Viewing Posts by Renaldi Gondosubroto
By Renaldi Gondosubroto, CAPM, PMP, Project Lead, GReS Studio
I had the pleasure and honour of delivering my presentation at PMI's Virtual Experience Series: PMXPO on 24 March, a global event attracting more than 64,000 attendees. My presentation, “Cloudy with a Chance of Agile,” addressed the growing trend of managing projects on the cloud, the skills project managers need to possess to be able to manage projects on the cloud well, and how they need to consider a multitude of factors, including organizational capacity and communication plans, while utilizing the agile methodology to best facilitate the management of such projects.
It is imperative to note that although I focus on the agile methodology on managing cloud projects in this presentation, it is important to keep what works from traditional project management methodology and combine it with agile to create a hybrid way of work that will be effective for managing your projects. In this recap, I will respond to several questions asked during my presentation.
1. Is there a good source/website that compares the various services across the major cloud providers and positives/negatives of each? The cloud services are evolving rapidly, and it is difficult to provide advice/assess which is most cost effective and offers best long-term ROI.
There are certainly many sites that provide this. Companies like VMWare or community and educational sites like ACloudGuru or ComputerWorld provide some insights on this, highlighting the pros and cons of each service. These tend to be very technical though, which is why it is imperative for a project manager to also gain general cloud knowledge to be able to get a foundational level understanding of what is being discussed and better assess which offers best long-term ROI. If you have any subject matter experts on select cloud platforms within the company, it would be great to ask for their expertise, or also consult with available stakeholders that may be able to provide valuable insights on this.
Another avenue for advice would be directly from the cloud platforms themselves or their relevant partners. Libraries such as the AWS Solutions Consulting Offers from AWS provides selections of qualified companies and personnel that can be consulted to provide advice if the platform serves well towards your needs. Experimentation on the usage of different providers will also determine which can work best. Take advantage of cloud platforms’ free tiers in experimenting without cost to get a feel for them as a start within the learning process for managing these cloud projects as a project manager.
2. Please discuss the relationship / contradictions between Scope Management and an ever-changing product backlog.
When managing product backlogs in cloud projects, it is crucial to ensure that appropriate scope management is maintained. Often, scope creep happens due to failure to adhere to proper backlog grooming practices as part of agile. Doing grooming helps with the removal of irrelevant items which do not help with adding the value to the product and align priorities to what is needed from the current sprint. It is the project managers’ job to ensure that items are aligned with the needs and goals for the sprint.
During these sessions, project managers need to arrange for the priorities of items in the backlog based on priority, setting them based on value provided to the business, complexity, cost and how ready the item is to be taken up to be worked on. When there is a clear definition for what needs to be done for the item, teams can effectively understand what needs to be done for the current sprint. This will also help them with having efficient sprint planning sessions and not be surprised when an item turns out to be much simpler or complicated than expected.
Another important aspect is to ensure that new items go through a specific process and are not forced in the middle of a sprint. Scope creep often happens when a team thinks they can just add in a new item because they believe the item can easily be done, although it would certainly affect the sprint whether they like it or not. Such items need to go through a proper cost and requirements analysis and follow the same process of grooming, planning and push for inclusion in an upcoming sprint.
3. We are comingling project management and Agile software development as if they are the same thing and they are not the same. Getting people to understand this is a challenge we see in practice. Do you have suggestions on how best to marry traditional project management knowledge areas to the daily protocols inherent in Agile software development?
Many of the efforts of combining traditional project management knowledge areas to the daily protocols inherent in agile software development can be seen from what has been done with hybrid project management. Essentially, this will depend on simply seeing which works best for you in certain case scenarios and how you can bring the best of both from your experience. From my experience, I have had a couple of examples in combining them based on what has worked with me, such as with combining both methodologies in scope management and communications management.
Within scope management, we have seen the prevalence of the work breakdown structure (WBS) in traditional project management. In defining project scope, we could still need a WBS to lay out the scope, goals, and the overall big picture of the process of the project, but we can then combine it with the sprints that will be used to manage sprints based on the roadmap laid out by the WBS. This concurrent coordination makes for effective scope management based on using both methodologies and creates a great combination that would have been better than if either were used themselves.
In project communications, we are used to creating the relevant communications management plan for stakeholders and the details for the method and frequency of communication with them. We can combine the relevant documents for the communication plans for different stakeholders with the agile software development protocols we use in communication such as stand-ups and sprint-based tools such as Jira or Trello. Doing so would increase the value of just having traditional communication plans, particularly since we would be able to have a more robust communication system with understanding how each could contribute towards the bigger picture of the project management plan.
