Category Archives: Business

What do I do?

How do I help companies succeed? Here is a list of services and example projects.

VALUE-ADD SERVICEDESCRIPTIONSUCCESSFUL PROJECTS
Strategic Planning and Roadmap DevelopmentLeads and facilitates organizational, functional and technical strategic planning and roadmap development by engaging with key stakeholders.Finance: Facilitated planning sessions with Vice Chancellor of Financial Affairs and Treasurer. Performed review of work portfolios across Directors subject areas, including Financial Affairs, Capital Planning and Development, Audit, Institutional Research and Procurement. Established process for prioritization and reporting.  

Human Resources: Consulted on the review of HR’s portfolio of projects; provided a prioritization approach and templates.  

Cybersecurity Solutions Company: Created a 2-year strategic convergence plan and CRM solution for the integration of applications and websites resulting in the elimination of 20 redundant business applications, data cleansing of customer databases (120,000+ records reduced to 17,000) and the standardization of business processes (order management and customer service) across several key functional areas.  
Project and Program ManagementEducates and guides organizations in the disciplines to managing projects, oversight of third-party PMs, following best practices, Charters, Project Plans, Issue Risk logs etc…   Additionally, and of importance is understanding the difference between projects and programs. Larry provides clear recommendations on the processes and resourcing allocations to support these two management areas.  Human Resources and Procurement: Guided Procurement and HR functions on understanding the difference of projects and programs in their management of their projects portfolio resulting in tactical and strategic roadmaps and more aligned resources.  
Project Intake and Prioritization SelectionEstablishes the structure for the submission and prioritization of project proposals/requests. The structure (templates and timing) engages organizational functions and stakeholders across the enterprise. Prioritization starts with aligning proposals with strategic and organizational objectives, then examining business value/benefit, business complexity (e.g. workflows and cross-functional requirements) and technical complexity (cross-systems, cross-databases, data manipulation, security, etc.)Information Technology: Employed multiple organizational functions; Finance, HR, Procurement and IT in the review of existing processes and development of go-forward processes. Of note was development of a Long Range Technology Plan for IT across the enterprise.  
PMO (Project Management Office) DevelopmentEstablishes the strategic and tactical project management guidelines, policies, processes, best practices along with standards for documentation. Includes the role of the PMO in the organization and the identification of required resources.Federal Government Sub-contractor: Worked closely with the IT department within a military branch to architect and facilitated the implementation of a PMO (Project Management Office) while the organization achieved CMMI certification. Additionally, applied Six Sigma and Lean disciplines to this newly created PMO.  
Business Process, Workflow, Operations Analysis and OptimizationClearly understands and guides the review, analysis and optimization of business processes and workflows. Facilitates sessions based on Lean principles to achieve value-add, optimization results.Semi-conductor Manufacturing: Delivered an ERP solution (Siebel 7) for an international, ISO 9001:2000 semi-conductor company resulting in the retirement of 4 legacy applications and millions of data records migrated. The project involved all functional areas (Sales, Legal, Product Mgmt., Manufacturing, Finances) to address quote-to-cash sales and product development lifecycle.  

IT Solutions Provider: Led a key strategic initiative to deliver a B2B web-based custom pricing architecture to enterprise-level corporate clients using JD Edwards for a recognized e-commerce leader of computer hardware and software solutions. The solution helped company reach $100 million revenues  

Online Education Company: Developed from scratch a department and processes to deliver on the complete customer experiencer: Pre-sales to Post-sales Support and Account Management.  

