Monday, February 1, 2010

Project Metrics

Project Status

The status of a project can be reported by using certain metrics. Similar to a way checks the health of a person by checking their pulse, temperature etc, Project managers and stakeholders can monitor the progress of a project by using the following six criteria:

Time (Project schedule)

Cost (Expected and actual expenditure)

Resources (Estimated man-days and actual time spent)

Scope (Track scope changes and it's effect on schedule and costs)

Quality (Monitor bugs and specify their priority level)

For the Time metric, one can compare the baseline schedule set at the beginning of the project and compare it to the time-line as the project progresses. At any point if it is observed that the tasks are not going as planned, a red flag can go up.

For the Cost metric, one would need to compare the planned costs versus the actual costs as the project goes on. E.g. if the planned budget was for $100,000 for 10 months, then each months outlay would be $10,000. If at 6 months, the actual budget is more or less than say 5% (figure can vary as it would be a figure agreed with Project Sponsor beforehand) of $60,000, then the costing would need to be looked at again to see how to bring it back in budget.

For the Resources metric, one would need to consider the man-days that were proposed and the timsheets that are being filled up.

For the Scope metric, one would need to check for scope creep and monitor the effect that it has on the schedule and costs.

For the Quality metric, the QA team would need to report on the bugs, get them resolved. One would also need to prioritize the bugs and see which are critical and minor. By the time the project is delivered, these should hopefully be at zero. Although one could come to an agreement with the project manager as to what kind of bugs are acceptable as we all know that Microsoft when it releases its products has a known bug-list along with it.

By focusing on these areas, one can monitor the health of one's project.


What is Outsourcing


Outsourcing is defined as:

(1) Contracting with outside consultants, software houses or service bureaus to perform systems analysis, programming and datacenter operations.

(2) Contracting with organizations outside your country for work that could otherwise be done by employees within your company.

Outsourcing has primarily come up because of the improvements in technology and connectivity as well as the development in the telecommunication industry.

Initially, when outsourcing started companies gave operational tasks that were of less strategic importance to their company to the providers. But, over time, the companies have gone ahead and formed strategic partnerships with the providers.


Depending on the location of the outsourcing, there are different types of outsourcing that can be considered.

Onshore outsourcing or homeshoring:

When work is outsourced to a company within one’s own country, then it would be termed onshore outsourcing e.g. a company in USA contracts work to another company in USA itself.

Nearshore outsourcing:

When work is outsourced to a company near one’s country’s borders, then it is called Nearshore outsourcing e.g. when a company in USA contracts work to Canada.

Offshoring or offshore outsourcing:

When work is contracted to companies in distant locations e.g. India, China etc, then it is called Offshoring.

Bestshore outsourcing:

When work is contracted to a “shore” based on parameters like communication, productivity and costs.


Legal Guide to iPhone Application development

There is a useful Legal Guide to iPhone Application Development at Managers need to be aware of the various clauses in it so that they do not violate the agreement and have the application pulled from the Apple Store.

There are clauses related to owning full rights to any music that is used within the application.

There should be no objectionable material in the application.

One should also obtain copyright protection.

One also needs to be aware whether the application was created by an employee of the company or an independent contractor.

One should also trademark one's application so that it can be distinguished from other applications of same nature.

The conclusion would be to take the legal issues associated with the development seriously as ignorance and inadvertent breach of these clauses can lead to problems later on.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Four E’s of Leadership

About 20 years ago, Jack Welch had described the 4 E’s that were required by effective leaders. The following can be called the ‘old’ E’s that were required:

1. Energy
Leaders need to have the capacity to be on the go, always engaged and ready for a challenge.

2. Energize
Leaders should have the ability to invigorate others and motivate them to do better.

3. Edge
Leaders should have the capacity to make yes-or-no decisions.

4. Execution
Leaders should have the ability to get the job done.

All the 4 E’s need to be wrapped in P for Passion for both life and work.

In today’s global economy, the 4E’s have been revised as follows:

1. Empathy in global market and across cultures
This would mean establishing a corporate calendar that would include everyone’s holidays. It would also imply learning and respecting each other’s mannerisms e.g. ‘namaste’ in India and bowing in Japan.

2. Experimental
Companies need to adopt risk-taking in their profile. They need to encourage their employees inventiveness. They also need to explore new ideas, products and markets even when the rewards may not be immediate.

3. Example
Leaders need to set by example the corporate values that they want to be shared across the board by all the employees. They need to serve as role models.

4. Excited to Win
Leaders need to be always tuned in to the next challenge and have the desire to win. They need to demonstrate the hunger to go to the next level.

Source: Winning: The Answers Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today


Delegation is a basic skill required by Managers. It is on a par with other activities like planning, budgeting etc. If they don’t learn to delegate, they will remain swamped with work. They need to learn to ‘let go’ so that other employees can also learn and move on to the next rung in the ladder. This would help the manager also get more time to himself and perform other tasks.

Luecke and Macintosh have specified a five-step plan that can be used to effectively delegate job assignments.

