Monthly Archives: October 2013

Project Management Essentials – Developing Project Team

While maintaining a team of resources, in order to maintain quality, health and progress of collective team efforts it is quite vital to engage team building techniques. To the benefit of team members as well as the subsequent project work to be undertaken by them it is of foremost importance to develop project team on a continuous basis. This benefits not just the teams members in lifting their moral, work interest and motivation, but any positive outcome derived from these techniques will also be reflected in the overall quality of end work produced.

  1. Interpersonal Skills- It is essential to use the soft skills like empathy, influence, creativity and group facilitation (ex- agile stand up meetings) to bring cohesion between team members and to be able to work collectively in tandem.
  2. Training – Regular training boosts team member’s confidence in dealing with a particular technology and keeps the on the cutting edge of new skillsets prevailing in the current market. Training also helps in guiding the team to work in the most optimal method that has been tried and tested while following the best standards set by industry veterans.
  3. Team building activities- There are five stages of team development- Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Forming is the first stage where new teams are introduced and their skillsets are integrated into the flow of collective executive of their skills. The teams’ quality, attitude, work style is assessed and utilized in the best interest strategically. Storming is where every team member is exposed to the work culture by getting together and figuring out the work process, work responsibilities, individual contribution, their roles and things of that nature. There might be a clash of ideas or principles between new members which should be sorted out in this stage. Norming is where the team is acquainted with each other in terms of their work style, methodologies, interactive capacity and overall degree of comfort in working together. Performing is where the team will start performing at their highest level producing top quality results. Adjourning is when the project end and a team need to be disassembled or rolled on to a new project or a new engagement.
  4. Ground Rules – Expectations in every aspect of work should be clearly outlined and followed. This ensures a proper following of processes and rules as expected by the client.
  5. Co-Location – This helps build rapport between team members and helps with faster execution of project activities without going back and forth as much. This requires the team to be located in the same physical place rather than spread out and separate. This could be a war room or an agile form of project execution.
  6. Recognition and Rewards – This is the most overlooked area which if used efficiently can be very effective for the success of any particular project. Desired behavior should be rewarded and encouraged to maintain certain level of expectations. The reward could be a written gratitude for good work or bonus or advancement in their career.

Project Management Essentials – Techniques for Estimating Activity Durations

Estimating activity duration is often overlooked when it comes to different ways that can be used to reach a better metrics on duration. To more accurately assess how long an activity takes it is necessary to take into consideration the skill-set and capabilities of the activity owner while incorporating different techniques.

Some of the most common scheduling techniques used for estimating activity duration as discussed below.

  1. Analogous Estimating – This technique is also known as “Top Down” estimating. A reference point should be set using similar previous projects that matches best with the activities for which we are running the estimates for.  Adjustments would need to be made for any differences.
  2. Parametric Estimating- Also known as “Rule of Thumb”, this technique takes statistical relationship between historical data and other variables into consideration. For example: If a resource can finish testing 100 lines of code in an hour, it will take 10 hours to test 1000 lines of code.
  3. Three-Point Estimates (PERT – Performance Evaluation & Review Tool) – This is one of the most widely used estimating technique wherein three different points of references in terms of case-based scenarios are established and  calculated according to the formula. The three metrics are established according to the “Most likely”, “Optimistic (best-case)” and “Pessimistic (worst-case)” scenario. PERT = [Optimistic + (4 x Most Likely) + Pessimistic]/6
  4. Reserve Analysis – This technique takes into consideration the uncertainties that could surround the project work. A contingency reserves is added to the schedule in case of any adversities like bad weather, earthquake, political instability, etc.

Gold as reserve currency – Part 1

In the time of economic distress, Gold is often seemed as the last man standing. To help understand the role of gold we need to understand how is gold related to the fiat currencies and how it works now as compared to how it worked in the past.

It all started with IOUs being issued against the gold reserves. So in a classical sense the domestic gold supply is directly proportional to the country’s stock of gold. On the international trade front, the notes issued against the gold reserves would be constricted when a country experiences a deficit in trade in terms of gold due to the loss of gold while importing more than the exports.  This depresses the price levels and makes the exports more attractive to other countries while making the imports more expensive. This leads to an automatic correction of the country’s deficits.

What follows is sterilization under a gold standard where the exchange rates are fixed so there is no currency appreciation or depreciation. When a country has net surplus of gold in-flowing from deficit countries, the inflation of that country rises since people will have more gold to buy more imports. And over time since the imports will also increase due to the increased capacity of the nation’s citizens to buy more, the deficit will be corrected.  There will also be declines of export from deficit countries because of the higher prices. The deficit countries will also end up exporting instead of consuming part of their production to correct the deficit. Countries like US and France used the Sterilization in 1920s and 1930s with some success whilst stocking up piles of gold. Around early 1930s this model had detrimental effects on the global economy and was abandoned.

This classical gold model turned out badly in practice due to depletion of gold stocks in some countries while explosion in practice of hoarding gold.

Service Management

Typically customers will pursue the service provider that best enables them to achieve their goals and will offer the greatest advantages.

The true value of a service is comprised of

  • Utility or fitness for purpose
  • Warranty or fitness for use

Utility refers to how useful a service is to a customer. There are two ways of improving utility, the first one being performance improvement. This can be achieved by improving the skills of staff, providing cutting edge and the latest technology that will keep them competitive while also encouraging creativity and innovation.

Next is to remove the constraints and bottlenecks on performance. Constraint is anything that impacts the execution or delivery of the service.  The constraints could be limited hardware or unavailability of resources, not having proper access to the information, administrative delays etc. Appropriate method or actions can be used to tackle each of the bottlenecks individually.

Warranty or Service level agreement –

An SLA or a warranty ensures continuity of service, security to offer reliable solution and dependency & support for after delivery of the service and reduction of risk from the customer’s side, on schedule delivery, type of support. Failing to provide warranty can reduce overall service for customers. Service level agreement is part of any client vendor contract agreements and it ensures consistent, timely and quality service.