Higher Ed Processes: IAM (Integrated Advising Model), HR Onboarding Process, LRTP (Long Range Technology Planning) Intake Process, IT Project Intake Process for several campuses, USNH OEC (Online Enrollment Center) Workflow Processes, Cross-campus purchasing  
Vendor/Partner ManagementEngages in the management of vendor/partner relationships to achieve organizational project and program objectives. Engaged in all aspects of the relationship including: RFP Development, Selection Criteria, Contract Award, Project Management and Accountability (reporting and communications). Managed vendor engagements through procurement lifecycle. EPM (Oracle PBCS), ERP (SAP, Ellucian),Time Management (Kronos)eProcurement (Jaggaer), CRM (Salesforce and Siebel),Business Process Review and Roadmaps, Master Services Agreement  
Technology Assessments and Impact AwarenessWorking with clients to assess the health and status of key business applications. Determine how existing technology has been integrated, identify redundant and orphaned systems. Ensures that all business processes and functions are efficiently delivering on strategic and operational objectives Guides the review of existing technology ecosystems and provides an assessment of current state (versioning, licensing, etc.) and develops roadmaps to optimize systems and business processes.Cybersecurity Solutions Company: Conducted a complete inventory of organization’s business applications portfolio. Following the inventory created a matrix of key profiling elements: business owner, platform, users, funding, etc. Notable project achievement; reduced 23 apps to 3.  
Cloud ReadinessThe movement and adoption of cloud-based solutions continues at an accelerated rate; however, many organizations still struggle with the decision to move their on-premise infrastructure and applications into the cloud. Larry has provided organizations with an approach to confidently make this decision. Combining an education of cloud services, addressing misconceptions and leading stakeholders through risk/benefit analysis.Managed Services Company: Conducted numerous assessments of customers’ operational and organizational readiness to move applications to cloud (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace) Provided technology reviews to help right size solutions.
Data Analysis and ManagementWorks with data managers and stakeholders to evaluate, analyze and develop data requirements to fulfill project and operational objectives. Provides guidance to management and technical teams on the appropriate strategies to build-out strategic and tactical data management and reporting plans.Completed an analysis and provided an approach with recommendations on the cleanup of Ellucian Banner to support an eProcurement project.Established the criteria and processes for the onboarding of vendors to Jaggaer application.
Leadership and ManagementEstablishes a “trusted advisor” and “senior leader” persona when working with clients. Working internally and externally (customers and business partners) represents organizational strategic objectives and drives key transformational and growth initiatives without disrupting existing structures.  Cybersecurity Solutions Company: Represented SVP of Sales in global development and deployment of CRM project and program.  

Online Education Company: Partnered with Senior Executives in presenting company’s value add products and services with focus on post-sales support and account management relationship.

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What they say about Larry Gagnon?

I am blessed to be able to help others achieve their dreams, goals and aspirations. I guess I do have an impact as here are comments from people I have worked with.

 “It’s a privilege to work with someone as gifted and talented as Larry. He is the consummate professional and a manager who always “has your back.” No question is too trivial, no matter too complex, and no customer situation too challenging for him. I continue to learn from him each day, both by his words and by his example. He has great clarity of vision; when I am in the midst of problemsolving, he can play back a situation to help me see a different angle and offer a solution that I may not have considered. In addition, Larry truly appreciates his team and takes every opportunity to convey that to us. He is someone who takes a group and makes it a TEAM.”
~ Mary R. (Customer Support)

“As an experienced and deeply talented manager and leader, Larry consistently exceeds expectations and metrics with the performance of his group. Larry effortlessly handles difficult customer personalities and scales a very complex product rollout process across a large population of strategically important organizations. He is a valuable part of my team.”
~ Amelia N. (Chief Content Officer)

“Larry’s dedication, passion, honesty and directness has been a refreshing pleasure to work with both as a colleague and as my manager. He has been a great mentor and inspiration to me in project management, facilitation and communication where his positive attitude, experience and leadership helped foster communication at all levels within the organization providing a value add. Larry would be an asset to any organization.”
~Beth R. (Project Manager)

“Larry utilizes his functional, technical, and project management skills in extremely impactful and thoughtful ways. He is one of the best Project Managers I have ever worked with, leading to an on-time and on-budget implementation at USNH. He’s also a heck of a nice guy, and a pleasure to work with!”
~ Jonathan E. (Customer Success Director)

“I have had the pleasure of, knowing, managing, and working with Larry throughout his tenure at USNH. Larry has a diverse set of skills and talents, far and beyond being a PMP and Lean Practitioner. Larry has an extremely positive and energizing personality, augmented by an analytical mind which he uses to assess and balance project risk and develop appropriate courses of action. His ability to lead and inspire teams in achieving their project goals is facilitated through his communication, EQ skills, and ability to quickly read a room, curate appropriate messaging and help teams focus on the vision and work through project Issues and risks. Larry is an accomplished speaker, educator and presenter. He is comfortable in communicating with senior leadership, working one on one with teams or addressing a room of hundreds. He leverages these skills during project status reviews, leading seminars, and facilitating process improvement sessions. Larry would be a strong addition to any team.”
~ Paul D. (Chief of Staff)

“Larry and I have worked together for over 6 years and he is without a doubt both a leader and a manager. During this time Larry managed organization changing projects meeting requirements of many constitutions across a college system such as implementation for an e-procurement solution, a time and leave reporting system, EPM, and the HR ERP. I was amazed to watch him dissect the complex, highly charged issues and use his skills and experiences to solve problems by looking at the big picture, assessing all relevant details, and providing clear and viable solutions or options. I have also observed how his teams recognize that he is there for them. He provides clarity of vision on projects and work in general and embraces mentoring junior team members. His inclusive leadership creates teams with a motivated focus. I am deeply grateful for the years I have worked with Larry and can say confidently he absolutely is and will be a valuable and positive team member for any endeavor or organization he is involved with.
~ Steve P. (Vice President Finance)

