October 16, 2006

Back from Holiday

To be on a Holiday is bliss.

Specially for an Indian working in Indian IT service sector.

My decision to take a sabbatical of few weeks, to be with my daughter and then join the industry back has met with raised eyebrows and astonished faces.

It was nice to be on a holiday, to meet the dear ones whom you have not met for years together and to just travel. For two weeks I was in north India, trying to sort out some property related issues and then travelling around.

However, missed a ride in the Delhi Metro

Well for project management enthusiasts, Delhi Metro is the biggest infrastructure project undertaken in India since 1947, estimated to be at more than Rs. 10,000/- crore in terms of cost, the project was completed in time and within budget.

In these days of delayed projects with frequent cost over runs, I think this is an example, which we will keep learning from in the time to come.

A holiday with famly, in the company of good books is a greater bliss!!!

In the last few weeks, I have finished few books like;

  • The Mahabahrata, By C. Rajagopalachari
  • 11th Commandment, Jeffary Archer.
  • The Monk who Sold his Ferrari, Robin Sharma
  • Who will Cry when you Die, Robin Sharma
  • Creating Affluence, Deepak Chopra
  • Solve your problems - The Birbal Way
  • The Ice Iream Maker, Subir Chaoudhary
  • Angels and Demons, Dan Brown
  • Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

I this holiday, I developed a taste for business megazines like Business and Economy and 4 P's of Business and Marketing a daily The Economic Times and realized that I should have studies finance, atleast the basics, very early in my life.

In my collection, I have book called A Short History of the World, H.G. Wells, 1922 edition, reprinted in 1938. Let me share with you an interesting 'coincidence' related to this book.

I bought this book from a man selling old books and periodicals on January 1, 1996, and this book was signed by a gentleman with date January 1, 1946!!!

Well not finished yet, but half way through it, the book is a treat for anyone who likes to read the history of the world & mankind, and this copy particular copy is special, because the author has mentioned somethings which were not possible in 1922, but they are a part of 'general awarness', like landing on the moon, highflying jets and cross atlantic journeys.

September 12, 2006

Lesson in Leadership

Having just completed the Indian epic, Mahabharata, I am pondering over a statement which a insignificant character in the story makes to the another. He says,

"The citizens of a country, whose king is weak, should not marry and beget children. A worhty family life, with culture and domestic happiness, is possible only under the rule of a good strong king. Wife, wealth and other things are not safe, if there be no proper king ruling over us"

Inspite of the age when it was written, and civilization it represents, the society it describes and the story it tells of, this statement has lot of significance to all walks of life.

Only if the leaders are good and strong, a project can meet its objectives, an organization and its employees can prosper, the cities can see improvements, the societies can advance, the governments can govern & not 'mis-govern' and the world can become a better place to live in.

September 09, 2006

Software Projects Failure

Let me share an insightful article by Mr. Capers Jones on why software projects fail.

In beginning of the article he mentions the following three reasons for the project failrure

  1. Executives often reject accurate and conservative estimates.
  2. Executives apply harmful schedule pressure that damages quality.
  3. Executives add major new requirements in mid-development.

In majority of the Indian IT service organizations, I think 2nd point is the most valid point. It may be duet the fierce competetion and the very nature of the way business IT service sector.

Further in the article, Mr Jones has also brought forward the problem in status reporting and how a proper training on status reporting is undervalued and ignored, although it’s a critical factor in the decision making process of an organization.

He is right in pointing out that irony that the organizations value status reports as they are inputs to many decisions, however, a formal training and education on this topic is largely ignored.

Click here and enjoy the insightful discussion.

August 30, 2006

SQA: Coach

With audits, reviews and issue handling being the predominant responsibilities, an SQA responsibilities move towards mundane daily tasks. With time, role of the SQA is understood well and with understanding comes the predictability in the work. Organizations, SQA functions and the SQAs should seize this opportunity and raise the level of services rendered to the projects by ensuring that an SQA act as a process coach.

An SQA should spend much of the time in coaching the project teams on organization's software development processes. Although this approach is recommended in the Organizations where the process improvement initiatives are new, however, it is of equal importance to the mature organizations.

While in the immature organizations, where the process improvement initiatives have just begun, SQA can coach the project teams about the organizational process assets, the SQAs in the mature organizations can coach the project teams about the improvements areas with in the projects, while the mundane tasks like audits can be performed by project teams.

Thus with this approach, while the day to day tasks are taken care of, the thrust on improvement initiatives makes sure that the improvements keep happening the organization.

August 23, 2006

SQA: People Person

Let us have a look at the primary duties of an SQA.

The audits, the review meetings and the escalations to resolve any quality issues in a timely manner.

In brief, an SQA has to get things done, in time, from people with whom he does not have a reporting relationship. He has to ensure that the process violations are minimal even when he is not in charge of the projects.

