Category Archives: Business

Project Management Predictions for 2016


You don’t have to look far this time of year if you’re looking for a view into what people are saying the next year will bring. As sure as there are those making resolutions for the New Year, there are others making claims about what is to come in the New Year, for the purpose of informing, entertaining or somewhere in between. Whether you’re into technology, science, politics, or the movies, there are no shortage of predictions – some more serious than others – for what the new year will bring.

In this vein – and walking the line between being informative and being entertaining (as is generally always my goal with my posts – this time leaning more to the latter than the former) – here are my top 3 project management predictions for 2016.

Projects Will Still Have Issues in 2016

I feel ok about the lack of a **spoiler alert** on my number one prediction for projects in 2016, since I can’t image that this has come as a surprise to anyone. While a new year comes with new beginning and (hopefully) a renewed sense of ‘this time it will be different’, the reality is that projects have issues. Always have. Always will. To be clear, this is not an admission of defeat; not by any stretch. It’s simply a recognition of what is real. Despite the best laid plans, the best of intentions, talented, hardworking teams, solid processes, training and experience, there will be risks and there will be issues. Timelines will sometimes be unrealistic. Requirements will sometimes not be as clear as they could/should be and the list goes on. All that said, good teams will recognize this, plan for the known-unknowns, anticipate having to deal with the unknown-unknowns and most importantly, support each other when the going gets tough.

People Will Still be Talking About Agile

In 2001 the Agile Manifesto was created by representatives from various areas of the software development community, as a collection of guiding principles that challenged long-held notions and methodologies for application development. And while the manifesto was created in 2001, the principles and “lightweight methodologies” that it is based on were in use long before 2001, with “scrum” dating back to the early-nineties, and concepts around ‘iterative development’ dating back as early as the 1950’s.

To come straight to the point. This stuff isn’t new. Yet, it has been the sort of topic has that remained relevant over many decades. To even compare to the 2001 date of the formalization of the manifesto, 2001 was the year that Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6, Windows XP and the original X-Box; Napster had a user base of 26 million users and the Compaq Presario was the hottest new computer on the market – and you don’t hear much talk about these things anymore, do you?

For one reason or another Agile has and continues to be a hot topic in the world of software development. Traditionalists like to argue that it’s nothing more than an excuse not to plan or document requirements, while proponents are quick to dispel these notions and point out that ‘responding to change over following a plan’ and valuing ‘working software over comprehensive documentation’ results in a better product in the end. All the while, the training and certification industries are trying to make everyone ‘certified practitioners’ and ‘scrum-masters’ by spamming your inbox every chance they get, claiming that Agile is the silver-bullet you’ve been looking for.

And as if there isn’t enough to debate, I have even heard people debate over the pronunciation of Agile, as apparently that is a thing. Who knew?

So, whether it’s to defend the viability of the approach/methodology, to defend a principle or a process, or to debate its pronunciation, I predict that people will still be talking about Agile in 2016.

Project Management Will Still Not Be All That Exciting

As this article does a great job of describing – through a conversation between Leonard and Penny on an episode of the Big Bang Theory, Project Management is a bit like physics:

Penny: “So, what’s new in the world of physics?”

Leonard: “Nothing.”

Penny: “Really, nothing?”

Leonard: “Well, with the exception of string theory, not much has happened since the 1930’s, and you can’t prove string theory, at best you can say “hey, look, my idea has an internal logical consistency.”

Penny: “Ah. Well I’m sure things will pick up.”

This is to say – from my perspective – that while, there are certainly advances in project management methodologies, tools and techniques (a few for 2016 here), they aren’t often (or ever, with the exception of perhaps Agile – see above) flashy or garner much attention. That said, behind every project involving Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Virtual Reality, or whatever emerging technology is in play, rest assured that there is a Project Manager – and a project team, working tirelessly behind the scenes.



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Please Stand-by to be Processed


Let’s begin with a quote from Alistair Cockburn, one of the initiators of the Agile movement in software development.

‘While a good process can’t assure delivery, and a good team can deliver despite an unwieldy process, a poor process can get in the way quite neatly’.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this post is about process. What it is. What it isn’t. Common misconceptions. Benefits. Implementation strategies.