“I had the privilege of working with Larry at Digital Equipment Corp and later hired him to run my ECommerce initiative at RSA Security. Larry is a tremendous team player that drives projects to completion in a collaborative manner. He is an outstanding leader with a can-do attitude and any organization would benefit greatly from his leadership.”
~ Mike H. (Vice President Operations)

“I had the pleasure of reporting into Larry at APS. During my time with the company I learned many key aspects of Project Management not covered during my PM certification, through Larry’s experience and wisdom. Larry is a true champion of service excellence and a motivating force. He is highly respected by all and people gravitate to Larry as a mentor. Never have I seen such grace under fire during key milestones and events of a project/program. Larry has my highest recommendation!”
~ Deb J. (Project Manager)

 “I worked closely with Larry for over a year. I can emphatically state that Larry is an individual who cares greatly about doing right by the customer. He cares passionately for the people he manages. And he is entirely dedicated to whichever role he is performing. Larry’s project management skills would make him an asset for any company. I recommend Larry without reservation.”
~ Bob S. (Vice President of Development)

“Larry is a committed and capable leader of people who knows how to positively motivate those around him. I have found Larry to be an excellent sounding board for “messages” (to internal and external recipients) as he brings clear insight to the most complicated situations. He truly understands the balance around working to a compromise that suits multiple sides and goals of a project.”
~ Tomas O. (Product Manager)

“Larry is a detailed, wellorganized individual with a positive attitude and an excellent team player that does not hesitate to tackle new or complex tasks. I found him to be very professional with Perot Systems associates, managers, and clients. He is enthusiastic about his work, and always willing to learn new things. I worked with Larry on some projects, and found him to be a great support.”
~ Jeff G. (Senior IT Manager)

“Larry is a consummate professional. In his role at APS, he led his team in navigating complex client deployments involving thousands of users. He embodied professionalism and integrity in every interaction. I have every confidence he would be an asset to the leadership team of any organization.”
~ Leo N. (Software Development Manager)

 “Larry is an incredible asset to APS. He is able to communicate effectively with all departments in the organization and customers at every level. His door is always open and able to offer insight and support to issues that may arise. That is refreshing for a subordinate to have in working through challenges. He is a problem solver, leads by example, organized, articulate, humble and wants those working under him to be successful. I truly believe you could pick up any book with examples of strong leadership/management styles and it would be describing Larry.”
~ John K. (Account Manager & Professional Services)

 “As Director of Services at Scribe Larry was a motivator across his and all departments. He is a pleasure to work with and has excellent communication skills. I know through working with his direct reports that they also found him to be a fair, effective and enabling leader of their team. Larry is a solid, team oriented addition to any organization.”
~ Mike B. (QA Engineer and Developer)

“Larry is an outstanding professional who leads by example, and his managerial style is both supportive and constructive. While reporting to Larry, he provided a balanced approach to each issue I brought to him, helping me to achieve the most effective results possible often within challenging constraints. It a pleasure to work with, and for, Larry.”
~ Melissa K. (Technical Writer and Training Developer)

“I had the opportunity to work with Larry while implementing a CRM solution for RSA Security. Larry provided the type of positive leadership that is needed to make a crossfunctional project a success. He is very detail orientated, displays great communication skills when managing the needs of different user groups and always brings a contagious positive attitude to all of the projects he works on. Larry is hard working, dedicated and a pleasure to know and work with. I highly recommend him.”
~ Denny P. (Business Analyst and Developer)

 “Larry is a professional who excelled at managing the Ecommerce process, support staff and tool. He and his team were key in providing and managing the interface between the technical IS and Business organizations and their requirements.”
~ Mark S. (Director of Customer Operations)

“Having recruited Larry into my organization as Program Manager over vendor relationships, I was extremely impressed by his drive to succeed. Highly intelligent and equally personable, Larry developed and executed marketing strategies for selling into the Digital channel, working with almost every major manufacturer in the computer industry. With seasoned experience, he enjoys a unique ability to absorb technology and recognize the benefits it can provide. I count it an honor to know Larry and highly recommend him to any company.”
~ Randall C. (Senior Marketing Director)

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Beyond Scope, Time and Budget

three-pillars

As a project manager you are laser focused on scope, time and budget. You wake up each day and follow your plan. You recognize that managing these three pillars will lead to successfully managing and delivering the project, and consume all of your time and efforts along the way – right

Well, there is a 4th leg to ensuring your success and that is managing the “boss”. The “boss” can be any, or most of the following, the Executive Sponsor(s), other key project stakeholders, and let’s not forget the project manager’s organizational boss who may, or not be, part of the project.

