Stories maketh the pursuit of goal purposeful !

A master story teller has always captured our imagination during childhood. Stories told by our mom and dad , by friends have been a key influencer in our formative years. We have sought inspiration on stories at school, home and at work in building key input for our system. Stories have a powerful impact on the communication.

Back in 1893 one dark man was thrown out of a train bound to Pretoria at the Pieter Maritzberg Railway Station just because he was on the first class compartment that was mentioned for whites. A small story that was the beginning of a major “Ahimsa (non-violent) ” struggle in the history of the world. Today world over Ahimsa is a powerful phenomenon. Good or Bad, Stories by itself have been a powerful vehicle to boost communication of the message that we intend to pass to our listeners. And the power of story telling is a key enabler in effective communications.

Corporate world particularly IT has taken a great affinity for Storytelling. Right from building requirements based on user stories to playing real life scenarios to comply with business perspectives, stories are used to make a point across to listeners and as stories it becomes easier to remember and has lasting impact on listeners compared to abstract points. Today there are a lot of project management models where user stories form a key input to building solutions.

A lot of startups and entrepreneurs have a powerful and compelling story behind its formation. Be it the infamous Steve Jobs Speech at Stanford or Randy Paush’s ” The Last Lecture ” at the Carnegie Mellon or stories behind formation of Facebook, Reliance or Infosys, there is always a real life story that relates emotionally with the entrepreneur that led to the formation of the enterprise. Such stories tap into human emotions and connects a strong bond between the story teller and the listener. Stories tend to make it meaningful for people who build upon it. Organizations need to have compelling stories to align with their vision and collective purpose for achieving the larger goals. As leaders we need to be great story tellers and always lookout for that compelling story that can further our purpose and goals.

Project Managers / Product Managers need to acquire story telling skills to capture market opportunity , user requirements and how solutions seem to address market pain points effectively. Today’s agile development models are shaped on user stories as vital input not just for writing requirements but also to talk about users and for building effective solutions. User Stories tend to shift the focus from writing about features to talking about them.

Recognize, Respect and Respond to stress at workplace !

Objective of the blogpost was to create awareness, on stress and how to handle stress, work pressure and work habits

Interesting statistics reveal that of late NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports – High suicide rate among IT Professionals and NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health) reports – High stress related cases among IT professionals

Facts about Stress: Stress is a Fight, Flight, fright response. There are two types of Stress : Eustress and distress. Eustress is good stress while distress is the negative form of it. Science behind Stress is that body alerts the sympathetic nervous system. Putting the organs back to original state is done by parasympathetic nervous system

Yerkes-Dodson Law of Arousal: This law states that an organism’s performance can be improved if that organism is aroused in some manner. However, if the level of arousal increases too much, performance decreases. Of course, this level is different in everyone. An example of this is an athlete who performs better under real game situation than he/she does during practice games. There is more arousal (stress, excitement) during the real games which increases their performance. But, if the pressure becomes too much, their performance can decrease (e.g., missing an easy shot with time running out and losing the game — choking!).

Typical Profile of IT Professional
* Workaholic
* Well qualified
* Well paid

Sabcons Research:
* D Factor Awareness ( The Incredible “D” Factor – Deadlines missed, divorce, depression, diabetes, disease, death wish )
* Long terms stress causes loss of peace, irritation, depression (mental, emotional, physical)
* Become Aware and Take action
* People Factor – Conflict management styles (Avoiding, compromise, forcing, confrontation)
* Everyone thinks the other person is responsible
* Personality Factor (Type A, Type B, Type C )
* Project Manager ‘s and Delivery Managers’s need to proactively deal with this issue in a better manner.