Talk about project teams and you know you are talking about people who have less and less time, who have lots of deliverables to work on, who have deadlines and who keep this evergreen statement in mind, "Customer wanted it yesterday!!!".

SQA often gets to work with such teams and its these teams who have to ensure that the project has no non compliances and liaisons with PMs/PLs or TLs.

If one is not careful, tactful and sensitive about handling 'stressed' people, the resulting chaos may not be suitable for the project's objectives. SQA can easily be blasted, can get a sly reply, a ridiculing laughter or a blunt answer indicating a clear refusal.

It may be argued that, if a project team does not see any value in a process, it should be presented that way or a deviation could be sought. The argument is good, not practical, however. There are many factors that drive process/product compliance or non-compliances like deadlines, pressures, attitude, skills levels etc.

Moreover, many times, it becomes imperative for the project teams to keep up with the pressures from various quarters and thus they tend to ignore the compliance issues unless they have been directed by the senior management or the customers.

Therefore, it's highly recommended that SQA should empathise with the project teams, strive to understand their work and working environments and build better relationships in order to enthuse a confidence in the project teams about software quality processes.

Its not possible to do it without being a people person. Isn't it?

July 27, 2006

SQA : Organizational Culture

Interface - A surface forming a common boundary between adjacent regions, bodies, substances, or phases

SQA is an interface between the organization and its people, the human capital. The organization sets goals for process improvement, chooses a model to adhere to and then organization wide processes are rolled out. SQA must be careful in this aspect of his job. The roles, responsibilities, project organization and organizational hierarchies should be clearly understood.

The escalation mechanisms and modes of escalating vary in the organizations. An SQA will not be very well received if the escalations start taking place, in the organizations, where, escalating an issue is a rarity. On the other hand, if SQA function works only on the basis of escalating the issues then one may not be able to do the job without several escalations a day. However, if SQA function escalates too often and too many times, either the importance of escalation is lost or the efficiency of SQA function comes under scanner.

Similarly, in some organizations, communication may be written & formal and in others, it may be verbal & informal. Clear understanding of organizational factors like the size, organizational goals, and behavioral patterns are critical for smooth functioning of SQA.

It’s the presence of such factors that make the gestation period in process industry on higher side and therefore, it will be a while before some basic understanding is developed and right level efficiency sets in.

The SQA should strive to understand the organization culture. The value of the SQA will be visible and seen by relevant stakeholders when the SQA conducts himslef according to the established organization culture.

July 20, 2006

SQA : Personal Integrity

Most of the times, the job of SQA is to monitor the process which is planned to be followed in the project and report any violations in this process. The SQA report is shared with the Senior Management along with the project manager. It is this and its consequences which can be challenging and should be handled with care and caution.

In a typical SQA report, it’s critical to highlight the potential risks a project may be exposed to due to any violation in process.

It must be done with objectivity in mind, nevertheless. This essentially means that all SQA reviews must be done without bias, in line with the project’s objectives against a criterion.

Moreover, it is the utmost duty of SQA to be firm on findings.

Given this, let’s face it!

In any kind of set up where-in the performing groups need some kind of 'go-ahead' from an internal group, the bureaucracy, politics and some pressure building tactics will be present, the degrees of these factors may vary in organizations.

Presence of these factors combined with the fact that an SQA report can potentially halt the delivery is conducive to a scenario wherein such pressure building and influencing tactics can exist and flourish.

An SQA must recognize that such tactics may into play several times and there may be an increase in probability of affected groups and people will exercise such tactics to influence the SQA report in their favor which basically means ignoring process violations for a ‘timely go-ahead’.

If this is done, then it amounts to incorrect reporting, an absolutely unethical practice.

Additionally, SQA must also recognize that many of the SQA decisions may have to be compromised, if one bows out to such influencing forces. If one compromises on SQA decisions, it directly amounts to undermining the importance of SQA role and making SQA redundant.

Once the non-compliances are reported and then the next step, many times is not closing them, mind you, it is being firm on them.

These are the challenges which an SQA has to face and it warrants a strong display of objectivity, personal commitment and integrity.

Once we display it few times, the pressures to influence cease to exist.

July 13, 2006

Becoming an SQA

I was six years into it and was loosing my passion!

Looking back, I think, it was the sheer volatility of technology, which I had witnessed, had made me to loose interest in it. I had seen technology advancing with such a speed, that before I could be satisfied with my own understanding of one aspect of it, the projects demanded another aspect to be understood, mastered and delivered in time and as always, the delivery date was ‘yesterday’.

The term, ‘I want it yesterday’ is so commonly used in projects that it almost amounts to its abuse. It was as good as saying all issues needed to be fixed yesterday and today was day to freak out!!!