The other knowledge areas can be comingled in the same way; we just need to find what we already have that currently works and what could be improved with agile. This is not to say that some aspects may not be as easily comingled, so if this is the case, it is necessary to see which works better in the case scenario and choose one of the methodologies to approach it with. This must be done from a perspective gauging which approach would bring more value to the project.
4. Do we need to have any IT technical background to be PM of a cloud project?
Normally, you do not need to have an in-depth IT background to manage a cloud project, but it is recommended that you at least have a minimum understanding of the work that members of the team are doing. This was why I recommended project managers to pursue foundational level certifications for cloud platforms; to understand many important items that will be worked on and considerations for the project, the project manager should have the appropriate context. When delving into a cloud project, a project manager who is less experienced in IT-related matters should set aside time to also orient themselves with the learning necessary.
Learning and project management can be executed concurrently, although this will also depend on the deadlines put on the team and the team itself on how ready they are based on their cloud background as well. If the team members are well-prepared to perform their specific roles for the cloud project based on their background, you can also rely on their advice if you are still in the process of orienting yourself. It is imperative to understand how to coordinate your time to manage deadlines and your time spent learning well when doing so.
5. Do you find a challenge with Cloud being able to support a robust testing environment?
In my experience, there have not been many problems with the cloud supporting a robust testing environment, given that tests can be performed on the pipeline as part of the build process of software. In most cases, testing languages and frameworks will be supported, and this is also supported by the failover and other configurations set if there is a problem within what has been deployed on the production or testing environments.
The problem lies more on the need to test in more areas, including with security considerations on cloud deployment, live upgrades, and third-party dependence. These factors affect the extent to which we need to consider our checks. Luckily, there are also various cloud tools that help with this as well; so despite the more robust testing needed due to this, proper understanding about the cloud environment and extensive research should be able to address this requirement properly.
6. Is there any free source on the internet for getting basic knowledge about cloud systems?
Often, I would recommend vendor-specific resources to learn about cloud systems such as from Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure resources directly, as doing this both allows you to study from material of great quality and gain in-depth knowledge into a specific cloud provider. You could then consider taking a foundational level certification to validate your knowledge. For more general cloud knowledge, there are free courses available on providers such as Udacity or on YouTube explaining many important concepts that need to be understood about the cloud.
The important thing to understand about the cloud is that many providers – despite the different features with each of the services they offer – offer services that are fundamentally delivering the same purpose. Because of this, applying cloud concepts when having to jump from one platform to another is going to be much simpler than having to learn cloud systems from scratch. Therefore, it is important to note that learning for one provider will not restrict your knowledge; it is simply ensuring you specialize in one but also gain general knowledge that can be applied to another platform should it be necessary to change to another provider.
Presentations including mine will be on demand through 31 January 2023. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2022 for more details.
By Renaldi Gondosubroto, CAPM, PMP, Project Lead, GReS Studio
A report from Palo Alto Networks in 2021 showed that businesses are moving quickly into the cloud as part of their Covid-19 response. Nearly 70% of organizations now host more than half of their workloads in the cloud, and adoption of the cloud has grown by 25% in the past year. Due to the rapid trend and necessity of shifting workloads towards the cloud, it has become more important than ever for project managers to gain the skills necessary to manage cloud-based projects. As part of this, we need to create appropriate strategies using agile practices, particularly given the rapidly changing business landscape caused by Covid-19. These strategies will be important in quickly adapting to the needs of individual projects.
The evolution of project management for the cloud has gone a long way. From having communication and role delegation in multiple places, we now have slowly converged to having such communications happen from one place. This advancement ensures a central hub of communications, effective for quick responses within organizations, keeps track of incidents and costs within the platform. These two factors will certainly face a transformation from the standard way of doing things we are used to. The cloud has also ensured the provision of support from cloud providers to ensure quick responses within the organization.
Those new to the cloud should start off planning how to shift workloads towards it. Shifting workloads would go through a four-stage process: discovery, plan, execute and go live. In discovery, allocate time to exploring which cloud platforms are available and what resources the company currently must allocate towards the venture. As part of planning, draft a plan to prepare for creating the first deployments, including budgeting and creating sample architectures in the trial process as part of the execution. In execution, the plans we set into motion can shift towards the cloud, starting from the least-critical services. Finally, if everything goes well and issues are resolved, we can go live and let the services be provided as normal but through the cloud.