What is a Process?

An established, step-by-step way of doing things, and a well-articulated set of internal and external documents and tools supporting it.

This is, of course, one definition of any number that may be out there. Another, more succinct definition (of sorts) that I’ve heard used is, ‘applied common sense’.

What isn’t a Process?

Magic. A silver bullet. A panacea. As the first quote above notes, a good process can’t assure delivery. That said, it’s a place to start. A baseline from which to begin and to continuously improve from. Even for the Agile purists that declare as part of their Agile Manifesto to value ‘Individuals and interactions over processes and tools’, are in fact rather processes driven in their own way through adherence to Agile processes and practices such as user story modeling , iterative development and time-boxing.

Preferred methodology aside, we could all benefit from a little bit of process – though not everyone is convinced.

Common Myths Associated with Process

  • Adds unnecessary steps and time
  • A form of micro-managment
  • Adds documentation for documentation’s sake
  • Limits creativity
  • Limits flexibility

These are common reasons why establishing (and documenting where appropriate) processes on a team or within an organization is often met with resistance.

On the other side of the coin, having a solid process that is understood, documented and followed can truly be the difference between success and failure on a project. And while it may not always be readily apparent from the outset, process can have numerous benefits for everyone involved. Here are 10+ that come to mind.

Benefits of Process

  1. Repeatable. Predictable. Manageable. Having a process in place will help to ensure that your delivery process is repeatable, predictable and manageable which has obvious associated benefits – as well as others explored in the subsequent points.
  2. Maximized efficiency. Minimized waste. To be able to hit the ground running on the actual work to be done vs. spending time defining the steps (the ‘how) and/or the creation of templates/documents/assets etc. to facilitate the work.
  3. Clear expectations. So everyone knows what they need to do, what everyone else needs to do, and what the timing and dependencies are.
  4. Reduces risk. By having processes in place related to the risky areas of delivery, risks are identified and mitigated early.
  5. Reduced re-work. With risks and/or issues caught earlier, the likelihood of costly re-work is reduced.
  6. Better quality product. With risks and/or issues caught earlier and the ‘how’ figured out in advance, the time and energy on the project can be focused on developing and testing the product, and the results will show.
  7. Reduced interruptions. Increased focus. Increased productivity. If there are still any skeptics, hopefully this one will help to convert them. While still having processes and steps in place related to the above points (e.g. risk identification and mitigation), an objective of any process should always be to provide more focused time for the team to do their work.
  8. Better awareness of the big picture. With a process in place and documented, everyone can see how their contributions fit into the larger picture.
  9. Cross training and professional growth. When processes are established and documented, it’s easy to train team members and new hires on how things are done to allow people to advance their career and not be ‘stuck’ having to take care of a certain task because he/she is the only one that knows how to do it.
  10. Increased customer satisfaction. Increased employee morale. With all of the above considered and addressed through the implementation of a process what works for your particular project/business unit/organization, the collective result will be increased customer satisfaction and increased employee morale, which is obviously good for everyone.

So now that we’ve seen the benefits of process, here are a few strategies for successful implementation.

Implementation Strategies

  • Alignment. When developing, documenting and improving your processes, take the time to step back and make sure it aligns with the goals and values of your organization, project and team members. Much like understanding how a work package or a test case maps back to a requirement in a delivery project, the way you get things done should also map back to individual, team and company goals.
  • Collaborate. Work collaboratively to develop your process with the people that will be using it. Seeking inputs from everyone will go a long way to ensure you have considered all of the areas and will also increase likelihood of adoption.
  • Don’t over analyze. While it’s important to not create a process in vacuum, not consulting and collecting inputs from all the stakeholders, be mindful of getting into analysis-paralysis mode trying to make it perfect for everyone. Take a page from the ‘Lean’ start-up playbook and seek to get your MVP (Minimum viable product) out there and then improve it over time.
  • Continuously improve. Further to the above point, processes should evolve and improve, so be active with looking for ways to make this happen. Process is not a one shot deal. Continuous improvement is key.
  • Understand that one size doesn’t fit all. Figure out what works for your team, your customer and your project and tailor accordingly. Consider having a step in the process to evaluate and tailor the process for each project, adjusting up or down based on factors such as the project’s size, type, technology and customer.