For me it had lost its significance for none of the cases I came across, were so critical that it demanded the usage of this phrase. There were instances in abundance, though, when it was (mis)used to build up pressure on the development teams. It was a typical case of using “Urgent and Important” phrase in the subject of almost every email and then loosing the significance of importance and urgency of the emails.

With no passion for technology and the associated work, I decided to give up on technology and pick up something else in the IT projects. However I had no idea of what it could be.

And there I was disillusioned and wandering.

I recall the period after this move as one of the most uncertain and confusing. It was in this aftermath of my decision, I came across an opportunity in the Quality function to work as SQA. I grabbed it. It was a reluctant move, based primarily on intuitive thoughts, a friendly advice and the fact that there was no better alternative available.

Four years down the line, I am glad I did it. Being an SQA for around three years was an enlightening experience. It was a defining period of my IT career. It gave me room for creativity. This was so beautiful experience. Being able to apply theory with my own thoughts!
Indeed appears a childish statement however this is the most simplistic expression I can think of!

I have enjoyed my role thoroughly which has involved lot of interactions, application of interpersonal and communications skills. While relationship building became a day to day task, the role demanded incredible display of communication skills, problem solving, handling escalations, articulation of issues and most importantly, personal integrity. Though the CMM skills were necessary requirement, a continuous touch with the QMS helped me to keep my knowledge relevant to the organization’s requirements.

At a personal level, I owe a long list of friends to this role.

Based on whatever understanding I have developed, in a series of brief articles, I will try to explore the demands of SQA role.

July 11, 2006

Job change: A Paradigm Shift???

Recently I changed my job!

Not that I was fed up in the old organization, but there were many factors behind this decision

  • Most importantly, I had decided to build my career in CMM and related frameworks
  • Professional headhunters and recruiters in the companies had started to ask me why in the same organization for the last five years (!!!)
  • I think, one has to follow the prevailing pattern. In Indian IT, very few people keep the same company (?) for longer duration. Of course, unless one gets supernatural growth and sees some professional benefits in sticking with one organization
  • While I saw nothing wrong in continuing in the same organization for next three years, it was this market mood which had set me thinking about it
  • The sheer excitement of the prospect of changing a job fuelled my desire

I floated my resume and spread the word through my friends and landed a good opportunity.

After changing the job, I realized that I was stepping in to a different paradigm. The organizational culture becomes a paradigm for someone who has spent good time of one’s career in one organization. A job change in this situation means that one is stepping out of one paradigm and going into another one.

Therefore, a job change, in a sense, is a paradigm shift.

With this as background and given that my experience ranges to approximately a decade, let me share an article with you. I came across this article recently through a newsletter. Let me say, personally, it’s a 'well timed' discovery.

Joe Wynne, the author, describes a scenario when one experienced person has been hired in the project team and the subsequent situations it gives rise to.

The author describes the challenges, the leader of the team has, when an experienced person comes on board.

I think, a capable and experienced resource is a dream come true for any project manager and inability to handle this person effectively can prove out to be a fatal and costly mistake.

In my opinion, one must be on a constant watch while in process of integrating himself with the new organization and shoud not let one’s own fundamental values to be compromised. Monetary gains becomes secondary after you spend a decade in the profession. It’s the values that start giving you satisfaction and make your career.

Click here to read the complete article

While I have taken my notes from the article, you can enjoy reading it and take your own notes.

Happy reading

July 05, 2006

Divine Vision - III

Earlier parts
Divine Vision I
Divine Vision II

Eventually, world was a safer place to live!!!

Sounds like a plot from Hollywood?

Yeah it is a plot, but not from Hollywood. In the most simplistic terms, it is one of the interpretations of "The Mahabharata", a sacred Hindu scripture. Some believe its a mythological story, for some its an account of historical events that took place few thousands years ago when the civilizations of the world possessed great knowledge about nature, space and humankind. For some, it’s a piece of fiction.

According to me, it’s a well-crafted historical epic written with few mythological characters. Whatever it is, every time I read something in it, it gives me insights into several aspects of life. There are some powerful lessons to be learned from this great epic. This combined with another epic; “Bhagvat Gita” is a killing weapon in today’s corporate manager’s life.

The man who destroyed the ‘Clones’ is known as ‘Lord Krishna’, in Hindu mythology. He had the vision to keep earth safe from some destructive forces and he accomplished it, successfully.

Project Management is about converting vision into reality. We need to break down our vision into measurable goals and then plan ahead for it. We should have the ability to ‘see the future’ and act accordingly. Our decision should be powerful enough to influence the outcome and responsible enough not to influence the “stake holder’s interests” to compromise it. We should drive our lives in such a way that our days are pleasant enough to make tough and difficult choices. We should always work towards the established project objectives while keeping abreast with the stakeholders interests. Unless we have a systematic approach, we cannot achieve the results as we envision them to be.

