process group
2. Define Scope - part of the Planning process group
3. Create WBS - Planning process
4. Verify Scope - Monitoring and controlling process group
5. Control Scope - Monitoring and controlling process group

What you need to know
- Scope Management Process
- Scope baseline
- Requirements documentation
- Requirements traceability matrix
- Requirements management plan
- Work breakdown Structure (WBS)
- How to create a WBS
- Benefits of WBS
- Scope Management Plan
- Project scope statement
- Work package
- Activity
- Decomposition
- WBS Dictionary
- Definition of Scope Management
- Product Scope
- Project scope
- Constraints
- Product analysis
- Validated deliverables
- Requirements gathering techniques

Things to know about Scope Management for the Exam
Taken from Chapter 5, Rita Mulcahy's Exam prep PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam:
- You must plan, in advance, how you will determine the scope, as well as how you will manage and control scope. This is part of your scope management plan
- Scope must be defined, clear and formally approved before work starts
- Requirements must be gathered from all stakeholders
- A work breakdown structure is used on all projects. It's central to all other steps. Without a WBS a project manager is in the dark
- Always ensure that whilst the project is ongoing that only the work as defined in the scope is being progressed and nothing else
- Gold plating should be avoided - it's not allowed
- Any change to scope must be evaluated for its effect on time, cost, risk, quality, resources and customer satisfaction
- No changes in scope are allowed without an approved change request
- Scope changes should not be approved if they relate to work that does not fit within the project charter
- You need to continuous determine what is and is not included in the project

Chapter 6: Time Management
6 process make up the Time Management process:
1. Define Activities  - Planning process
2. Sequence Activities - Planning
3. Estimate Activity Resources - Planning
4. Estimate Activity Durations - Planning
5. Develop Schedule - Planning
6. Control Schedule - Monitoring and controlling

What you need to know
- Time Management press
- Schedule Baseline
- Schedule Compression - Crashing & Fast Tracking
- Activity list
- Network Diagram
- Dependencies: Mandatory, Discretionary, External
- Precedence diagramming method (PDM)
- Critical Path
- Float or Slack: Free Float, Total Float, Project Float
- Three-point Estimate
- Monte Carlo Analysis
- Bar Charts
- Milestone Charts
- Resource levelling
- Leads and Lags
- Heuristics
- Variance
- Milestones
- Resource breakdown structure
- One-point estimate
- Padding
- Analogous Estimating
- Parametric Estimating
- Critical Path Method
- Near-critical path
- Reserve analysis
- Re estimating

Further Reading Recommended