The stage set for a project manager looking to gain insight and skills for managing projects within the cloud comes with many new important knowledge and challenges that they need to take in and face. It may seem like a lot of new technical knowledge to take in, but exposure to the basic know-how of the cloud already helps a project manager go a long way. One of such is understanding the roles and responsibilities that cloud projects bring. Aside from a project manager for each team, five roles that would be imperative for a project manager to be aware of and find out more about are cloud architects, cloud engineers, software developers, security specialists and compliance specialists. Despite it not being necessary to gain their specific skillsets, it is important to have at least a high-level overview of their roles within the teams to adapt the skills for their project’s context.
There are existing and new skills imperative for project managers to know in this environment. Some existing skills include scope management, stakeholder management and change management. Project managers must apply these skills in the cloud project management context. Scope management is important as we need to understand goals, tasks, and deliverables in a cloud context, especially since it can be overwhelming when exploring the possibilities of outcomes when migrating onto the cloud. Stakeholder management is a key skill in migrating or running projects towards or on the cloud; we need to ensure that we get stakeholder approval; be it from clients or executive management. If there is a disconnect between the team and key stakeholders, it will result in issues down the line and unnecessary redundancy in communications as they must be repeated. Change management is imperative as migration certainly brings about changes to how workloads run in the business and key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs), so we need to keep track of the tools and processes that we can use to ensure that change is started and managed well.
Essential knowledge that will be important for a project manager to grasp include contextual knowledge to make the case, ethics, and basic knowledge of the cloud. In getting executive management or other relevant parties to get on board with running projects on the cloud, we need to get contextual knowledge on why we are doing so. What is working? What can be improved with moving towards the cloud? Would migrating to the cloud make some projects work better or would it instead worsen it? This comes hand in hand with basic cloud knowledge of the cloud platform you are planning to shift the workloads towards. For example, as a project manager managing projects on the cloud, it was encouraged within my organization to study towards and achieve AWS certifications, at least on a basic level. Not only does it validate your knowledge, but it will also help you gain the know-how and be confident in leading projects in the cloud. Finally, it is important to understand the ethics behind the transition, including how chosen cloud platforms handle privacy or meet compliance standards such as PCI-DSS for credit cards.
Organizational capacity will also be an important topic to consider when discussing the management of projects within the cloud, as it is imperative to measure how prepared the organization is to handle the proportion of workloads run in it or the migration planned for it. Considering the budgeting required to run such workloads includes thinking about the training costs required (internally or externally) and experimentation costs with finding out what works. We also need to consider whether managing projects on the cloud align with the project’s targets and goals and the company’s values overall and whether they can meet stakeholders’ and compliance needs. It is important to scope out how much existing knowledge is currently prevalent within the company and how it can essentially factor in reducing costs or be an advantage in working on the project, especially if the team has previously not yet worked on projects on the cloud before.
Throughout the project planning and the rest of the project phases, it is imperative to have a solid communication plan, particularly one that can sustain the needs of agile practices. Teams can use collaborative tools such as Slack or Jira and use scrum meetings to identify blockers and iteratively build and update on what has been done. This will be imperative, especially when managing your first projects based on the cloud, as things are more likely than not to go wrong when using something you have not used before. To complement this, we could also integrate customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as Salesforce to manage relevant stakeholders’ needs within one platform, if not through the mentioned collaborative tools.
Finally, it is important to categorize workloads and track their relevant KPIs to measure performance and iteratively act based on the outcomes. One recommended approach is to categorize the workloads between tier 1 (not mission-critical), tier 2 (low-risk) and tier 3 (mission-critical) workloads. While doing so, it is important to consider factors that would impact the categorizations made, including security, scalability, cost, and accessibility handled by each workload that is to be categorized. Tracking KPIs will help iteratively developing the decisions made, including finding out how it has performed on-premises, how it is performing on the cloud, and whether new configurations need to be made to optimize it.
As mentioned, the concept of managing projects on the cloud may seem intimidating at first glance, particularly given the load of technical knowledge and expertise that would need to be understood by the project manager as part of this. Still, it requires a bit more time dedicated to out of the normal project management environments we are used to and dabbles a bit on the cloud side. Gaining basic knowledge of the know-how around cloud projects is not difficult to do and will certainly help ensure you are equipped to better handle such projects. With the shift of more and more workloads from businesses towards the cloud, particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we can be sure that this will be a continuing trend. The question is, as project managers, are we ready to ensure our roles are also prepared for this new, prevalent trend? We certainly can be ready to approach this by planning effectively for it and going agile!
Interested in learning more and furthering the dialogue? Join me and the rest of the project management community at PMI’s Virtual Experience Series: PMXPO 24 March and check out my presentation, “Cloudy with a Chance of Agile.”