Any of the following resonate?

  • At the kick-off meeting, everyone, with enthusiasm says, “We need to be focused on delivering the scope, being on time and stay within budget.” Right
  • What happens when these bosses become focused on the methodology, be it Waterfall or Agile, the document formats (Word, Excel, PDF, online, paper, etc.) and other (tangentially) related details instead of, or in addition to scope, time and budget?
  • Or, what about when the boss questions why the project is looking at and/or including an analysis of processes? You’ve heard this, “Can’t we just..?”  

Are you frustrated by attending to these boss idiosyncrasies? If so, you are feeling stressed and challenged. You want to be focused on scope, time, budget and get the project done.  Right?

EPSON scanner image
Above cartoon is credited to Tom Fishburne’s great work.

There are many, many well-written approaches on “managing up”, ways to be a good employee, how to please your boss and making your boss look good. From that large volume, here is a short list (4 areas) to focus on and managing (the boss) beyond scope, time and budget.

  • Experience. Put your experience to work. You know your boss, and/or you are aware of the personalities and styles of other bosses who might need a little more “support”. Leverage this knowledge and plan for it – actually build time into your schedule to rewind, review and consider what they are asking for. Need a primer on leadership styles, start with this overview.
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Right in the beginning of the project, or as soon as “beyond scope, time, budget” behaviors, or situations arise, schedule time with the boss and ask the following questions, “What do you expect from me and the project team? What will be success for the project?” They will say scope, time, budget, so you will need to press and drill into these responses to truly know. Write these responses down and send to them confirming your understanding. And, once you have had the initial meeting and any subsequent meetings, you go back to the beginning of this paragraph and you start again.
  • Focus. At the end of the day (project), the care-and-feeding of bosses is secondary to delivering on the project’s scope, time and budget. Keeping a value-based, high-quality focus on these pillars will help on those days when you hear about the margins of a report requiring modification. These pillars are the true priorities.
  • Look in the mirror. Be your own critic before someone else does. It is easier to look in the mirror and give yourself a “get it right” talk instead of being called to an office for an unexpected “meeting”.

Finally, here is a good reference from Project Times.

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Win-Win Relationships with Consultants (and everyone else)

In my career I have had many experiences working with consulting firms and individuals and I have repeatedly witnessed some in my organization treating these relationships with a “they are only consultants” as is if they are slave labor, thus giving little or no respect. When pondering this type of behavior, my thoughts created many questions regarding the client-consultant relationship. Explore your relationships by reading on.

  • Why is it that people and organizations feel that they can “beat up” on the consultants? What kind of archaic and arcane thinking is that? What is it? It does not work and I propose requires more effort to work from this view. and delivers less than desirable results.
  • Are relationships with our vendors and partners one-sided? Is there give-and-take? Is there active listening going on? Do you agree that successful (productive) relationships are based on trust and a shared vision of the future? If so, these relationships take time and need to be developed just like any other.
  • If the first two bullets resonate, where to begin. What about the contractual agreement? Doesn’t this solidify details and expectations? If not, ask your consultant any flavor of the following:
    • “What is the definition of success? What would be the best, most ideal outcome for the project, or agreement, or contract?” After the agreement is signed and you begin the work, ask the question again, I guarantee you will get a more relaxed and beneficial answer. This is where the trust truly begins.
    • “How are you (the individual, not the company) measured for success? How will your boss, your company view success?”
    • “What has worked in the past? Tell me about the best customer you have worked with?”
  • Of equal importance and value and to make this a two-way conversation, the other side of asking your consultants all these questions, is for the consultant to clearly understand your responses to the same questions and clearly understand the goals.
  • Help them be the best they can be. Prior to engaging, the consultants presented a host of services/solutions to help you achieve your stated objectives; makes sense to put them in the best position to deliver – right?
  • Remove obstacles. Make it “easy” for them to deliver on their expertise. If they need another power cord, go get it, they need a database update, get it done, they need a decision, make it happen.
  • At the end of the day, the project or the agreement, if you have answered, and/or addressed the questions above, you will have developed a relationship that enables your consultant to succeed, and there success is your success!
  • In projects, while some elements are possibly subjective, items like time and budget should be well defined so there is no question and strict accountability can be put in place.
  • First impressions are real. Upon engaging in a new relationship with a consultant you are establishing the foundation for the future. Not only do first impressions represent a relationship between individuals, but also between individuals and organizations, or between organizations.
    • What kind of impact can a first impression have? I recall a particular experience in which I entered a corporate office of a prospective client and while awaiting for my appointment with a senior manager I observed and listened as the front-desk administrator had several in-person and over the phone engagements with co-workers where I heard at least twice some utterance similar to, “…they are only a consultant…”. That spoke volumes to me. I knew that this short-sighted perspective (BTW – this was reinforced when I met my contact) was not going to lead to a positive long-lasting relationship, and I was right as the work went away not too far into the future.
  • Getting to know each other. Remember when you moved in with your fiance, boyfriend, girlfriend, college roommate? Remember the awkwardness of learning when to use the bathroom, replacing grocery items, how loud to play music, etc. This was that “getting to know you” phase of a new relationship. Instead of experiencing these awkward activities, why not address both of your expectations, desires and requirements, etc. right from the start? If you sense that you are not on the same page, you have questions, you have doubts; don’t wait and engage right away in the dialog about concerns and questions. Add to this conversation the when and how to communicate (phone, email, meetings), introductions to others (who are the stakeholders)…. And, who is doing what; updating project plans, writing status reports, etc. How and what will be done when there is a disagreement and finally remembering to put the seat down (kidding on this last one!).

