A Disruptive Time for Mobile Messaging

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

So my original impression of iMessage turned out to be incorrect–kind of. If you have an iPhone, you know by now that iMessage and the SMS app are, in fact, built in. That’s good. My reaction was based on the fact that I only have an iPad. So here are some more thoughts and additional notions regarding SMS going away (hopefully sooner than later) for various reasons.

Now that I realize that iMessage is integrated into the iPhone, they are certainly on to something. The problem is, however, that there are still multiple apps for multiple modes of communication and it would be wise of Apple to combine iChat, FaceTime, and iMessage/Messages.  A single interface to reach out and contact someone is key. I think they will come around, because the startups are coming for them and they have some really great ideas! Read more of this post

The Slalom Difference…

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“If all responsibility is imposed on you, then you may want to exploit the moment and want to be overwhelmed by the responsibility; yet if you try, you will notice that nothing was imposed on you, but that you are yourself this responsibility.”
–Franz Kafka

One of my favorite ways to think about the Slalom difference is that our consultants are always tuned in to do more.  While we are brought in to our clients and trusted to deliver what they want, we always leave a little bit of our capacity to think about what else we can do for them–even if they have not specifically been asked.  In a 2009 version of PM Network, the PMI’s global glossy publication, Roberto Toledo wrote his viewpoint.  I’ve borrowed heavily from his short essay.

Project managers are constantly told our sole responsibility is to Read more of this post

Demand Management

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.”
– H. L. Hunt, — American oil tycoon. February 17, 1889-November 29, 1974

Most of us cannot claim to be in the top ten list of the richest people in the United States. But we can claim to follow their practices and methods and aspire to be as successful. So if we follow Mr. Hunt’s sage wisdom, how do we decide what to work on? This question plagues information technology organizations as they labor to meet the needs of their business partners.

So, how can IT determine what the business really wants?

Try Demand Management! It’s typically used as a way to optimize IT resource capacity, but it can be a great way to help the Business more clearly understand their priorities and role in defining what IT provides. Below I’ve outlined the key steps for successful demand management.

Step 1: Document all requested enhancements

Often, a conversation between the Business and IT goes like this: The Business says, “I want Read more of this post

Understanding Your Environment

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“The environment is everything that isn’t me.”
Albert Einstein

At Slalom, we are all seasoned experienced consultants.  And although none of us is quite an “Einstein,” it is important to understand what the good doctor was talking about regarding the environment in the context of project management.

As consultants, we constantly find ourselves in roles with new clients and unfamiliar environments. Often, when we start a new engagement, we hear statements like “our business is complex” or “our company is very different from all the other companies.” The way a project manager responds to these challenges can greatly impact their ability to lead a project to successful delivery.

To be successful, knowing project management terminology and theories isn’t enough; soft skills make the difference between a taskmaster and an effective leader.  A project manager needs to understand the environment within which they operate in order to be effective.  And, as Einstein implies, the term “environment” encompasses many things.  To narrow the definition, there are three major areas to focus on: Read more of this post

Do What is Right – Always!

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.  It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”
Peter Drucker, “Father of Modern Management” (November 1909 – November 2005)

At Slalom we have embraced Mr. Drucker’s quality focus with our key values, which revolve around the simple mandate: Do what is right for the client – Always!  If our customers are not realizing value, then we have not delivered quality.  To be certain though, there are always challenges to quality delivery.  As top consultants, Slalom teams need to be masters of quality delivery, and therefore need to understand the potential for under-delivery.

There are many ways a project can under-deliver.  Initiatives may go “off the rails” temporarily or may never complete successfully.  Projects may extend significantly beyond established budgets and schedules – sometimes with and sometimes without approval.  The project may complete on time and on budget, but Read more of this post

Why Projects Succeed: Stakeholder Communication Best Practices

Why Projects Succeed is a blog series in which Slalom Business Architect Roger Kastner sheds light on key factors behind the art and science of successful project management and invites readers to discuss how they apply across different environments.

Slalom Consultant Roger Kastner

Roger Kastner is a Business Architect with Slalom Consulting who is passionate about raising the caliber of project leadership within organizations to maximize the value of projects

“Communication works for those who work at it.”
- John Powell

Since Project Managers spend a lot of time communicating, a successful Project Manager will take Mr. Powell’s advice and focus a lot of effort to ensure the fidelity of those communications. And as George Bernard Shaw points out, the biggest failure in communication is the presumption that one has communicated effectively. Therefore, there’s not a better way to wrap up my Stakeholder Management trilogy (Part 1: Tools, Part 2: Challenges) than to share some best practices I’ve found that help to prevent or remedy Stakeholder communication challenges.

Do you hear what I hear?

I recently read that a project manager spends 90% of their time communicating and I began to wonder how that number was measured. Not that I’m disputing it, I just wondered if someone was following Project Managers with a stop watch or if there was some cool “communication-pedometer” type devise being sold at the latest PM conference.

But now that I think about it, Read more of this post

Say What? Lewis Carroll’s Cautionary Tale about Communication

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.

“They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

Through The Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland are two of my favorite books.  In fact, I have an annotated version of Lewis Carroll’s classics that tells the story behind the story, highlights the hidden meanings, historical significance and political references.  These were no simple children’s books! Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty is a word lover’s tangle.

The attraction goes beyond logophiles. For example, in college my computer programming professor used Humpty’s dialogue to help illustrate the difference between data and meta data.  Really! Meta data in child’s book!  It is a great illustration.

However, my challenge to you now is less about programming and more about the care that needs to be taken in business communications. We understand what we mean to say, but we are obligated to take care that the messages we deliver are understood in the way we intend.

Project managers need to ensure that their communications are effective.  We should be mindful to change the method of communicating to maximize the likelihood that the message will be understood (see Linda Bourne’s piece entitled “The Right Words” in PM Network, March 2010, p.22 for a short article about this topic, complete with Humpty Dumpty reference).

Alice and Humpty Dumpty had some interesting challenges in communicating

The following is an exercise I have used in training classes and presentations that I have delivered to illustrate this point:

Think about the first thing that pops into your mind when you read the following word: DOG.

Did you think of your first dog? A Great Dane? A cute puppy? What about Cat?  Hotdog? Steven King’s killer Cujo? Benji, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin?  Randy Jackson from American Idol?

Notice how many possible interpretations there are of one simple word.  Now imagine that you string together a series of complex words and ideas (e.g., “intuitive user interface”) as a means for updating your stakeholders, discussing strategy, establishing a set of requirements, or designing a complex solution framework.  Have you been clear and unambiguous?  Have you left room for interpretation or have you nailed down the message for singular meaning?  Beware the convoluted: I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

When our communications fail, it is rarely the fault of the recipients.  Lest we end up like Humpty Dumpty of the Nursery rhyme, in un-repairable shape no matter how many resources the King could use, it is incumbent upon experienced PMs to verify that our messages are understood as they are intended.

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