First, determine the ‘what’ i.e. it needs to be determined which are the tasks, processes, decisions and projects that can be delegated. Then, this would mean assigning the tasks to others who have the skills and necessary mind-set to take up the tasks. However, one needs to make sure that any jobs that have assigned to one specifically by one's boss are not delegated to others unless he is ok with it. One also needs to ensure that not all the “dirty jobs” are assigned to others. A couple of them should be kept with oneself so that the subordinates do not get upset about it.

Second, determine the ‘who’ i.e. identify the right person to whom the job can be reassigned. Reliable people should be selected and they should have the bandwidth to do the task. Training should be provided to the person, if required.

Third, delegate. The manager needs to ensure that the person to whom the task is passed on understands the task, its importance in the big picture and is ready to take on full responsibility for it. The person should be provided with the required authority and resources so that he can perform the task.

Fourth, monitor i.e. the manager needs to monitor the progress and provide feedback at regular intervals. Do not try and take the task back through micro-management. Instead, provide feedback on how the staffer can modify his behavior.

Fifth, evaluate performance i.e. the performance of the staffer needs to be evaluated. Due recognition should be given. It can be monetary, promotion as well as praise. If the job is not getting done to satisfaction, it needs to be evaluated and ensured that same mistakes are not repeated.

The above steps should help the manager to pass along tasks that can be done efficiently and professionally by others.

Source: The Busy Manager’s Guide to Delegation: Richard A Luecke and Perry Macintosh

Friday, December 11, 2009

From the other side of the ocean

I thought of writing the following after going through Sandeep Sood's article on 5 rules for hiring offshore IT teams. If it reads more like a rant, please excuse it as I have based the following on my experience over the last 6 years of having worked with Indian companies to whom work is outsourced from companies in USA.

1. Please pay up gracefully

Companies in India need to find a partner in USA who do NOT start bargaining when they have to pay up the money at the agreed upon rate.

The work is generally delivered (agreed majority of the time it is with hiccups) on time. And, when the companies have to cough up the money and pay up, one should see them swinging into action. They get on chat and on phone to try and bring down the agreed-upon rate. They will go over ALL the issues that came up during the project. The resources will be blamed for doing shoddy work and not being up to the mark.The managers will be blamed for not getting the work done properly. There will be a lot of to-and-fro and everybody will get upset.

And, the best thing is that it is the companies owned by Indians in USA do this as they believe they know the mind-set and treat the IT company like any 'kiryana' (grocery) shop, and get the best bargain. The companies that are owned by Americans still tend to be fairly reasonable.

The done thing for the company outsourcing would be to at least pay up at the agreed upon rate. They are already paying reduced rates compared to rates in US. Also, they need to respect the fact that they are working with intelligent, hard-working people who are engineers and well educated. They are not dealing with riff-raff with whom one can bargain and get away with.

With reference to the dating paradigm, please make sure that when one signs up for the date, the guy will pay up for the dinner without quibbling about it (this is from the female's perspective!). Otherwise, it may leave one with the feeling of throwing up. And, that is not a pleasant sensation, trust me! (been on a couple of such dates!)

2. Requirements

A typical attitude generally seen in companies that outsource work is here we have got you this project and now let us know the date of delivery. e.g. a client may say "an ecommerce site is to be built and now let me know by when this can be delivered". Typical reaction this side of the Atlantic Ocean would be "Uhh, excuse me, can we know the profile of the client and get clarification on the umpteen number of details that are required before we can do such a thing. Without that, we are helpless."

And, the best part is that the companies outsourcing the work will not put you in direct touch with the end-client, also. And, they will also hesitate to get the requirements clarified from the client! Koi kare to kya kare (what is one to do in such a situation!?!)

3. Pay premium

In my last 6 years of working with Chandigarh-based IT companies, I don't think I have ever come across any company that has paid a premium. They would have been asked to bring down the rate but to pay a premium rate for quality services, that is unheard of (at least, I haven't heard of it)! The work is to be done at the cheapest rate, even if it may be done by trainees and take double the time. One does hear of a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and a bouquet of flowers that may come up the team's way for a well done job!

4. Trainees all the way

In an effort to keep the cost down and knowing the squeeze that the company outsourcing the work is going to put in at the end, Indian companies tend to hire trainees to do the work. The belief is that they will do as good work as trained and qualified people will do. They don't realize that the work is going to take more than double the time and it would cost them nearly the same besides causing a schedule overrun on the project, as the time estimates would have gone through the roof.

Happy dating!

Happier employees equals unhappy managers

If your staff have started to look more cheerful, it may be because they're about to hand in their notice...

That’s a lot of itchy-feeters, particularly given that we’re still seeing unemployment rise across the board – and it represents a potential headache for managers, who face the prospect of losing key staff as the economy starts to recover (some might expect a bit more loyalty from people whose jobs they’ve preserved through the worst of the recession).

The above paragraphs are from an interesting article at Management Today.