This all makes sense – right? If so, you are ready for a “win-win” relationship with your consultants.

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How does a project manager talk on the topic of project management?

A CIO from within my company from a different business unit and outside our region asked if I could speak to his IT team on project management.

Nice to be asked to speak on this topic, however, given the ginormous nature of what project management is, or can be to an organization, I thought “Where do I start?”

What follows in this (albeit lengthy) article is a reflection of my experience to tackle this vast topic within the span of a one-to-two hour meeting. My hope is that the sharing of my experience will help you if you find yourself in a consultative role.

My first thought was to treat this request as a project and, at a minimum, determine the scope and time I would have to fulfill the request. In framing it this way, next I wanted to know what he really wanted me to speak to (Scope). What topics did he consider to be project management? To answer this question, I did not want to use project management terminology (Scope, Time, Risks, etc.). I wanted to hear in his words. I would do the translation later. How much time would he allow for his team (Time)? How formal, or informal, onsite or on a call, structured or unstructured (I was thinking of what resources I would need to pull this together)?

I had some thoughts on how to proceed but also recognized it was important to have a shared view with this sponsor. I arranged for an initial call as I wanted answers to my questions, his support and my “charter” to move forward. We scheduled a call.

Layer 1

At the start he said, “I am spending too much time trying to keep them (IT team) on task.” During the call, his responses to my inquiries and the initial input provided me with created the following perception of what I would be taking on to address this topic.

  • The C-level sponsor spoke of how the IT team was having trouble getting out of its own way.
  • The team has a large number of projects on their plate, but are not particularly adept operationally to allocate resources, and distribute among the portfolio of projects.
  • Time frames were not being met and in some cases developed to move forward with projects.
  • Ongoing initiatives were sometimes reaching a crises level before he had any awareness.
  • He expressed how his view was that they needed more project management discipline and standards.

Layer 2

Good starting point, I thought. Hearing his frustration, I asked what would be a desired list of topic areas to cover. This was my attempt to further refine the ‘scope’ of the presentation. His responses led me to create the following list. The items in parenthesis illustrate how I was interpreting the list and moving towards creating an agenda.

  • Developing and understanding scope of work (Scope)
  • Allocating resources and estimating workloads (Resource Management)
  • Setting milestones and deliverables (Timing and plans)
  • What should be accomplished at project status meetings (Communications)
  • Holding to task and getting work done (Executing the project)

Layer 3

We continued the conversation, I investigated and questioned further in search of a next level of clarification. Project managers know it’s all about the details, so I delved further with two-to-three additional questions on each of the threads. Here were my follow up questions and/or thoughts that we explored.

