Quality - Consider it in all Knowledge Areas!
When you think of quality as a PM, does your mind race to the quality management plan section of your project management plan? If so, do you think you normally cover all aspects related to the other nine knowledge areas? If not, it may be time!
Quality is somewhat ephemeral, isn't it? It's like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" We have to get much more succinct than that when we are dealing with quality on projects. Consider using a Deliverable Expectation Document, where you go over a deliverable with a client, and define the level of quality needed, to which requirements it relates, and who will review and sign off the final deliverable. Maybe this is the Definition of Done and/or the Acceptance criteria in an Agile project.
So, how does quality relate to the other knowledge areas? What should you consider when composing your Quality Management Plan? Or conversely, what should you consider about quality in each of the other plans? Here is my take on it:
How do you plan for, assure and control quality on your projects?
Ever been on a project where your client has already chosen a package solution? How many times has it been based on a solid set of business requirements, complete with all those great models you can read about in PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide?
In my experience, and I won’t mention any names or locations to protect the innocent and avoid shining a light on the guilty, business requirements for packages can be very sketchy, often based on a document listing many unsorted and uncategorized sentences meant to represent requirements. In the worst cases business requirements can even be overlooked entirely.
Why do you suppose people feel that because it is a package, it will have all the necessary functionality for a business, and that if it does not, the business can adapt? Or that the package can be modified to meet requirements at little cost?
Familiar with the famous term “fit gap”? This is where requirements, however they are documented, are compared to package functionality, and the package with the highest score wins. Sadly, such analysis is often performed at far too high a level. And worse still, the number of requirements that cannot be met are often presented as the inverse of “percent fit”.
Sadly, the cost of changing a packaged solution to meet the 10% of requirements it doesn’t meet can often be greater than the cost of developing something to meet all requirements from scratch. Or, the 10% some other package didn’t meet could possibly be met at a much lower cost, or even eliminated altogether if they were a low priority.
It’s a bit of a conundrum, isn’t it? Do you spend time and money defining your business requirements in advance of making a build or buy decision when you know quite well that you are going buy a package regardless of what requirements are discovered? Are you just going through the motions? Or maybe you think your organization can adapt to the business model upon which a package was built, thinking that the package represents best practices in the associated business.
I believe no matter the route you are choosing, eliciting business requirements from the beginning and defining and managing the detailed requirements will bode well for any organization so that they can measure the success of whatever decision they make to achieve their business goals. After all, if you don’t ask the questions, you will never know the answers!
What has been your experience with the installation of packages that have been installed to satisfy specific needs? What about ERPs? Have your clients/users been satisfied with the result? Were requirements sufficiently defined prior to package purchase and installation so that a baseline comparison could even be done?
Meetings, bloody meetings! We all remember the video John Cleese created many years back (well, some of us do, anyway), and the recent video "“Conference Call in Real Life” that is great for some big yuks. But how do you run effective virtual meetings?
I felt prompted to write this article when I saw the many comments after a colleague posted a link to the “Conference Call in Real Life”. I thought this demonstrated that there may be a need to provide a few guidelines on how to conduct virtual meetings effectively. Professional behavior in virtual (and, of course, in-person) meetings is the key to success.
Collecting requirements virtually is becoming more and more common as organizations try to keep costs low. So it is more important than ever to use virtual meeting tools effectively. But it isn't all about tools. As is so often the case, it is more about the people who use the tools. After all, a wise man once said that a fool with a tool is still a fool.
So, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Tips for Meeting Chairs
So, you need to have a virtual meeting. Well, guess what? Just a like an in-person meeting, you need an agenda. Send it out ahead of time and ask that people prepare. Be clear about the meeting purpose and objectives. If it is a recurring meeting, allow people to make agenda suggestions in advance in case there are burning issues they feel need addressing that you didn’t think or know to include.
When you communicate the agenda, lay out the ground rules for the upcoming meeting. You can probably derive some ground rules from the following tips designed to help you engineer a successful meeting:
As mentioned above, you need to share decisions made and action items to which attendees commit during the meeting with the group. I find most virtual whiteboard tools are cumbersome, so I usually share a document using a word processor like Word or Google Docs.
If you are an ambidextrous cranial sort who can take notes while thinking, chairing and talking, you can do this yourself. Otherwise, ask a colleague in advance to take on that responsibility. But watch what is being typed, because it has to be accurate and reflective of what everyone agreed.
Make note only of important items and action items that have been agreed, including who is responsible and when the item is due. You can send these notes to meeting participants directly after the meeting. No more creating minutes after the fact and having people disagree with what was written since they will already have seen what was recorded during the meeting.
Highly visible decision logs and active action item lists on your collaboration site are priceless.
