Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Borrowers & Followers; PMI 2011 North America Congress

Today was the last day of the PMI Global Congress in Dallas Texas. I've heard there were somewhere around 3000 attendees. In general, the event was similar to past years with some featured speakers, a lot of paper presentations, and the exhibition hall with vendors.

Malcolm Gladwell with PMI CEO Mark Langley

The highlight for me was the keynote speaker, Malcolm Gladwell. He talked about company cultures and innovation. The companies that are really successful aren't necessarily the ones that invent the new ideas, they're the borrowers and followers. He used Apple as an example. They didn't invent the graphic user interface or the MP3 player but they were the ones that saw the true potential of these items and brought the products to market that people wanted. Facebook was another example, it wasn't the first social media site, but the creators learned from what others had tried to come up with the best product. 

There were about 55 Area of Focus presentations. I primarily attended sessions related to agile (I also did a presentation, on Kanban). This was the first year that the communities selected papers for specific tracks. I really enjoyed Mike Cottmeyer's presentation in the agile track. He talked about scaling agile to the enterprise. His model included a user story level that followed an iterative agile approach, and a feature and epic level above that using a kanban approach. I was interrupted by work and missed Dennis Steven's presentation, but I understand it was similar (you can find a lot of Dennis's presentations in slideshow here). 

Jesse Fewell, who founded the agile community, did a nice job with fixed price agile projects. One of his key points was that you should focus on success criteria, not on features, when defining the scope of the project. He also talked about dynamic scope; if you want to add something into the release, you have to take something else of of similar size. Size should be in terms of cost, not something more obscure like story points. 

I also caught an interesting presentation titled Agile Collaboration in a Virtual World that was presented by Elizabeth Harrin, Cornelius Fichtner, and Andrew Filev. They are all members of PMI's New Media Counsel.

There was a lot of interest in agile. Some people were very new to the concepts, others had played around with it, and a few that were looking for the more advance topics that Mike, Jesse, and Dennis presented. I missed Michele Sliger's presentation, but I understand it was a great discussion of the more fundamental points of agile. 

There was a lot more twitter traffic this year, including an official PMI tweeter. You can find traffic by searching for #pminac. We also used #agc11 for agile tweets. Next year, Vancouver.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New and Shiny

So today I was anxiously waiting for IOS5 to be available so I could download it and play with the latest software for my iPad. I was also one of the folks that downloaded Lion the day it was released, accepting the minor compatibility problems that came with it as a cost of being an early adopter. Is there an advantage to being an early adopter, or is it just the thrill of playing with something new and shiny?

In project management, there is emphasis in some circles on having a repeatable process. We have our PMO and our methodology and all our templates. But is this always the best approach? If each project by definition is unique, should we use the same old process for each project?

I've used Kanban on a number of projects lately and been successful with it. I think Kanban still falls into the new and shiny category, but I've been figuring out how to use it. In once case, I took a project that was following Scrum...But and when I moved to Kanban saw improved delivery, better visibility, and a happier customer.

I recall about 3 years ago when I was trying to introduce agile into the organization I was working at. At the time, agile was still shiny and new, at least in some circles. There was some resistance to this approach, even though the more traditional approaches weren't always successful (that's not to say there aren't failed projects that use agile).

Some people need a lot of proof before they change their ways, others (like me) like trying things out early to see how they work. Of course, even I won't risk a new approach on a big project; I like to test things out on smaller projects first, where the cost of failure is lower. Even if you're not an early adopter or fast follower, keep aware of the trends. What's new and shiny today will be standard before you know it.