Identify these in your teams
* Breakdowns and burnouts
* Sick Leave
* Attrition
* Low productivity
* Stress management should be a critical part of your Risk Management in all ur projects

Stress Management – Pancha Koshas : The Yoga path of Self-realization is one of progressively moving inward, through each of those lampshades, so as to experience the purity at the eternal center of consciousness, while at the same time allowing that purity to animate through our individuality. These five levels are called koshas, which literally means sheaths.
* Annamaya Kosha
* Pranamaya Kosha
* Manomaya Kosha
* Vigyanamaya Kosha
* Anandamaya Kosha

Project Managers need to ACT

* Accountability in maintaining harmony in ur teams
* Communications – with ur members to understand them better
* Training – Provide adequate training for professionals to execute the relevant task with diligence

Secret of balanced Organizations
* Plan for Proper Shifts
* Employee Assistance when faced with instances/ episodes of Stress
* Insists on Compulsory Laptop free breaks

These are excerpts from a session on “I am only 35 & I have Diabetes” by Ms Sabita Prasad and Ms. Sudha Jayaram

An interesting evening at KCommunity Chennai !


I have been a member of the KCommunity since its inception . I was introduced to the KCommunity by Mr Raj Datta, way back in 2007 when he was the KM head at Mindtree . Subsequently i have been driving a lot of KM initiatives for TKF, Fuente and lately for Railsfactory too. Eversince have been a passive member of KCommunity and due to hectic schedules not able to go for any of the meetings.And so finally dropped in yesterday to meet Mr Sukumar Rajagopal, Mentor of the KCommunity and other folks that and what a pleasant evening it was ! A small closely knit group with just a agenda to share knowledge and best practices across corporates.

Yesterday there was a very interesting session at KCommunity on the topic ” Art of Story Telling in Corporates ” by Ms Archana Raghuram , Sr Program Manager Outreach of CTS. The take home message is ” that we need to capitulate on the compelling stories that happen at places of work and tell them to people. Doing so will interest people both within and outside the organization ” By following this method people who listen to you tend to keep you in mind for long and you slowly become synonymous with the story. And there are certain steps to do the same.

And I have been lingering on this thought for quite sometime building the corporate presentation for one of our associate as they had so many interesting incidents in their startup four years back. The session last evening has reiterated the message that nothing can go wrong on the age old technique of Story telling to present your ideas as well as keep your audience engrossed in the conversation.

A project without risk is a project worth not doing !

A Ship in a harbor is safe, but thats not what ships are for !

Projects that have no risks are no humdingers ! Typically a project has to test your capabilities as a team thereby kindling the competitive spirit. Such projects help in team building as well as benchmarking performance in an organization. Project risks and benefits always go hand in hand. Risk is basically a component of any work that on materialisation leads to an undesirable outcome. In simple words risk is a problem that is yet to occur. Risk management is similar to an Insurance cover. As long as things are rosy and going fine people feel it is unnecessary drain in the budget but the the moment we are blindsided by any risk then everyone is clamoring why it was not done.

Organizations and Project teams that define risks in a project demonstrate increased maturity. We need to acknowledge the grey areas / realities well in advance and accordingly plan our resources. Otherwise what typically happens is that we end up going on a “firefighting” mode thereby crisis management. And in the process we end up doubling our resource utilisation, escalating budgets and above all a very dissatisfied client.

As project head it is our bounden duty to set aside the “Can -do attitude ” and deliberate on some “Cant -do ” thinking also .  Analyse your risks, take steps to mitigate possible risks, plan your contingencies, put systems in place to monitor risk trigger points. Scope the entire process into your project plan and schedule. Stakeholder / client when informed of the possible risks tend to show resilience and greater confidence on the Project Leadership.

Principally 5 steps involves in assessing and quantifying of project risks are Risk identification, exposure analysis, contingency planning, Risk mitigation and Managing risks. There are tremendous advantages of Risk Management like increased clarity of the project to the team, increased team morale once you get over a scoped risk, and finally there is clear management focus on the weaker links of the project to ensure that attention is given to reinforce them.

For a more detailed discussion on the various aspects of Risk like  Risk planning, Risk mitigation, Critical path method, Risk management and models like Monte Carlo effect contact me. I would love to share our learning over the period of years

Project Management and Mindmapping Tools for Startups and Entrepreneurs !

Eversince I started this blog back in February 2006, all my blogposts are peppered with topics, discussions that are focused primarily on my passion for technology, social media , stocks …that is what i dont do between 9 – 5 pm. Since 2009 i had the opportunity to interact with Project managers from larger organizations and get to understand what is being practiced by them . Inspite of so many vibrant PM tools available in the market at negligible or Zero costs, larger organizations still rely on time old tools like XL sheets and default project management tools like Ms Project , Primavera. This post is addressed to some of my friends who are Project Managers and from the same domain.