Noise can render a virtual meeting ineffective. Be sure extraneous noise is addressed politely and firmly. If you have to, force mute. Occasionally, people are interrupted and don’t control the situation well, talking with the intruder and failing to go on mute. You can mute them and decide to continue the meeting or not. You may need to use alternate means like their cell phone to communicate with them so they know they have committed a virtual meeting sin. This is the same as if someone gets up from an in-person meeting and leaves the room. Should you continue the meeting? Your call… maybe ask the person or the attendees as appropriate.
Having trouble getting some people to contribute? Try doing a round table about a specific issue, suggesting that each person talk for no more than a minute or two and that if they have nothing to say, just “pass”. Some people are too shy to interject, but are happy if they have time to think about what they want say and know they will receive the “talking stick” eventually. Start with someone you know won’t mind talking to give the more introverted a chance to collect their thoughts.
Tips for meeting participants:
There is a certain degree of flexibility with virtual meetings that can save time and money, and you can take advantage of easy to use features (like record and share screen) that are sometimes more difficult to do in an in-person meeting.
Virtual meetings don’t need to be like the Virtual Meeting in Real Life video, as humorous as it is since it is so very close to the reality of those in first-time virtual meetings. Let common sense, respect and preparedness rule the meeting, and success will be yours – and your team’s.
Have you ever run into a dangling participle or an object/verb mix up that made you laugh as you were reading requirements documents? While this may be funny at the time, it can lead to some very serious consequences at other times.
For example, I once saw this requirement:
"The officer holding the handheld device must be able to plug into the USB port of the computer in order to charge the unit and transfer data."
When I read it, I did a double take, and read it again. Now, we all know that the handheld device had to plug into the port, but really? Grammatical rules tell us the officer would be plugging in, not the device, and ... well... I don't even want to go there! Was it a simple typo? Or was the person writing this in a big hurry? Or was grammar and sentence structure not their strong point?
I'm sure I have made plenty of grammatical errors in this and past posts, so I am steeling myself for the result, but I am willing to take the risk!
So here is my "ask" as they say in the Telecom industry:
Have you run into any hilarious sentences in requirements documents? Or have you run into any that were misunderstood up until the time of user acceptance when no one found it funny?
Post your responses here!
The Core Committee spent a lot of time and effort to produce it, so we owe copious amounts of gratitude to them, and the twenty-eight content reviewers, the PMI Standards Program Member Advisory Group and the three production staff.
If you haven’t already downloaded it, click here.
You’ll find that this 56-page guide (not including the index and appendices) is written in a familiar way with textual descriptions, contextual and activity diagrams. As stated in the introduction, this new guide serves as a bridge between the PMBOK ® Guide and the recent Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide. The PMBOK Guide addresses good practices for requirements management, and the BA for Practitioners Guide describes what a BA does and how to apply requirements development and management skills to project tasks. Intended for PMs and anyone doing requirements work, the Requirements Guide defines processes for requirements development and management.
What is a Requirement? According to PMI, it is “A condition or capability that is required to be present in a product, service, or result to satisfy a contract or other formally imposed specification.”
Requirements Management is about establishing a baseline and then ensuring it is traced (did the project implement everything it was supposed to?), managed through change control (if anything changed from the baseline, was it done in a controlled and approved way?) and updated (did the desired product, service or result of the project change, and if so, were the requirements related to the change appropriately captured in a new baseline?).
Requirements Development involves eliciting and identifying requirements, planning, analysis, documenting, specifying requirements and the necessary validation and verification.
The activities described in the Guide, paraphrased:
As you might expect, the Guide describes all interactions with the five Process Groups and ten Knowledge Areas. The types of requirements defined are probably familiar to most people – those required by the business, usually expressed at a high level, those required by stakeholders, solution requirements, both functional and non-functional, transition requirements, project requirements, quality requirements and program requirements.
Techniques for eliciting requirements are also in the guide, comprising interviews, workshops, focus groups, brainstorming, questionnaires/surveys, analysis of documents and interfaces, prototypes and observation.
The Guide tells us that good requirements are unambiguous, consistent, correct, complete, measurable, feasible, traceable, precise and testable. In an adaptive life cycle, they must be independent, negotiable, valuable, estimable, small and testable.
It also delves into backlog management and prioritization, and various models, including Scope (context, ecosystem, goals/objectives, features and use cases). It discusses functional decomposition and feature trees, and various process models (process flow, use case, user story) and rule models (business rules, decision trees/tables), and a favorite of mine, data models (ERDs, data flow, data dictionary and state diagrams/tables).
The Guide draws our attention as well to interface models, that is, what occurs between systems and/or users, considering report definition, flow of data between systems, user interfaces, and tools like wireframes, and the tabular N2 model.
There is much value to be found in this Guide. I’ve only very briefly touched on bits and pieces of it here. Armed with it, the PMBOK Guide and the Business Analysis Practitioners Practice Guide, a project team can’t go wrong when it comes to translating business needs to appropriately detailed requirements that can be traced, confirmed and verified - and, of course, translated into that infamous product, service or result required by the business.
Go get it while it is still free!