  • Developing and understanding scope of work
    • Are project proposals and/or charters presently used?
    • Are executive sponsors, business sponsors, champions and/or subject matter experts (SMEs) known to those who are managing projects?
  • Allocating resources and estimating workloads
    • Is there a presently recognized list of all available resources (individuals) for someone leading a project to pick from?
    • What tracking project management tracking tools, if any, are being used today?
  • Setting milestones and deliverables
    • Milestones and deliverables are set in the beginning of the project with buy-in from sponsor; was there an understanding and capture of these important items happening?
    • Once scope is known there will be the “planning” phase in which the project manager can research and prepare a plan that outlines milestones and deliverables. This plan (sometimes encompassed in a charter) is reviewed and signed off prior to kick-off. What are the more important items that you would like to have awareness on?
  • What should be accomplished at project status meetings?
    • This is an easy one. Once plan is established, a project status meeting should be specific to reporting on the agreed upon status elements, most importantly; time, scope, budget, milestones, followed by risks and next steps.
  • Holding to task and getting work done
    • This one is a little difficult given we work in an environment of doing more, with less; however, I believe that holding to task is based upon complete recognition of project statuses across the team (Project Manager, Executive Sponsor, Team Members, Stakeholders). Visibility is key.

Layer 4

The final item I reviewed with the CIO was to ask what kind of “voice” would most resonate with his team, meaning; would I speak from personal experience, or from well-established and accepted methodology, such as PMI?

The end-result of our phone dialog and follow up email exchanges moved this presentation from ginormous to enormous. I looked forward to talking the team. Like many other speakers/presenters I create outlines (and sometimes, completely written out narratives) in preparation for a meeting/presentation. Here are my cryptic notes.

  • Intro and establishing my voice:
    • I am here to share experiences and help you achieve your goals.
    • Life within the “system” (reference to our organization) and career experience.
    • No one is immune. The best project managers still encounter the challenges of adhering to scope, keeping within budget and timelines, communications, etc.
    • Small-to-big projects. Been there, done that.
    • Fundamentals apply across all projects.
    • The Magic Project Management Triangle: Time, Scope, Resources (e.g. people and money)
  • Let’s talk about the work (Scope)
    • Formal: Proposals and Charters. Getting it right in the beginning.
    • Informal (small) a Word doc or an email to summarize and capture intent.
    • Establishing the “flag”. The flag is the vision and becomes the foundation for all other work. The flag is your empowerment.
    • Sets expectations internally and externally across all stakeholders.
    • End-results, time, budget, communications, resources… the more you can get the better.
    • Ability to “translate” from business-to-tech speak, and back.
  • How to do it – the tools
    • There are many; MS Project, Excel, online tools (SmartSheet), etc.
    • Depends on formality and structure of organization
  • Importance of Milestones and Deliverables
    • Start with scope
    • Get confirmation from sponsors and stakeholders
    • Start with end and work backwards
  • Keeping You in the Know – Status Meetings
    • Importance of communications. There are thousands of styles and formats.
    • Establish your personality and voice.
    • Formality and structure of organization will guide.
    • Get agreement upfront on style, format, etc.
    • Difference between internal and external project meetings.
    • Difference between project staff and sponsor meetings
    • When to interject subjectivity (e.g. dealing with emotions) and objectivity (e.g. Time, Scope, Budget, Achievements, Risks, Upcoming, etc.)
  • Staying on track
    • The “flag”. Remember, this is your empowerment to make it happen, use it often, and definitely pull it out when stuck or being challenged.
    • The plan. A lot of good work into your plan so stay the course. Plans do change, but a majority (relative term) of the time, the details will remain the same.
    • With a little help from your sponsor. Getting stuck, being challenged? Your sponsor wants project to succeed, engage them, make them part of the team.
    • Frequency of Communications. Very rarely will you over-communicate. Establish a schedule, stick to it and if you question whether you need to send out something else, do it.

Conclusion.

The CIO and team were engaged and responsive during the two-hour meeting, this was evident by their probing questions. Many times they raised present, or past situations, wanting to know how, or what could have been done.

My approach of peeling the layers away to ensure the CIO was getting what he wanted worked.

So, what do you think? Did I cover enough within my allotted time? What would you have done differently?

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Intriguing?

 

AI imageThe following statement from one of the forums I belong to caught my attention, “The use of AI [Artificial Intelligence] in a higher education environment is very intriguing.” The submitter went on to ask for thoughts on the pros and cons. Here are some of brief first thoughts that came to mind.

I immediately thought, “Has there been any other moments in history that were perceived, in advance of it happening, as being ‘intriguing’? Did the inventors of flight ask themselves how this would change transportation?”

The use of Artificial Intelligence [AI] in all industries will be very intriguing as applications of its use are still to be defined and there is not a clear picture of the end, or the direction we are going. Within higher education, there will be several paths of AI’s evolution; the academic side, the “business” (functions, such as, Finance, HR and Procurement) side and then the convergence of these two. On the academic side; an example of AI will be in support of the students and educators in providing faster, more in-depth access to information – the web on a high dose of steroids. AI will reduce (not completely) the requirement of individuals to ask the questions. AI will ‘know’ the student’s academic degree and areas of interest, will know the planned and intended usage and know the desired outcome. With this knowledge AI will provide access to the answers or create paths to the answers. All of this guidance through a variety of technological solutions, one being the interaction with their personal assistants within their devices (Note: I am not saying laptop, computer, phone, watch, etc. because I don’t want to limit the future.).

