My Professional Journey

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Sharing Insights from my Professional life , where I have been a Sales Engineer, A Health Professional and now , a Project Management Professional. These blogs encompass my observations or experiences. They may be regarding the Projects that I have led or been a part of or something close to our daily lives like Mindfulness and health which may affect our productivity as Project Managers.

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The Documentation Conundrum

A new Project starts . As a Project Manager, you are full of enthusiasm , embarking on the exciting new challenge .

Your project will deliver an exciting new product, an upgrade or a process improvement. Whatever be the case, the documentation - Solution Architecture, Support Plan, System Test Plan, User Acceptance Testing Report , these are all the proof that it will be delivered according to what the customer wants.

After a workshop(Or many) the documentation and artifacts that your project will deliver is agreed. That's the easy part.

And yes we have also established why some of these are more important than others because:-

  1. We need them for auditing and regulatory requirements.
  2. This is a waterfall project and not producing them is unheard of.
  3. We have vendors and third parties delivering the project for us.Therefore we do need them to produce documentation so we can support the solution moving forward.

Perhaps agreeing on who will approve and review the documents is also the easy part. maybe even agreeing on the method of approval - wet signatures, electronic signatures or email approval are easy. The production of the documentation is also not the difficult part.

Then what exactly is the difficult part and the reason for writing this article? It's the review of the documentation.

Often stakeholders may assume ownership as reviewers and approvers of documents but when it actually comes to requesting them to review or approve, you could be facing one of the many challenges

  1. They are busy on another project.
  2. Their managers have given them the task of a higher priority than reviewing your document.
  3. After several review cycles and to-ing and Fro-ing, they seem to pick something new in the document which they have not hitherto talked about.
  4. Their delegates also confirm to points 1 , 2 , 3.
  5. Your document is to be reviewed by different groups of stakeholders with different interests in the outcome of this project and it's often a nightmare to get consensus on the contents of the document based on feedback from the many groups.
  6. The reviews may be too granular than what the document intends to convey or their comments may not be entirely relevant to the document they are reviewing.
  7. You have had walk-through of the document with them, however they are still not happy.

No matter how electronic or automated your process becomes, there is always a human being behind that computer who needs to approve the work that your project is delivering.

Yes there may be effective strategies to review and approve Project documentation . what are some of these innovative strategies? I request some inputs.

Posted on: January 11, 2017 10:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Intranet :- Usefulness and Currency

What is an Intranet? simply put , it's a private network , accessible to an organization's staff , serving as an important focal point of internal communication and collaboration. It also provides "useful" and "current" information to the staff.

Having participated in a project for the procurement of the Content Management System that enables the creation of the corporate Intranet , I have seen the sheer amount of effort undertaken by the project team, not limited to :-

1.   Hiring an external agency specializing in Content Management Systems (CMS) to help create the Requirements Document to ensure that Industry best practices are followed and the chaff is separated from the wheat when it comes to procuring the best and fit-for-purpose tool for intranet content creation and management.

2.   Going through a tender process and selecting the most suitable provider of a Content Management System (CMS) that adheres to the organization's technology road map among other considerations like support and cost.

3.   Creating a project team to work closely with the external agency during the project.

4.   Configuring the Content Management system with all the bells and whistles like Portals, Instant Messaging, Blogging.

5.   Providing training and handover to the system administrators and content creators of each of the Business units.

As with any project, Benefits realization is an important, post-project activity that must be undertaken by the incumbent department that accepts the Project's deliverable.

When the project is finished and the CMS is in operational use, my humble guess is that if we look at Corporate Intranets across different organizations, some common themes may emerge:-

1.   The Home page contains the most upto-date content , links to the most important resources that the staff uses on a daily basis . This is primarily because, there is a dedicated "Intranet" team looking after the home-page content.

2.   As you click on the links and traverse to the pages underneath , you start finding out-dated information. For example you see "please contact..." in a departmental information page and that staff member no longer works for the organization.

3.   The homepage follows the "corporate branding" and the color scheme and a number of sub pages stray away from that.

4.   You see that some projects that finished two years ago under the "Current Projects" list and information in several others haven't been updated for months.

5.   Notorious are the organizational structures that are outdated and no longer exist in the company.

Notable here is that the Business/User Requirements document may or may not have statements like " The CMS must enable the organization to keep it's content 'current' and 'useful' " . May be the "Expected Benefits" section of the Project Management Plan may allude to this, however, in the end, the CMS is only the "enabler", with the onus being on the users to keep the corporate content current and useful.

Also , "Not maintaining the currency and usefulness of the Corporate Intranet" is never recorded as an expected "Dis-Benefit" in the Project Management Plan , because every company has good intentions when it procures the CMS in the first place and therefore such a dis-benefit is never specifically expected. It may however feature in the Risk Register with specific mitigation actions; however, once the project is complete, the following responsibilities lie with the ongoing maintenance of the new software

The owner of that risk "Not maintaining the currency and usefulness of the Corporate Intranet" is the Team that "owns" the corporate intranet platform (let's call it the Intranet Management Team). The Intranet Management Team may not be solely responsible for "currency" and "usefulness" of all the information published on the intranet. They may not even have sufficient number of staff looking after the Intranet. The Intranet Management Team still has the responsibility of ensuring that the content is kept "current" and "useful" but it needs significant communication and collaboration with the other departments that publish information.

Content creators need to know that their job does not end simply by designing their content based on the organization's policies and procedures of "code of conduct", "information privacy" or "content appropriateness”. They also need to be pro-active in managing the currency and usefulness of the content.

Every year the management diligently conducts surveys to hear from staff regarding what is working well and what is not. Often the big ticket items in these surveys happen to be "Communication" and "Change Management".

A glaring question is this :-

If the organization is unable to do a good job of keeping it's corporate intranet current and useful, how does it expect the staff to answer the yearly survey question of " Is my company doing a good job of communicating changes?"

Seeing that the homepage of the Intranet has proven as the best way to capture the immediate attention of the staff , can't the corporate leadership team drive home the point that the content managers across the organization need to take a good look at their content and update it?

Some suggestions are:-

1.   Use the Intranet home page to inform departments that they need to update their content

2.   Spawn a new project for Content Management which looks at removal of defunct links and expired content and re-assessment of adherence of content to corporate branding

3.   Empower the existing Intranet team with more staff members, specifically with the job to contact content managers to make sure that they keep the information current

4.   Assign a central content manager within teams with the added responsibility of keeping the departmental content current

5.   Mobilize an Information Architecture and Governance team to re-enforce the content currency and usefulness best practices

At a time where our smart phones are flooded with social media apps and we spend a majority of our day keeping in touch with what's going on around the world and do expect that news to be current and useful, would it not make sense for us as corporate citizens to contribute to the "currency" and "usefulness" of the information within our own Corporate Intranet?

In closing , no amount of sophistication in technology is going to succeed in providing a solution to corporate problems if the humans using the technology do not take a proactive step.

Would love to hear thoughts from other members regarding their experience with / or leading projects implementing Intranet or Content Management Systems

(image courtesy :- thoughtfarmer.com)

Posted on: January 11, 2017 10:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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