Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Battle of Standards

The latest news in PM circle (Especially those who aim at PMP certification) is about the new Body of Knowledge (BOK) from Project Management Institute (PMI) scheduled to release in December 2008. PMI has already published the key changes in the new standard – PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition. You may find the link here . (Thank you Rich for the link!). One of the major changes which I have noticed is the change in the process nomenclature to ‘Verb-Noun’ format. Even though there won’t be drastic changes in the PMP exam pattern, I expect many people to stay away from applying for certification during the transition period. People may consider preparing for the PMP based on latest standard (4th edition) , so that it will help in re-examinations if any one fail to make it in the first attempt.
More over, PMP exam goes wery much with terminologies and hence candidates may have a fear of getting confused with outdated terminology (if any) in case if they need to study the new standard while re-appearing.
Standards are to be revised to keep them aligned with the technological and conceptual changes happening in the industry from time to time. How ever, existence of many standards for the same purpose sometimes makes practitioners life difficult. (Especially who are working with international projects). For mechanical items we have already British, American and Dutch standards(BS-IS, DN, API, ANSI..etc) . I think ISO has succeeded to great extent in uniting various standards and arriving with widely accepted standards. The best examples are ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. I have involved in Quality certifications in present and previous employments and recently got certified from Bureau Veritas (Certified Internal Auditor for Integrated Management System). All these standards and the audits associated with them go behind the ‘Standard Terminologies’ and ‘Methods’ to great extent.
Back to Project Management standards. BSI has got BS-6079-1-2002 , as the standard for Project Management. I have read it a couple of times and found it as very much lighter than PMI’s PMBOK® 3rd Edition(PMBOK is ANSI/PMI 99-001-2004). PMI has taken very extensive approach (may be because they are focused on PM only) than BSI in the development of the standards. There were no revisions to BS 6079 after 2002 , how ever PMI has released 3rd edition to PMBOK in 2004 and kept the pace of up gradation steady by conducting several studies, research work and discussions. They have now come up with PMBOK® 4th Edition, which they claim to  reflect the evolving knowledge within the profession of project management”.
It was a year back; ISO has announced commencement of the work on a new international standard for Project Management (ISO 21500). BSI released a new letter in this regard (read it here), which claim ISO 21500 as an extension of BS-6079-1-2002. How ever in the ISO news letter regarding the same subject (read it here) there is no mention about BS-6079, other than a mention of BSI, who was the host to the kick off ceremony (held in London).
I am not aware about the involvement/contribution of PMI in the development of ISO 21500 (My search for ISO 21500 in the PMI website returned no results! ) I would like to hear from anyone who knows about this.
I have checked for the cross reference of the BS, PMI & ISO standards in their respective websites and the following are the results:

I hope ISO 21500 is expected to release some where in 2010. 
The following powerpoint presentation gives a good insight into the release and contents of ISO 21500. 
Take a look at the possible structure of ISO 21500, as per the above mentioned presentation:
PMBOK® 3rd Edition, focus on 5 key processes in 9 Knowledge areas.
  • 5 Project Management Process Groups
  • 9 Knowledge Areas
  • 44 project management processes
How many standards do we need?
Well my answer is ‘One’. Standard stands for ‘standardisation’ or ‘uniformity’. Now world is like a global village. People are working in multi ethnic – multi national teams. A project happening some where in middle east can have a German consultant working for a British client employing an American contractor. Project Management itself is an evolving profession and any one can say undoubtedly that PMI has played the main role in bringing up identity for that. The certifications, standards and marketing initiatives by PMI have made project management, a widely discussed and distinguished topic.
A new ISO standard for Project Management is always welcome, but it shall absorb all the good features of PMI & BS standards. I hope the standard committees are working in a collaborative way and we can expect release of ‘ONE’ standard, which is accepted by all PM organisations and PM practitioners across the world by the end of first decade of this millennium.
By the way, I am already sitting cross legged to watch the new PMBOK 4th edition and kept my desk ready to keep a copy of ISO 21500!!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ancient project management