What I find of greater interest is on the convergence side. Today, many educational institutions are under tremendous economic pressure. For a few years now, we have been hearing about how these institutions need to act more like businesses. To do this, they are looking more critically as to how to manage expenses, generate revenue or just stay alive. Imagine through big data analysis, educational institutions have extensive access to knowing who their ‘customers’ are. This knowledge will come from many sources, such as, recruiting efforts, admissions and the academic experiences of students and the faculty.

Following the premise that institutions have (nearly) unlimited access to data, here is a practical concept to consider within only one department; IT (Information Technology).

Utilizing IoT (Internet of Things) technologies, imagine being able to ‘track’ and understand all of a student’s real-world (visits to the dining hall, the library, how long they were there, what they ate, what books [what are books?] they looked at, etc.) and online use (how long they spent on the institution’s websites, or not, etc.). With all of this data, institutions will use AI to assess what technological investments and support they need out of their IT departments; thus, greater control of IT budgets, resulting in lower or better managed expenses.

The above profiled use of AI technologies and big data analytics within higher education will be one direction, however, there is larger issue here today and I project will grow substantially (Hopefully, not at the same pace as presented in ‘Moore’s Law’). This “issue” came to my attention when the author made a request for thoughts on the “…potential downsides…” I believe these new technologies are bringing us (human society) to a ‘fourth wave’ of evolution (see Alvin Toffler’s “Third Wave” for context on the previous evolutionary points). As with the other evolutionary waves, we are once again faced with the very serious societal impact topic of ‘good vs evil‘ during these historic periods. Each previous wave had its social benefits and consequences. While there are many, many positive opportunities with technology, equally there are many examples today of using evolving technologies in a harmful way e.g. cyber hacking in its many forms.

Which topic should we be engaging in; AI in higher education (or name your industry) or good versus evil in technology – intriguing?

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How are the projects going?

How are the projects going?

I was recently asked this question and my first response was, “fine”. I am very optimistic so almost all of my responses usually denote a positive tone.

The inquirer accepted this response. However, I am also very honest and I followed with, “…there are some challenges, but they [projects] are still moving forward…

Sometimes projects have bumps in the road” was their response to my response. I agreed.

Before they could escape our office breakroom environment, I stepped up onto my project management podium and proceeded to describe a view about project challenges.

If you are still with me, and for other project managers, does this resonate with your experiences?

In the beginning of a project there is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about the future; a future that will deliver millions of dollars, or solve world crises. Well, maybe not millions of dollars or world peace, but improved margins, new software, better processes, or a new building could be a result.

The team takes the project start’s positive energy and goes forward.vision

Then, at some point in the project’s timeline, team members lower their heads and lose site of the vision on the horizon. This is when side-steps, back-steps, project halts, tensions rise, emergency meetings are held, all because an individual, or group, becomes focused on a particular task, or event. This type of disruption creates delays and angst. My experience has recognized this situation on a number of occasions. The challenge for the project manager, and should be that of the Executive Sponsor(s) as well, is to get everyone to raise their heads and refocus their energies onto the future.

I often ask myself, why do people do this, take their eyes away from the goal? Do they still want to make money or have a new building? If yes, then take that desire and focus on the steps that will get the project going in that direction versus back-steps, or unnecessary meetings.

At this point in a project’s life, I have come to recognize that there are two things that a project manager will have to do.

  1. Resurface those project kick-off vision statements and circulate to the team.
  2. Attend those extra meetings, write up additional reports, have more phone calls (ugh!)

Do you agree that these two things will happen? Which one will you devote more energy to?

The next time I get the question, how are the projects going, I will kick it up a notch and say, “Great!

 

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Is there a Cloud in your future?

cloud

Are you considering deploying new websites and/or applications via a Cloud provider in 2014? Are you looking to have the benefit of high availability and scaling to optimize your applications management strategy for the New Year?

There is solid evidence that many functional departments across the organization are focused on strategies that will shorten implementation times and are increasingly looking to have the management of software and infrastructure hosted externally in the cloud to decrease time spent on upgrades, maintenance, and support.

If you are considering moving to the cloud in 2014, remember these key points when looking for a hosted solution.