Lord Krishna accomplished what he had envisioned. He systematically kept on eliminating everyone associated with evil forces (Clones and associates) and eventually earth was a safe place to live.

However…, He was powered with divine forces. And we are humans. We need power and elegance of systematic approach to help us in achieving. Systematic Project Management just does that. And it is an Enabler.

With a tribute to the visionaries, I start this blog, in which I will write about the IT Projects, Project Management, share my thoughts about the Indian IT, and if its in my capacity, I will also share my thoughts about the future of IT.

this series ends here
The plot of The Mahabharata is my interpretation and I do not claim it to be true. Please read the epic itself if you want to know more about it.

Earlier parts
Divine Vision I
Divine Vision II

July 01, 2006

Divine Vision - II

And he thought he created the future of his own choice…

The powerful thoughts have parallels and nature has her own ways.

When the King was preparing to strike back and his sons were getting ‘manufactured to do so’, somewhere, in distant part of the planet, some sages and saints, who were dedicated to the divine mission of taking care of humanity till they live, were the men who saw the future. With their meditative techniques and psychic powers, they found out what the future would be on the planet…they saw the rules of nature being defied, the manufactured men and women ruling the planet and the earth, the space, the human kind being destroyed never to live again. Then, they knew that the time had come for another plan to be hatched…an unthinkable plan… unprecedented task was to be accomplished and the execution had to be flawless.

They teamed up with the well-known kings, great minds and scholars of that time. They knew that if the King is not stopped now, the humanity would be destroyed forever and the earth would not remain habitable anymore. They saw eradication of the Mankind, suffering of humans and they reasoned that it would take someone wise and enlightened to counter such powerful force .With all their knowledge, which they had gathered in their lifetime, they created an enlightened beautiful man with supernatural physical, spiritual and mental powers. This man had knowledge, possessed wisdom and was guided by the divine forces of the nature. He was wise enough to perceive the future and steer his actions, words, mind and strength for the benefits in future. He was unstoppable once on a mission…an almost Divine Force!

The divine force went on his mission right from his childhood to teenage to the youth and beyond! Throughout his life journey, he had his objectives in his focus and he steered himself to his objectives acting accordingly. Steadily, he reached a point where he had achieved his ultimate goal, to eliminate the hundred sons that the King created to avenge the injustice he had suffered. With that, he also eliminated all who had the knowledge of repeating such an act.

The mission was accomplished and the order of the world was restored.

to be continued...

June 30, 2006

Divine Vision - I

He thought he created the future…

Prince of a flourishing kingdom, aspired to be the King, lost the throne to his younger brother because he was blind. But the destiny had some different plans, the younger of siblings met with premature death and the prince found himself on the throne. The sages, saints and scholars of the country decided that he would remain the caretaker of the kingdom and the throne. The king’s men remained loyal to him and he ran the kingdom excellently bringing glory and prosperity to kingdom. His rule came to be known as the golden era in the known history of humans.

The king had fabulous children and the young princes were intelligent, brave, courageous, determined and their fame spread like wildfire on the planet. The king’s younger brother, who had died at very young age, had left behind a wife and five sons. His sons were also brilliant and basked in the glory of their achievements and fame at very young age. According to the arrangement, the caretaker King was to give up the throne and the eldest of his brother’s sons was to ascend to the throne, being eldest of all and the legitimate heir to the throne after his father’s death.

This was a painful reality for the King, it had become a bone of contention and the King remembered it all his life. For a man of his stature, it was humiliating. He was elder and thought himself to be the legitimate King but the throne was given to younger one! It pinched him, all the time; the life was not same for him. The bitterness in him started to build up and grew with time. He knew the throne belonged to him; he knew that no one on the planet can challenge him for this. In his solitude, he cried, cried like an innocent baby…he prayed days and night and years went by. But then he was a capable man. Thus the man who experienced dejection, as the years passed started to accept the truth was and then slowly regained composure. With all his bitterness, courage that he had gathered over the years, the memories of the insult that haunted him … (the throne belonged to me… It was God’s gift and a natural right as I was elder)…he decided to strike back.He met with the great minds of that time and took their help. He devised a powerful plan not only to keep the throne but also make him the first King to rule this planet and the universe. He wanted to do the unthinkable and he was on his way to accomplish it. With greatest ever minds on his side, he was about to do what was not known to anyone. It was unthinkable, only till that moment, not any more; the plan to build the largest ever empire had been hatched

His men divided the fertilized egg from the Queen’s womb, into hundred different cells and engineered them to produce the most powerful, brave, courageous and intelligent men in the history of mankind. They developed fetus in the specially made pots and containers, securely kept in well-sophisticated rooms and labs.
One hundred strongest and bravest men were born and the King saw his future in them. He was overjoyed, thrilled and proud at the sight of his bright sons.

And he thought he created the future of his own choice…

to be continued...