Any one who is on tour to historical monuments, old temples, churches and palaces wonder how those were built during a period when construction machineries, computer and communication devices were not available. I have wondered every time I visited thousands of year old temples in India how they were built during those days. Beautifully carved single stone structures, each weighing several tonnes placed at enormous heights. There is no way they can be built with out precise planning and execution. Because they are sophisticated by their construction and the locations where they built are challenging.
I have searched a lot to find a piece of graphic which illustrates the planning done on any of such great projects. But sadly I couldn’t find any! When history of project management can’t look beyond 1900, what is the purpose of searching for PM documents dated several thousands of years back!
Construction of some of the outstanding historical structures like The Great Pyramid of Giza) is believed to be employed several lakhs(1,00,000) of people. There were extensive studies on the methodologies used for construction (in the absence of machineries) , especially on Egyptian Pyramids. How ever I couldn’t find any research on the project management and labour co-ordination techniques used. A video on ‘Construction of Persepolis’ (built 2500 years back, known as the richest city under the sun !) in ancient Iran indicate that there was proper construction organisation with titles similar to managers and supervisors. Archaeologists have recovered proofs indicating wage system for labourers. Giza Pyramid construction workers were believed to be lived near the construction sites in so called ‘Labour camps’.
When archaeologists & scientists are working hard to reveal the technologies (and techniques) used in these ancient ‘Great Projects’ , no one seem to be working on the project management and planning perspective of these jobs.
All the results of my searches related to project management constrained to 19th century. Does this imply that no project management and planning techniques were used in all those magnificent projects which may be extremely challenging even if executed these days?
Well, the socio-economic conditions prevailed in those days were different form today. Most of the ancient great projects were result of an instruction from the ruling King. The most skilled crafts man was chosen to take care of the construction and it was his responsibility to recruit best talent to work under him. Messengers were sent to each village to reach the message of the new project and great crafts men reported the King or his designated Master craftsman.
  •  Motivation? Fear or respect to the King or a mix of both! [Build it , or you are killed ! – haa haa]
  • Fund ? Unlimited funding from the King’s treasure!
  • Quality ? The king won’t compromise for a low grade product! – So best of its kind!
  • Schedule? Yep , there would have been , because the King want to see the result before he dies and probably he want to enjoy the fame of the great creation for as long as it can be !
Some records show details of labour allocation into gangs. An ancient version of Organogram !
Check out the crew allocation diagram for ‘Giza Pyamid Construction Project’:

But how they managed the big picture? Those were not random creations or activities. Coordinated efforts/activities to achieve a well defined outcome. Look at the magnificence and symmetry of great old temples in India! It is evident that a lot of planning and activity sequencing might have taken place. But how they did those? No one knows!
Most of such temples possess the following characteristics:
  • Challenging locations
  • Enormous sizes
  • Overall symmetry in site installations
  • Symmetry in individual structures
  • Minute art works in elements of individual structures

Indian art generally seems to focus on symmetry and detailing. The same reflects on old constructions as well. More over ancient artists/crafts men are fathers of modern engineers! Even renaissance engineers like Da Vinci and Michael Angelo were outstanding artists also apart from being engineers and inventors.
The reason for the non availability of the details of execution of these projects can be:
  • Educated upper society was only interested in the beauty and magnificence of the structures. In short the focus was on design & architecture and not in the methodology of construction.
  • Execution was the responsibility of craftsmen who were generally uneducated.
  • Secrecy: Several techniques were kept as secret among certain ‘Gothras’ or tribes who were specialised in crafts. These techniques were only transmitted from one generation to the next of the same ‘Gothra’
  • It is also debated that rulers kill the creators/crew of great structures once it is completed so that similar kind is not built again (How ever , this is not a proven fact!)
It will be great , if premier PM organizations like PMI take up some research projects on ‘Ancient Project Management’ and extend the history of PM beyond 19th century. It may also bring out some theories which can contribute to modern project management.
 If you have few more moments to spare, just have a look at these outstanding ancient projects. I also recommend you to visit the external links provided at the end of this article.
You may find that ancient Hindu temples tops all the great constructions in terms of beauty , attention to details and sophistication!

 208 BC The first major construction of the Great Wall of China, circa 221-206 BC

 The Colosseum

The Taj Mahal , India 1631-1654

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

 The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
 The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus


