Friday, December 26, 2008

Seasons Greetings !

Seasons greetings to all known and unknown blog readers and wish you all the best from my heart!
Thanks to projectized blog for connecting you with me from every corner of the world and thank Dilbert who keep me laughing and giggling all year long… :)

So this is one of my favorites this year which may bring a smile to you today…(Hopefully :-) ) and waiting to see so many good stuff in 2009.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Project Communication in Outsourced Project Management

We all know that, in average a project manager spend more or less 90% of his or her project management time for communication. Proper and effective communication is one of the most challenging areas in project management.. How about communication in outsourced project management..? that is any PM’s nightmare unless they manage it properly from day one.
This issue is not about language, either you do nearsoursing or outsourcing, nowadays most the professionals will speak good English. But poorly managed remote communication may increase the risk of project failures drastically. All aspects of remote communication should be carefully quality managed by a project manager who is in to outsourced project management. Unfortunately this needs quite lot of experience.
Over the years I’ve seen most the PM methodologies have matured, and processes has been introduced for project management.. New tools have come to the market., but still the challenge of remote communication remains the same.. How do we overcome it ?
Recently I had a chat with one of my project managers. He told me a story about a project he has managed while working in his previous company. It’s a very small sized project developed for one of the European countries. So him being the project manager sitting in the development company in Sri Lanka has communicated with customer via 600 emails. It gave me a fright.. Are we really doing something right here?
Have you heard about “Mad email Syndrome” which is very common in outsourcing operation. These are the symptoms;.
Project Manger from Venders company writes a mail to the customer about his questions regarding some requirement.. A nice email. Customer reads the mail., thinking why these people can’t even guess some simple thing like that …then he writes a reply in Blue color as comments for each question. ( yes we need to clearly separate the answer from the question)
Now that the Vendor's project manager who waited impatiently till he get all the answers to his questions receives the mail and he goes through the blue color comments made by the customer.. after reading that he find its disapointing and the customer has not answered half the things as he expected., most the points are not elaborated., so it creates much more questions for him now. Then what he does.. ? he uses another color., mostly seen is green , write comments in green color again under each blue color comments.. send this to the customer and CC to his whole hierarchy to save his back :-) and show them that he has still not got the answers right.
Customer receives the long email which is flashing in many color comments now.. He get really worked up.. certain symbols can give him a totally a different tone to the email. He write the comments in red color now.. and send it to the vendors PM again..

This doesn’t stop here… Is this situation new to you ? Im sure if you are in to outsourcing business you may have gone through this situation many times. This chain of email communication is a very strong risk trigger of project and relationship failure between outsourcer and outsourcee.. Why such a useful tool such as email can create this much of damage?
1. When communicating through emails , the other party doesn’t see your body language. They read exactly the meaning of word to word which may sound totally different to what you meant.
2. The other party don’t hear your tone of the voice. or your giggling . Recently I saw a customer commenting something like “Remove this field! “ with “!” what is that additional “!” is for ? these may create some unnecessary issues
3. Its very common that both parties think the other party is the idiot. They put less effort to understand each other. This may totally be different if you had a face to face discussion.

So how do you quality manage this remote communication? My advice for project managers are as follows;

1. Do not have email communication over 2 loops., if it goes over always try to use Voice via skype or telephone line. Or even use some tools such as Webex. Which is really good.(video con would be the best but unfortunately most of us do not have that facility )… Hmm How about Cisco TelePresence.???. I love to experience that !! :-)
2. Always read and re read your emails before sending.. do they mean something wrong to the reader.. make sure you communicate very clearly
3. Do not send too many emails. Try to summarize possible information in one email. Have your subject lines very clear.
4. If you need only 1 question mark have one .. But not three.. When you ask “can I have these replies by before end of business today? “ has a major difference between “can I have these replied before end of business today???????????”
5. Be very clear and elaborate on required points.. try to use tables as much as possible
6. Be warned when communication is not going right.. always ask help from your supervisors before it becomes too late.
7. Have the right attitude to respect the other party . if you read the mail in negative mind., you will end up with negative results.
8. Send customer status reports frequently., leave very little room for questions. Reports should be completed.
9. Always have project budgets to meet the customer face to face at least once in your project life. That will make your project communication much easier.
10. Understand that the time customer can spend for you is limited. That’s one reason why he or she outsource the project to you. Respect the fact and always think twice before you raising the question .Because you need to get the question right at the first time .

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Team Work.. Again.. :-)


Who said geeks are boring ?? :-D

Saturday, December 06, 2008

All work and no play ???

few readers recently asked me the question.. "Why do you make such noise about planning Poker..We have been doing this all the time even long before SCRUM became popular.. we have been discussing with all our teams when estimating Instead having poker cards and playing poker.. …”.. Yeah.. Ok I will answer..
1. When you discuss with the teams about estimation at the meeting without poker.. Fine.. But will everybody’s opinions be highlighted? Or is it still the voice of few people in the team? Think about the last discussion you had with your team.
2. Sometimes work is uninteresting.. Have you heard that before? (Specially the estimation Yaiiik.. to me that’s not a very interesting part of PM J ) But that depends on exactly how you engage with those activities..Playing poker can help in this a lot. It’s fun!
3. When you just discuss with the team about the estimation for a functional point or for the user story, they just answer.. But there is no way that you can visualize their thinking with some relative weight at the time of the discussion.. This is where your Poker card set helps. And the each individual try to reason out their decision with lots of valuable points as they are exposed with the card they play every time.
4. Further this can eliminate chaos which happens in most the planning meetings. Can think lot more.. But these are the main reasons why I encourage my teams to play poker at the product backlog and the sprint backlog planning meetings.
I read an interesting paper by Jason Yip today about Project release planning with Poker..But this is not with our card set.. This is with real tokens.. J Interesting … you can find the paper here…

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