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MBA Graduation Video

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog, though not for a lack of things on the go; quite the opposite actually. When things get busy, my ‘social’ activity and consumption tend to decrease, which should lend some credence to the idea that it doesn’t have to happen on the Internet for it to have actually happened.

Once such thing was the graduation convocation ceremony on May 30th at the University of New Brunswick where I was quite happy to accept a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, after having worked away at it part-time, since about the time dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Here’s a video that UNBSJ put together. I’m the handsome guy with the purple sleeves.

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Finishing up the MBA (Update 3 of 3)

mba graphic

Reference the original post here:

Lastly, the other thing (in addition to the other retroactive updates I’ve posted, plus my full time job as an IT Project Manager and my role of husband and father – my favorite role, incidentally) that has been keeping me away from the important task of updating my blog has been completing the last few courses toward my Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at The University of New Brunswick – Saint John. This was a pursuit that I started in 2009, on a part-time basis, so it has been quite a few years in the making. Completing the program has been an enjoyable experience – except for all of the work! (kidding, mostly)

Kidding aside, the program really has been fantastic, with a great mix of streams, courses, professors and students to learn from. The professors were a good mix of ‘academics’, executives, entrepreneurs and industry experts, and students ranged from other working-professional types to full-time students from countries all over the world – China, India, England, France, Saudi-Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, just to name a few off the top of my head thinking of students I’ve met and worked on projects with. The program even recently cracked the list of ‘Top Ten Canadian Business Schools’ published by Business Review Canada. Kudos UNBSJ!

While this MBA had all of the ‘core’ business and management type courses covered – from Marketing and Accounting, to Economics, Strategy and more, it also had a great mix of courses and assignments that allowed me to expand my knowledge and perspective in a number of other areas as well. Here are just a few quick examples:

  • Human Behaviour – understanding personality types, starting with – and perhaps most importantly – my own. Appreciating how differently people absorb, process and act on information. From your introverts, to your extraverts and those somewhere in the middle (omniverts, you say?), recognizing that not everyone does things the same way, and making the appropriate adjustments, is key if you’re managing, or even just working with, people.
  • Leadership – following closely on the human behaviour element noted above, the topic of leadership is huge with so many different facets. From leadership styles (task based vs. people based; autocratic vs. democratic etc.), leadership types (i.e. servant leadership, transformational leadership), to understanding motivation, Emotional Intelligence and the list goes on.
  • Ethics & Sustainability – exploring the policies and practices of organizations in many shapes, sizes and industries, looking at topics such as clean technology, innovation and product stewardship.
  • Renewable Energy – learning about energy types such as solar, wind, tidal, geo-thermal, among others. Exploring them from not only technological perspectives, but from economic and social perspectives as well.

The program also did a nice job of integrating the research and course work into initiatives that were able to provide value to the communities we are working in. A couple of examples include:

  • Wicked problems: A project that involved working closely with a local municipal department to understand and analyze issues they face, that are largely agreed upon as being ‘wicked problems’ – or problems that are difficult, if not impossible, to solve – for a multitude of reasons. (Here’s a great site and video that sums it up the idea of ‘wicked problems’ or you can read the paper where the idea originated from.) Though perhaps unsolvable by their very definition, we were able to view the situation through a different ‘lens’, and through our research and consultation we were able to present some ideas and findings that were able to add some real value.
  • Buy local: A project where we were tasked with making a case for local private and public corporations to procure ICT services from local providers. In doing so, our objective was not only to put forth a compelling ‘economic argument’, but a ‘social argument’ as well. In putting this together we looked at the practices being undertaken by countries that are global leaders in IT such as Finland and Iceland to make some extrapolations for what a ‘buy local’ strategy could mean for us locally. (See an earlier post on this here).