Lighthouse of Alexandria

Stonehenge in England, built in several stages from 2800 - 1800 BC

 Petra, the rock-carved city in Jordan, 6th century BC

Parthenon in Athens, Greece, 477 to 438  BC 

  Mayan Temples at Tikal, 700-900

Angkor Wat in Cambodia, 1113-1150

 Cathedral of Chartres, France 1194 to 1260

Machu Picchu, Inca city in Peru, circa 1400s

 Madurai Meenakshi temple, India

 Khajuraho Temple, India

Sun Temple, Konark, Orissa- India
 Prambanan Temple, Indonesia

Nanjundeswara Temple, Mysore, India

Somnatha Temple, Karnataka, India

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PM Karma Community

Dear fellow PM bloggers !
  It is my greatest pleasure to roll out the 'PM Karma' community. It is aimed at forming a friendly and collaborative group of PM enthusiasts who share our knowledge and contribute to each other's professional growth. Basically this will be a group of PM bloggers , who are linked to me (and linked by me). We will  be actively discussing on the topics of our interest (which we publish through our blogs). Effectively , this will increase the traffic and visibility of our blogs and will also help us to know each other more. This will help us to share information, help each other in making our jobs better (or a better job !).
How to join PM Karma Community (PMKC):
Its' easy , just comment below this post & I will add you to the community. Please provide the following info as well:
  1. Your full name
  2. Your profile link
  3. Your blog / web address
You are also requested to provide a link in your blog to mine (How ever this is not a mandatory requirement to join the community. But it is highly recommended since we will keep informed about each others postings, thus keeping our community closely connected)
Where can I find the community members?
I will add a member page , after receiving sufficient number of requests.
What about adding a thumbnail of member? Please let me know.
  1. Keep your blog clean (You know what I mean!)
  2. No abusive comments
Also read about the 'Link Exchange Initiative' here 
(PM Karma Community is an extension of PM Karma Link Exchange Initiative )

Welcome to PM Karma Community !

Thanks & Regards,


PM Karma Link Exchange Initiative

Dear Readers,
  At the outset , let me thank each and every one of you for your support and inspiration. My vision while launching this blog was to share the bits and pieces of knowledge which I have gained from my Project Management profession and through reading and acquire additional knowledge by collaborating with other PM bloggers.
  I also aimed at forming a community of people who are interested and believe in the 'Value' of project management. It will be my all time effort to expand this community by 'Linking to' and 'Linked by' other PM bloggers.
Its my pleasure to roll out the 'PM Karma Link Exchange Initiative' today

How to Link?
Its easy, if you have a website or blog. You may add 'PM Karma' Some where under your menu structure (Example: "Favourite Blogs", "Links", "Blog Roll" ..etc)  
You may find some of the fellow bloggers have already linked their blog with mine.
(Also check out the PM Karma Community initiative here )
 Once you become the PM Karma community member , you may use the PMKC logo on your site which link to
Requesting PM bloggers to make this initiative a grand success by providing PM Karma link in your blog.

Thank you,


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dashboards and the hottest trends in executive reporting

If you browse through my previous blogs and profile, you will easily find that, I am a person greatly interested in graphical representation of ideas & data (Drawing, charting, visual thinking  ...etc). I have a nick name in my office (Present and even previous jobs!) – “Mr. Colour”!
This is because of the colourful reports which I produce week after week, as part of my job. Being a planning professional , I produce a lot of reports every week (Project specific & organisational).
Microsoft Excel is my all time favourite tool. It is a blend of an ultimate data processing/ analysing tool and a nice data visualisation tool. Excel is the little big thing that makes my life much easier by automating several reports. I have a hell lot of data to process every week and report. I have made some standard templates which make data entry and reporting quite easy. Infact I only make the re-usable templates. The required data fields are filled in at the end of the week and reports are generated. The interface is designed in simple manner so that data entry is minimum. I extensively use formulas and macros to impart ‘intelligence’ and automation.
There are some great websites which give me tips & tricks on advanced excel data processing & charting.
If you are a frequent browser in excel based reporting techniques, you may find the following as the hottest topics or say ‘hottest tags’:
  • Dashboards                   
  • Incell charting               
  • Sparklines                     
  • Bullet graphs                 
  • Heat maps                    
  • NY Times info-graphics
  • Edward Tufte               
I am afraid that the love for incell charting is going beyond limits! People may soon start qualifying dash boards based on the number of incell charts used! (I hope I am allowed to use humour in blogs!) My understanding is that, growth in the financial analysis process in previous years has resulted in such a huge attraction towards dash boards and incell charting. Finance, especially stock market is one place where you have quantum of data which changes every second. To analyse and report such ever changing complex data, innovative dashboards evolved. This has obviously spread into other sectors as well, but finance professional are the one’s who use dashboards extensively. The second position will go ‘Marketing & Sales’.
Google analytics” is one of the best examples of clever implementation of online dashboard concepts (Or in general ‘Dashboard concepts”). I think NY Times Online really rocks in the domain of info-graphics!
Dashboards are mainly meant for decision makers who don’t have time to go in detail but can’t miss trends and alerts. This provides a challenge for the executives to prepare ‘effective’ dashboards (usually single page) which give the ‘whole idea of the thing’ ‘at a glance’!
Crystal-Xcelsius Dashboard :
 Crystal-Xcelsius provide a great tool to produce Adobe Flash based interactive dashboards easily.As their website say "Xcelsius 2008 is the first and only dynamic and customizable data visualization software that enables users of different skill levels to create insightful and engaging dashboards from any data source with point-and-click ease. Xcelsius 2008 offers a comprehensive set of new features and integrations with Crystal Reports 2008BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0, and other market-leading products—making it easier than ever to put the power of relevant intelligent information into the hands of business users."

