Web-Style Application Administration

Mike Donoghue is a member of a multinational information technology corporation where he collaborates on the communications guidelines and customer relationship strategies affecting the interactions with internal and external clients. He has analyzed, defined, designed and overseen processes for various engagements including product usability and customer satisfaction, best practice enterprise standardization, relationship/branding structures, and distribution effectiveness and direction. He has also established corporate library solutions to provide frameworks for sales, marketing, training, and support divisions.

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Three Large Banks, Three Different Approaches to Agile Adoption

by Kevin Aguanno, PMP, MAPM, IPMA-B, Cert.APM, CSM, CSP

As the use of agile methods spreads into larger organizations, senior managers struggle to decide their agile adoption strategy. Here are three stories from three large Canadian banks who each took a different adoption approach.

Portfolio Management from the PM's Perspective

by Andy Jordan

Many organizations fail to recognize that they are driving significant change to a PM’s job--and even fewer do anything to try and make the transition a constructive one. Here, we look at portfolio management in terms of the impact on PMs--and offer some guidance on how to help ensure that those PMs are champions of the evolution rather than resistors.

For the workforce that is widely dispersed, sharing application development, design and testing responsibilities goes beyond the normal struggles that hit most project teams. Utilizing a Web-based solution with integrated tracking mechanisms, environment sharing options and other contribution control components, however, is a way in which to help maintain order and discipline throughout the project and program cycles.
The implied connectivity bonus is at the root of why this kind of solution is so appealing. In a well-configured domain with interconnected tools, setting up criteria selections help refine which projects require what supporting files, data and other materials. Tasks become objects that are easily linked to other objects, and those objects can help generate the data necessary to report on progress points and ultimately produce results.
Unrequited Requirements
What happens when requirements go bad? Sometimes it’s because changes get designed or developed but don’t get communicated. Even if information is shared and change requests sent, modifications require testing (perhaps some fixes) and then some re-testing. This doesn’t even begin to cover other details such as test data/cases and so forth that need to be upgraded and maintained.
Updating is a problem for everyone. Diligent workers are thrown off by others that are not as attentive to details necessary to complete complex tasks or at the very least are not good at documenting those changes, despite their completion. In a true Web-linked system, tasks are attached to requirements that then become automatically updated through requirement changes. This in turn applies dynamic amendment to project plans and other collaborative processes. In a more integrated work environment, more collaboration takes place as well, reducing the “surprise” factor.
Defection Detection
What’s a solution without a breadcrumb trail of documented defects and their resolution reports? As is common with a project, many problems get discovered during a development and testing endeavor--but attaching their significance to a matching product requirement, the testing performed, and the faults that get detected along the way is a difficult and time-consuming operation.
Tracking issues and then deciding the best course of action in which to resolve them requires a degree of manual intervention. That being said, there are advantages in a Web-based environment so that the linked components (virtual breadcrumbs if you will) such as requirements, test results and task-specific reports can provide cause-and-effect information necessary to determine a course of action.
Who’s Who and What’s What
Once provided, physical object resources are often relatively easy to keep track of in a project. Add to that though the dynamics of allocating resources that can be elusive (for example, server space or specialized workforce) and you have a more unpredictable situation. It can become slippery and difficult to keep track of since these kinds of resources are rarely dedicated for the period you need them--and cannot be tied down since they are dependent upon the ebb and flow of other project work. The logistics negotiation effort can be frustrating.
With specific project talent becoming increasingly more remote and with improvements to distance-manageable hardware and software, it’s understandable that we are finding ways to maximize resource potential and commit them to more restrictive and productive schedules. With a Web-based application management service, the configuration and administration of project assets and portfolios provides better overseeing power as well as more up-to-date information for the far-flung workforce regarding how changes are impacting other aspects across the board.
Error Terror
When are you going to be notified when something goes wrong? Sooner than later is better for all parties--finding out later invariably means that others are holding back information in the hope those problems will go away, that they can disguise the situation or that they can create solutions and minimize what has happened. Knowing that something isn’t working, that delivery dates are not being met or that money and resources are unavailable is not the kind of information that gets better with time.
It is a rare thing when a project doesn’t have a snag. Setting up real-time event reporting and alert functions is one way to keep a team apprised of project glitches. Other ways may involve more of a triage approach where contributors can set up their own warning system and then have it branch out to others who are linked within the project. Keeping parties in the loop with a preemptive warning system provides details to those in managerial roles who can bring in help, reprioritize activities and make other adjustments that can improve difficult circumstances.
Integration Nation
Project teams, clients, senior management--all need to be kept apprised of what is happening on a regular (and as-needed) basis. Keeping everyone within the proper loops requires juggling, filtering and strong communication skills. This doesn’t only apply to requirements and project updates and changes, it also involves documentation, distribution, customer service and other concerns that tie in with project closure and final product delivery (not to mention approval and disapproval audit trails).
Making these items available online and administering them through controlled channels reduces redundancy, schedules frequent communications, improves convenience and ensures accessibility standards. E-mail, attachments, updates, status, comments, discussion threads, archived material--all assembled under an umbrella for an otherwise disconnected, distributed workforce. There are packages out there that provide this kind of relief and are customizable to your needs.

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