Monday, November 16, 2009

PMI Colombo Chapter Event - November.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Offshore project management and use of Agile. – Part 1

Its again Winter in North.. So we are busy here at Exilesoft, Sri Lanka with most the customers who visit us. That's one nice thing in offshore business, as much as we enjoy travelling Europe, it seems our customers have found a second home to come when the winter starts in their countries. This is an ideal time we get to work together again as collocated teams. For them its quite exiting to work with us as well as to extend their business trip for one week or so to have little relax time in this exotic Island, explore the culture and have a better understanding and stronger bonding between the customer and development teams. Altogether it’s an awesome experience for both the parties. I too enjoy such visits of our customers a lot.

In the same time, being in software offshore business is not easy. Unless you have the right relationship between the outsourcer and outsourcee, the offshore business can become really painful to both the parties.Software development itself is quite challenging even in collocated development environment. When it comes to offshore software development, we are adding some more complexities to it, simple reason is that an offshore development team faces the same complexities which an in-house team faces + much more . So the Project management in this environment by balancing this distant relationship is quite a challenging endeavor.

This series of articles which Im writing to ICPM, will be focused on the challenges in such offshore business and how we use Scrum (One of the Agile methods) at my current organization to overcome these mostly seen challenges in Offshore business. I hear you.. It’s a trade off. When we overcome some of the main issues., there will be other issues which we may face.. Its understood. Its all about how to overcome the most serious issues in such environment and deliver the right value to the customer without scraping the organization’s bottom line.

To manage these offshore/outsourced projects with distributed teams successfully, We first need to understand why Organizations outsource their software projects. By working twelve years in this industry I have seen the same reasons with most my customers who decided on outsourcing their projects to us irrespective of the size of their projects.

1. Skilled Resources
In Some of the countries , its quite hard to recruit skilled resources compared to others. May be its all about the availability of such skilled resources, the market competition as well as the difficulty of hiring such experienced resources only for one or two projects (Shorter time period).

2. Business Focus.
Even if they have these resources available to hire, if the organization’s main focus is not the IT business, it may not be always wiser to hire such resources and expand the IT departments which is not their primary business focus. As an example, a company in travel industry needs to be focused on travel business instead being focused on expanding its software development. So in this context, outsourcing its software development to an organization which focuses on software business can be a wiser move.

3. Protecting the Intellectual Capital
If an organization develop one of its core software products which will give them their competitive edge in the market, the last thing this organization may need is to have its developers who worked on this product to join its competitors with all the knowledge about the business. Some times when an organization hire people from the same country or state, there is quite a risk factor that the developers who work for this product may join their competitors when the assignment is over. But outsourcing this product to a country far away which doesn’t have such closer relationship with the other organizations in the same market may reduce the risk factor.

4. Cost
Most the organizations carry their cost benefit analysis before outsourcing its software projects to other companies. Its quite important that the cost difference to be a visible factor. However there is hidden costs in software outsourcing which I will discuss in a latter article under this series.

5. Round the clock / Extended hours of production
As an Example, if there are 2 distributed teams in an Organization in Norway and Sri Lanka, and if both team work their 8 working hours, the total production time expands to 12 hours as Norway is 4 hours behind Sri Lanka. This helps in some of the product development and software support work.

Its important that as the outsourcee we understand the key factors which enable the outsourcing business of the customer and deliver the expectations throughout development.

In the next part of the article, I will discuss the tiers of such software outsourcing and how the challenges increases in each tier. >>

Sunday, November 08, 2009

P2P Conference 2009 - Agile Stream.

Monday :
Most the speakers who reached Cairo before the conference had a visit to Giza Pyramids and the museum on Monday which was quite fascinating , specially to get to know each other as some of us have never met before and in the same time to explore Cairo, History etc. We all had lots of fun together. What I mostly enjoyed was the camel ride !

Picture : Me and Giza Pyramids

When we reached the hotel it was bit late, Before I went to the room, I met Dave Prior (Immediate past chair of PMI IT & Telecom Sig), It was so exiting to see him as we have been knowing each other through articles , blogs and emails for quite a time. He was amazing.
At night Emad ( the host of P2P and the CEO of Brisk Consulting wanted to meet all the speakers in order to give an overview of the conference. Except me all the others were from eitther USA or Canada. After the meeting , others proceeded to the Dinner but I was tired and full with late lunch so I went to bed.

The conference started officially on 3rd Tuesday with Keynote speeches by some of the ministers of Egypt Government and some industry experts. It was quite interesting to see how Egypt government has understood the importance of proper project management expertise in the region. The afternoon sessions were more focused on PMOs and Maturity of PMOs in General.
There we met Ricardo Viana Vargas (PMI Board of Directors Chair) Dave introduced me to him and gave him a reminder about one of my articles which they have referred before with regard to Agile and PMBOK. Jesse who was with us didn’t forget to tease me about the PMI April issue and me being the cover girl ( oh I'm blushed ) in front of him. And we had a little chat. I was so impressed to hear how open he is to Agile and Scrum while heading PMI, It was very impressive. I thought to bring this up in the Colombo chapter discussion next time.
Dave proposed that we should grab a coffee and do a practice run of my first presentation with himself and Jim as I was little nervous about the presentations among all the very experienced speakers.. But they were quite happy with the practice run so their comments gave me lots of confidence before presenting to the audience.
Dave gave me more info on Transition of the PM in Agile which he thought would be the questions from the Audience.