Toolkit for great dashboards:

  • Good quality data, nicely arranged in table (Usually against a timeline)
  • MS Excel (Preferably Version 2000 or above)
  • Some nice web icons and textures
  • Paper & pencil (If you have the habit of planning interface layouts)
Steps for getting started

  • Identify the critical information to be displayed
  • Decide mode & unit of representation
  • Plan the lay out
  • Implement dashboard in excel by drawing charts / tables and linking data
  • Review & get approval
  • Release
You may find several innovative and creative experimentations in Excel charting, online. But my advice is never design your dashboard around a new charting concept. (Or simply, never include a graphical element in your report just because it looks cool.) Always design your dashboard around your data.
Identifying what really management want to know or need to know. Those should be in your dashboard. Selection of the type of chart & colours also does matter. Be consistent with colours (If you use green for + , never use red for + elsewhere!)
Project managers can impress senior management and clients by producing ‘Project Dashboards’. You may include standard and project specific indicators.

I ) Textual/ Tabular
  • Major milestones achieved (Show with time line & thumb nails of progress pics, if possible)
  • Activities progress during reporting period
  • Major issues, risks
  • Billing history
II) Graphical
  • Project S-Curve (Planned, actual, forecast)
  • Manpower histograms (Planned , actual)
  • Cost curve (Planned , actual, forecast)
  • Earned value analysis charts
  • CPI & SPI graph
  • Productivity curves
  • Analysis of head count , trades ,manhours( Normal hours v/s overtime) – Pie Charts
  • Safety reports (LTA ..etc)
If you have a good IT department with some skilled web developers, you may think about developing a web based project reporting system. This can be data driven (Database at the back end). The advantage of this feature is accessibility form anywhere for project team, clients and senior management.
You may check out some websites which provide some of these facilities for free. But suitability and effectiveness will depend up on the way project team utilise, the given facilities on these websites and nature of your project.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Obama Project

End of all speculations and debates, the result is out ! Obama wins. Sweet ending for massive efforts lasted for several months.
Every one who watched the election campaign will agree that the victory was not just an accident. I would say that it was a very well planned and professionally executed PROJECT.
Extensive use of web technologies and networking techniques were the stunning features of this great project.
 ‘’ says “Propelled by internet, Barack Obama wins US presidency !” It is very much true. The focal point of his campaign was his website . The site was very professionally designed with solid objectives.
  1. Source of information
  2. Networking
  3. Fundraising
The site is so good looking and the features and content were outstanding! It arranges essential information under easily navigate-able menu structure. It gathers people as followers, volunteers and donators.
Market personality >> Create followers >> Raise fund : This was the tactic used.
I am greatly inspired by the way entire campaign was planned, executed and concluded.
Just check out the MyObama community post sent out few hours before close of the voting:
Our target today is to make 1,000,000 calls to voters in battleground states before the close of polls tonight. As of 1:00 PM Eastern, we've made 214,187 calls. However, our staff on the ground are telling us that we need to reach the 500,000 call mark by 3:00 PM Eastern Time.”
Follower communities were well connected through his website, were intimated about the local and national campaign events. They were given instructions and specific targets. True project management!
They have engaged "RIGHTNOW” – a leading CRM company to manage increasing number of voter’s calls and e-mails. This was a ‘shift’ in the way political campaigns were managed, by employing a company who manages consumer issues for big corporate. "RIGHTNOW designed tools for assigning teams and managing (acknowledging, responding, following up..etc) voter communication. FAQ (Obama Answer Center) sections which allow users to find answers to frequently asked questions about Obama. This section had many handy tools like “Search answers” Apart from this there were numerous tools for analysing the data and giving trends. Using these tools the campaigners were able to find the traffic from various constituencies, most used key words and more frequently asked questions.
Apart from this, for online team management they have employed another tool “Central Desktop ”.
CentralDesktop is a web based “Project Collaboration Tool for Teams
I am sure the “Obama Campaign” is going to be subjected to lots of research & studies on its marketing & project management perspectives !