Strategic

Your department should focus on the strategic objectives of delivering content, fulfilling workflow business processes and not on infrastructure and maintenance. By focusing on your strategy you ensure maximizing the growth of revenue and increasing customer satisfaction.

The cloud provides scalability and elasticity to easily match utilization requirements. Cloud solutions give you the ability to deploy your application in the cloud and improves flexibility for your organization.

Economic

The economic value of moving your applications to the cloud aligns your investments so you can pay for what you actually need. There are costs involved in the operations and maintenance of your IT infrastructure; with the cloud, businesses can allocate those costs to more resources, fostering innovation within the company as well as the creation of new products and services.

Cloud deployment for business applications reduces the cost of entry, IT costs, and infrastructure support, and provides faster time for use by business users. The cloud enables organizations to deploy their solutions faster. Do not invest in infrastructure that delivers short-term value. Don’t purchase an asset that depreciates and requires upgrades before your initial investment dollars have been accounted for.

Architecture

Architecturally the Cloud allows you to have a simple and consistent environment available to developers and key business users. This environment removes the complexity of using an application, making it easier to develop and deploy fixes, upgrades, and future release versions.

Moving your business application to the cloud allows IT to not have to schedule the testing and application of a software update and removes worrying about enough disk space or processing power to handle your application. A managed cloud approach provides an environment ready to scale to meet your peak seasons; it means having world-class security measures in place and significantly reduces your datacenter overhead.

A Focus on Strategy

The leading Cloud providers share the vision of having organizations focus on their strategy. They believe in helping organizations maximize the value of their investments.

A managed cloud offering provides confidence that your application is always up and available, ready to deliver amazing value to your customers and achieve your department and corporate objectives.

Organizations have recognized the value of the Cloud and have begun to move key business productivity applications like ERP and CRM to this solution. More and more organizations are recognizing the value they can gain from having their application managed in the Cloud.

Is there a Cloud in your future?

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Have you hugged your CIO today?

In the Wizard of Oz, there is a scene in which the omniscient voice barks, “Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain!”  

Powerful_Wizard_of_Oz

I, on the other hand, will propose that you should pay attention, and do it soon, very soon! Who is the man I am referring to? It’s your CIO and here are my four simple reasons:

  • It’s who you know. CIOs are smart, strategic, organizational leaders of your company. They may have a different function that appears to be outside and not critical to your core business (sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.), however, they ultimately have the same goals, which are to make the company successful. They have been brought into your organization to deliver results, just like you. If you are new to your role, then think in terms of a meeting with the CIO as gaining another perspective and an opportunity to develop a strategic relationship.
  • Resources. You have a list of tactical items and projects to address and to resolve which require process management and/or technical resources. Do you have the team members to work on these? Guess what, the CIO’s team includes resources that may be available and are experienced in this work, or their team members may already be working on related projects.
  • Data is king. If you are frustrated by the reports that are delivered to your inbox, then you need to recognize, and gain a deeper understanding of how data flows through the organization. Along the way, I am confident you will uncover other valuable data nuggets to help manage your business. In today’s data-driven organizations, success is measured by KPIs (key performance indicators). If your company manages by KPIs and you believe that data is king, guess who sits on the throne!
  • Technology. The world is always changing (mobile devices, the cloud, etc.) and the way that organizations technically engage with their customers and team members needs to stay current. How are you going to be in the know? I am confident that your CIO has plans on how to deliver updates to your infrastructure and you need to be aware of what is coming. The sharing of roadmaps is a fantastic and beneficial use of time.

You may not need to get as close as the title of this post suggests, but meeting and knowing this team member will benefit your efforts, and theirs.

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The customer or the money?

poker bet

I am willing to bet (not a lot of money) that many vice presidents, directors and managers responsible for services (consulting, training, customer support, etc.) are faced with fulfilling corporate objectives while strongly adhering to revenue targets and/or expense management guidelines. In other words, their strategies and tactics created and used are dictated by finance.

Which is more important, the customer or the money?

The simple answer, or the one that I bet (again, not a lot of money) many vice presidents, directors and managers will give is “both”.

I get it! And, I know as good corporate leaders eyes on both, and the appropriate amount of energy and resources are directed to both, however, what if you had to choose? Which of these two would be listed as number 1? Which gets top billing?

I am not going to shy away from this question; the answer is “customer first” and here the reasons.

  1. A satisfied customer will tell their friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
  2. A satisfied customer will buy again.
  3. It cost less to keep a customer than to get new ones.

Completely focus on the customer and I am very, very confident that revenue targets will be achieved and the expenses will be manageable.

Wanna bet?

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