So, there you have it. That’s everything I learned in the MBA. I’m kidding, of course, but these are just a few of the areas that spring to mind where I feel the program provided some additional value beyond what most would consider core MBA type material (fun stuff, like NPV and IRR). Isn’t learning fun!?

In any case, it will be good to be finished, however from chatting with some of my part-time counterparts working for other companies that have finished before me, there’s a chance – so I’m told – that I may even miss it. (One even made a lose comparison to the concept of Stockholm Syndrome, which (upon looking it up) I thought was pretty funny). I guess time will tell.

Thanks for reading. More posts to follow (on a semi-frequent basis).

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T4G Big Data Congress II (Update 2 of 3)

big data

Reference the original post here:

Last year (2013), the company that I work for, T4G, organized an event that we called the ‘Big Data Congress’ to talk about Data Science and what it means for business. We had organized some events before, but nothing ever like this. We brought in world-leading industry ‘thinkers’ and ‘do-ers’ such as Andrew McAfee, Tom Davenport and Stephen B. Johnson among many others, along with a host of local industry leaders to talk about Big Data. To cap it off, we had maritime favs The Joel Plaskett Emergency close out the day with a concert. (That was particularly awesome, as I’m a big fan.)

While I’ve been doing IT Project Management for a number of years, this was my first foray into Event Management, so this made the event particularly interesting and informative for me. (Note – for any PMs thinking about getting into Event Management, be forewarned that there is much more standing and physical labour involved in the latter!)

This year (2014) we embarked on trying to top last year’s event, which we knew would be no easy task due to how well executed and received it was. For this year’s event, we went BIG. We increased the scope of the event from a 1-day event, to a 3-day event, complete with world-leading ‘thinkers’ and ‘do-ers’ (among them Rick Smolan, Kevin Slavin, and T4G Big Data Congress returnee from last year, Hillary Mason), ‘technical sessions’ (by popular request from feedback received from last year’s attendees) AND a ‘Student Super-Power Challenge’ (an initiative to inspire high school students to get involved with technology).

Our ‘headliner’ was none other than the WORLD’S top management thinker Clayton Christensen, author of the Innovator’s Dilemma (check out my earlier post for a synopsis if you’re so inclined) and the person that introduced the world to the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ (among other accolades).

So, while we knew we had a big task ahead of ourselves to top last year’s performance, at the end of the 3 days there was no doubt that we had done just that. A credit to everyone involved, from the organizing team, to the sponsors, to the venue, the volunteers, the speakers, attendees and so many more. Kudos!

Now that the dust has settled and I’ve had a bit of time to reflect, here are just a few of my personal lessons learned that I think will help me for all my projects (and events) moving forward. Hopefully you can read them and take something from them that can help you too.

Think BIG.

Project Managers, either through training, hard-wired genetics, or some combination of the two, are often risk averse. Risk is bad. It must be proactively sought out and destroyed. Managing scope and controlling (or rather, having a process for) change is your reason for being. This is the mantra of the Project Manager. All that said, without having a grand vision of what your project/event/initiative CAN be, you may not be realizing its potential. Scope must be managed. Risk must be mitigated (or avoided, or transferred, or accepted – see an earlier post on some of these strategies if you like), but be careful not to de-risk your project SO much so as to limit its potential to be GREAT! Like many things in the universe, it’s all about balance.

Listen to your customers.

As this was a follow up event to last year’s event there was, of course, some pressure to make this year’s event even better. When figuring out how to go about doing this, we started with looking at the feedback we received from our post-event attendee surveys from last year’s event. One of the things that people were saying that they would like to see for the future was more content on the ‘technical’ side of things. Exploring in more detail some of the actual tools and processes for getting elbow deep into the data. So, with an understanding of what our customers wanted, we added a day of technical sessions. Easily done.

While this sounds simple enough, quiet often it’s easy to become immersed in what you’re doing/developing/planning etc. to come up for air and see what it is that your customers are actually asking for. The somewhat recent advent of the ‘lean start-up’ movement, and similarly the ‘Agile’ development movement, both advocate for frequent contact and validation from customers as opposed to the more traditional notion of going heads-down to develop something that, in the end, nobody wants. While we, in our planning and delivery of the event, didn’t subscribe directly to either of these methodologies, their principles were at work in our ability to solicit and react to customer feedback.

