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Dave Gordon

Status Reports: Separating Information from News

I am sure you have heard about the old news where it was proclaimed that dog-bites-man is not news, but man-bites-dog is news. While the news can be a source of entertainment, especially when some man bites a dog, such incidents are anecdotal at best—a statistic with a sample size of one. We should also consider that tabulated instances of dog-bites-man and related details can be statistically analyzed for correlations like breed, time of year, …

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There’s More to a System Design Than Requirements

A few years ago, I was asked to assist on a project where the client was replacing a highly-customized legacy system. As part of the discovery process, we were looking at the integrations to the other systems—internal, third-party administrators, and so on—currently in place. One integration in particular seemed unnecessarily convoluted; it received a file from one system, validated all of the data, and generated workflows to various roles in the event a particular transaction …

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The Three ‘Ins’ That Are Putting Our Projects behind Schedule

It was the short week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I had time to think while stuck in traffic between Seattle and Portland. Somewhere around Centralia, (Yes, that’s really what it’s called, and it really is about halfway.) it occurred to me that I’ve been seeing some common themes lately. Call them the three “ins”: indecision, inactivity, and indifference. Each takes a toll on one or more tasks, adding delays and uncertainty, forcing …

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Managing Globally Distributed Project Teams

I started managing projects that included team members or customers outside the US in the mid-‘90s. In the beginning, it was one other country. Then two, and so on. These days, working with globally distributed project teams is my norm. A typical project will include people spread across five to 30 countries, three to five continents, and from three to seven time zones. As you would expect, it’s very different from managing a few folks …

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Practical Advice for Project Managers

I’ve been managing projects for about 30 years or so, far longer than I’ve been writing about it. Along the way, I’ve collected a few useful thoughts that never made it into an article or blog post or book. At first, I was just jotting notes on paper. Then I took to creating short text files, saved to a folder. The last few years, I’ve been using OneNote to capture those fleeting thoughts. Here are …

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Risk Response Strategies: Transfer or Avoid the Danger

As I’ve noted in other articles, a risk is an uncertainty that matters. Some event has a significant probability of occurring, and there will be a significant consequence if it does. A risk represents a threat, and a wise project team endeavors to identify project threats and analyze them for effective strategies, so that the probability of occurrence can be reduced or the consequences reduced. Or both. Of Mice and Risk Management Consider the following …

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The Way You Describe a Risk Is What Makes It Manageable

Project managers know that risk management is an ongoing process, and risk identification happens throughout the project life cycle. In many projects, the team is empowered to draft risk log entries. Of course, one of the basic requirements in identifying project risks is describing each risk in such a way that it is meaningful to management and other stakeholders who aren’t part of the project team. If you’ve ever seen a risk log entry like …

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Using the RACI Matrix to Maximize Project Accountability

One of the challenges of planning and controlling a complex project is delineation of roles. This can be especially challenging when representatives of multiple organizations are participating in the project. For any particular phase or task, it can be difficult to explain what participation is expected of each assigned team member, as roles might change from one task to another. Responsibilities The PMBOK includes a brief description of a RACI matrix or chart in the discussion on …

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Why #NoEstimates Is a Rough Finish for Your IT Career

I live in the American Southwest—the Mojave Desert, to be specific. We have massive areas of land covered with nearly identical homes, built in clusters called “developments.” The term is meaningful, because the builders aren’t just building houses; they are developing entire communities. Complexity Lives at the Business Level We have a well-established process: The organization with the right to build on a tract of land proposes a plan, which is reviewed by a planning …

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Non-Utilitarian Metrics: When Your Knowledge is Not Actionable

The Centers for Disease Control recently published a peer-reviewed paper and infographic by Dr. Francis P. Boscoe and Eva Pradham, MPH on the most distinctive causes of death in each state. In this case, “distinctive” means “more frequent than we should expect” based on the national rate for each cause of death from 2001 through 2010, with adjustments. This basis has led to interesting differences: Florida’s claim of HIV as the most distinctive cause of …

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