Copyright © 2006 Chenault Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
Project Management and Communication
By Tom Chenault
Managing a systems project is never easy. Direction, mission, people resources, financing, time and technology can all be there, but the project can still fail if there is not sufficient communication and organization. This applies to any project, not just software development.
To borrow a story from the book “The Mythical Man-Month”, by Frederick Brooks, we can go back to the first historically recorded large construction project of mankind, the Tower of Babel.
There was a clear (a little under estimated, but straightforward) mission to build a tower to reach heaven. With the exception of God, which later proved to be a problem, it was a politically popular idea. There was plenty of manpower in terms of involuntary local laborers – with the additional benefit of not having to worry about payroll deductions, workman’s compensation or health insurance. There were plenty of materials – clay and asphalt were abundant in the region. There was no time limitation or deadline – they literally had all the time in the world. The pyramidal design was good. Masonry construction was well understood. The project started at an excellent pace.
God, who should have been consulted in the first place, intervened and rendered different languages (babble) to the different groups building the tower. Lack of communication caused a lack of coordination. Arguments and fights broke out. Distrust arose between different groups, along with the usual blame games and politics. The project was abandoned.
One of the first engineering projects of all time was a failure – not because of economic considerations, technical limitations, or a changing political climate, but because of poor communication. Poor communication will kill a endeavor. In the end, that’s exactly what happened; the Tower of Babel failed because the leaders were unable to talk understandably to each other.
Large software projects have the same issues. The design and good analysis are key ingredients to a successful project; however, communication is a must. A plan showing how individuals and groups will coordinate with each other through formal and informal meetings is needed. Regularly scheduled meetings are necessary, with the understanding that everyone will be on time. These encounters are invaluable in terms of eliminating misunderstandings. System prototypes are presented with suggested changes documented and made. The budget and schedule should reflect unanticipated changes. When the unanticipated occurs, immediate communication must be made to the appropriate parties, who must in turn understand that can cause the budget and schedule to change. Superiors must be accessible. All this should be communicated and understood up-front before the project begins.
For the past two years, along with Hanley-Wood Expositions, we have been introducing a demographics database product, named ADAPT. This product applies to organizations connected to events (trades shows, conferences, seminars, etc.) and direct marketing campaigns.
The link to the 6-minute demo is www.adaptdb.com/adapt_demo2.html.
The product won "Trade Show Innovation of the Year" in 2003.
"ADAPT has changed the way we market to our prospects. A few of the many ways the system has helped make our marketing efforts more successful: we can pull very targeted lists within seconds, allowing us to tailor our marketing messages to different segments quickly and easily; our lists are clean and deduped against the rest of our prospects, saving us thousands of dollars on printing and mailing; we rent our attendee lists to exhibiting companies in our shows, generating revenue for our company. As a marketing manager, I can do my job faster and, at the same time, create a much more effective marketing campaign using the tools in ADAPT. At this point, I can’t imagine how I would do my job without it." -- Nicole Buraglio, Senior Marketing Manager, Hanley Wood Exhibitions
As always, and back by popular demand, we are asked to translate language from large technology firm web sites into plain language.
Marketing Pitch from a Web site: As part of a global network of technology campuses, our world-class facilities in India offer customers state-of-the-art software solutions strategically designed to their unique business needs and goals, and cost-effective business processes that employ proven methodologies and industry best practices. Our highly trained and skilled associates draw on deep technical expertise to create solutions that maximize returns on IT investments. And through collaborative, long-term relationships, we enable customers to achieve and sustain measurable results.
Translation: We develop systems with people from foreign countries who appear to cost less.
Is the offshoring fad coming to a close?
Please see recent article in the Dallas Business Journal, by Chenault Systems, on why software development is returning to the United States.
Chenault Systems offshoring articles from 2006 and 2004:
Quotes Worth Noting
“Whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.” – Jonathan Swift
“Once the Invisible Hand has taken all the historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity -- y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else: music, movies, microcode (software), and high-speed pizza delivery.” -- Neal Stephenson
“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” -- Galileo