We started the Scrum sessions by 4th November. This segment was conducted by James Cundiff- Jim( Managing Director Scrum Alliance, Dave Prior, Jesse Fewell, Bob Tarne and me. It was an amazing experience to work with such people and we were a great Cross functional Scrum team. we conducted most the sessions with some discussions ,questions and answers.

The Amazing thing in this sessions were that, we , speakers had arguments about certain concepts openly in front of the audience. It was never a stiff speeches we see in normal conferences. As a team we turned it around. As a team we made it very agile , open and direct. Jim mentioned his opinion on daily scrum which Dave and Myself disagreed openly, Jesse had a conflicting idea about initiating an organization with Scrum against my opinion. We all had certain arguments on how to position a PM in this transition .. Very upfront.. This was amazing and most the audience gave lots of encouraging comments about the way we handled it . There you go....They got the idea of Scrum not being a very prescriptive method.. In RUP you never argue on how to write a use case or a PFD.. So that was an eye opening for the audience. Thanks Jim for starting this conversations.

Jim and Dave opened the session by explaining the basics of scrum. they got some volunteers from the audience to play a game for the attendees to understand the effectiveness of initial one time planning Vs Iterative planning. Then the next session was mine. I had to present the Organizations moving from waterfall to Agile , the challenges they may face in this transition. I touched main areas in the presentation such as Why Moving to Agile, (there I had a great story to convince the audience with real pictures to support the story)Which Agile methods to be selected , In Which layer of the Organization to be aproached first, (there I explained the core cultures of organistions and how to spot the right layer based on the specific culture ) then the most important part, how to handle the people in this transition, such as customer, Technical staff, Management and specially the project manager. Phew !!! You know what.. I got a blue screen.. Why MEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!! But somehow I managed to not to click "my Panic button". so all were ok and I got some good comments about the presentation.
lessons Leaned : Have story cards in your hand , when ever you go to a presentation.. If your computer make troubles, still you can continue without an issue.

After the coffee break, Dave presented about "Reluctant Agilest" quite an interesting presentation about a story how painful agile can be when not embraced in right way.
There after, Jesse took over and he explained "Agile PMO" how agile a PMO could be. Very informative presentation on that aspect and he showed his maturity in managing PMO through out the presentation with live examples.
Then the Audience was lesser for the second session after the lunch break and Bobs presentation was to address the knowledge management for Agile projects. Im sure which has been a very interesting presentation , But I missed it as I went out of the room to get ready for my next presentation on the same day which is Outsourced Project management and challenges in Agile.
I think that was the best presentation I ever made in my life. It all came from my heart as this is what I have been doing for past 12 years. I discussed about outsourcing issues openly in 5 key areas and how we have used Agile to overcome these issues in my current company. Which was the presentation that I have got most the positive feedback so far. ( Most the delegates commented to me at the next day coffee break that they have never known Sri Lanka as such a software offshore destination.. Hmm I was happy..)We closed the day with my presentation.

We had an awesome night that day .. With all the speakers and some of the other people , we had lots of fun. The night was too long .. Me and Jesse who had to take the next day morning sessions were half dead when we reached the hotel around early morning the next day.

3rd day started with Jesse’s presentation on Agile vs PMBOK, which audience had many questions which they needed to clarify. Again I missed most the parts of this presentation as next I had to present my last presentation on Effective communication in Agile. I explained the difference between agile communication and the traditional project communication. In the same time I got some real project examples to show how Agile communication can go wrong with such informal methods. According the audience they had a good presentation from me.. But to be honest I think I was not with my full energy for this presentation compared to others. The next session was a very interesting one by Bob about the user stories and the last session was by Jesse about the Agile contracts. There he explained how fix price works in Agile contracts which is the case in most the real world projects. Interesting !!!

We had the round table discussion afterwards, all 5 of us together.. it was very nice...

Picture : closing dicussion by all the Agile speakers (from left to righit ) Jesse Fewell, PMP, CST, Dave Prior (CST, PMP, Immediate past chair of PMI IT & Telecom Sig ), me, Bob Tarne PMP and James Cundiff( Managing Director Scrum Alliance )

At night some of the speakers went for a dinner in Nile cruise while me , Dave, Jim, Andrew and Bob conducted a retrospective about the Agile stream of the conference. It was time well spent.
After the retrospective again we had a late night.. Not that late as previous night as Jim had to catch his flight back home , Emad and Nora (the hosts ) invited us to taste a real Egyptian Dinner at a real nice exotic Egyptian restaurant.. It was really a nice experience..
After that we said Good bye to each other.. It was such a sad thing to leave such wonderful people whom we worked together for few days as a team.
My flight is today evening.. Only Dave and myself were left in the hotel with the hosts as all the other speakers have left. We both had a small breakfast meeting at Marriot to discuss what we can do in the future together, specialy my interest to become a CST and upcomming PM conference in colombo which will be really good.

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