Adapt. Adapt. Then adapt some more.

With this point, I will try and tie the first two points together. In point 1 I noted that projects should be envisioned to be as big as and bold as they can be to accomplish whatever your objective may be, while still managing them so that you are able to actually deliver the goods. In point 2 I noted that a key factor in successful delivery of anything – whether it be a software application, an event, or a Big Mac and fries (depending on your line of work) is to listen to your customers and not ASSUME you know what they want. Sometimes striking this balance can be tough. It’s all about figuring out that sweet spot between level of rigor with regard to managing scope and risk while still being ‘Agile’ enough to respond to changing requirements. I felt we did a good job of this as we planned this event; allowing our processes to be fluid enough to deal with evolving scope and requirements – from speakers, venues, logistics and more.


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Updates! (Hackathons, Big Data, MBA)


Back when I first started this blog I acknowledged that it might happen. Like many blogs before mine, there was a risk that the shiny, bloggy, wonderfulness of being able to have my very own chunk of interweb real-estate, may someday, lose its luster and become, ~shudder~, STATIC! A blog without updates. Destined to fade into cyber-obscurity.

But alas!

Being the pro-active, forward-thinking, risk-mitigating type of guy that I am, I went as far as to include the word ‘Semi-Frequent’ in the title of my blog so that proper expectations would be set from the get-go and nobody would to have to navigate to my blog every day, only to wonder why, WHY is he not updating his blog!?

So anyway, it happened. I got busy. It will happen again. And while I’m still busy, it seems like the right time to post a few updates and see if I can increase the frequency of my semi-frequent updates, even if only for a little while.

So, rather than creating a bunch of ‘hey, check out this memorable thing that happened 3 months ago that, had I had the time, I would have “blogged” about’, I’m going to use this post as a singlehey, check out these memorable things that happened 1,2,3 etc. months ago that, had I had the time, I would have “blogged” about’.

My blog. My rules. Don’t like? Go check Facebook. (I’m kidding…come back).

3 cool, blog-worthy things I’ve been up to:

  1. True Growth Hackathon
  2. T4G Big Data Congress II
  3. Finishing up MBA

[Editorial note: Change of plans. This was shaping up to be one insanely long post so in the interest of breaking up the content, I’ve opted to break out the updates for the 3 above noted items into 3 additional, separate posts, denoted as ‘update 1 of 3’ etc. Updates will follow shortly. Don’t touch that dial.


Filed under Business, Events, Innovation, Management, Marketing, Project Management

True Growth 2.0 ‘Non-Profit’ Hackthon


A couple of months ago I was approached by Enterprise Saint John to ask if I wanted to get involved with their True Growth 2.0 economic development initiatives, specifically a project called ‘Inspiring Innovation through Hackathons’. As one of the recommendations that came out of earlier community consultation phases, this is an initiative, as the name would suggest, where the community organizes a series of Hackathons. The objectives are many and include things like:

  • Raising the profile of the programming and overall ICT community in Saint John and the value they bring to new start-ups and product development
  • Providing professional development experience for developers, designers, architects, entrepreneurs and others who get involved
  • Helping to create a stronger ICT community and improved linkages between ICT and industry

Hackathons, much like their Start-up weekend counterparts, work to bring creative people together to solve problems and build innovative products. This process can become early stage incubation for the identification of opportunities that will often live beyond the Hackathon event itself.

For this first event, we’ve decided to focus on the non-profit sector and we have been reaching out to organizations around the region asking for some ideas and challenges for our participants to explore. So far the response has been great and we’re working with a couple of organizations whose ideas looked like they would be interesting projects to drill into during the event. We’ve also encouraged participants to bring ideas of their own – non-profit related or otherwise.

The event will begin at T4G Saint John at 10am on Saturday, November 30th and will wrap up on Sunday, December 1st with the individuals or teams doing a little show and tell to demonstrate how what they’ve put together has addressed the idea/challenge that they chose to work on.

Check out this link to learn more about, or register for this weekend’s event:


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