For those PM practitioners who have been very familiar to MS Project and Excel Sheets for their Project Management needs, Projity serves as an excellent alternative open source product. Fuente Systems Inc was involved with Projity and their then CEO, Marc O Brian back in 2006 during the ideation stages of Projity for offshore development of the product.  Projity ( renamed as Open Project ) allows for creation of GANTT charts, PERT diagrams, tasks & resource scheduling so on. The commercial version of the software is available on a SaaS model called as POD (Project on Demand) to address geographically distributed teams. However Projity limits its functionality to address conventional project management needs. Projity has now been acquired by Serena Software.

Today organizations are shifting focus towards new techniques like Extreme Programming, Scrum, Crystal, DSDM and FDD, or emerging variants like Lean/Kanban.  MS Project or Open Project fail to address the requirements of user stories, priority list that go alongwith Agile development .  Silver Catalyst is an Agile project management tool that perfectly addresses agile development methologies.  Silver Catalyst is offered from one of my close friends, Sid .Free account / download of  Silver Catalyst Available at their site. For a personalised  corporate presentation on the product and organisation wide participation you can call me.

Similarly today Project Management has become an integral part of Online Collaboration Tools. These tools today address the priorities of team members and project stakeholders by including collaborative design and development , online conferencing, communication, archiving, progress tracking, and real time reporting as part of the solution. There are a few solutions that are available for startups and entrepreneurs on a web based model.

Huddle is one such software that is available on the web for tracking workgroups that are geographically distributed on a subscription based SAAS model.

Open Atrium is an open source Project management tool that combines Apache , Drupal (cms) , php and mysql This has been put to use in ambitious global projects on inclusive development whose showcase is available here  ( http://developmentseed.org/projects ) . It provides versioning and mobile support as well.

ActiveCollab is a collaboration tool for project management that allows for project planning, progress tracking, communication within team members and stakeholders of the project. However these are subscription based web services available at a premium ($ 250 /yr )but include a host of features.

Apart from addressing project management needs of entrepreneurs one of the must have tools is on Mindmapping. These tools help us in the ideation process and to visualise any business idea creatively into simplified tasks/ activity. Mindmapping  allows entrepreneurs bring structure to their thought process.

Freemind is the most prominent Mind mapping program that is available both for Windows as well as Linux platform. Helps in problem solving and decision making process. Vym is the closest resemblance / alternative to Freemind

Similarly for building compelling proposals one requires design tools Ms Visio for building business flow charts, network diagrams, streamline workflow diagrams, and plan resource utilisation. These tools are an absolute must to go with any project manager profile for his day to day requirements. Kivio is an open source alternative that is available for entrepreneurs at zero cost. I would rather prefer MS Visio for reasons that there are extensive stencil sets available for any kind of diagramming that we can do with it. When it comes to Kivio the user group is having limited resource and those stencil sets available are also premium priced.

PMI Team India’s first National Conference on ” Unleash The Power of Project Management of a better Tomorrow “

The Theme for this year’s Conference is ” Unleash The Power of Project Management of a better Tomorrow “. organized by PMI India along with PMI TEAM INDIA (7 PMI chapters of India) hosted by Pearl City Chapter, Hyderabad. PMI creates history in Showcasing the best Projects in the Indian Subcontinent and the convergence of best of talent to share the cutting edge practices in Project Management. Of the 12000 certified Project Management Professionals from India, the conference has a foot fall of more than 700 of them at the Venue which is a very impressive number. The Name badges had different color bands to indicate the Project Management Qualification of each delegate thus facilitating breakout conversations among the peer group.

Anything @ HICC is a pompous affair and PMI PMC was no exception. Starting with the traditional Kuthuvilakku (lighting of Lamp) by the distinguished chair and political blessings from the honorable Chief Minister Shri Rosaiah, it had all the making of Showcasing what India is all about to the distinguished global audience. Welcoming the delegates, Mr Raj Kalady, Managing Director PMI India was all praise for the “awesomeness” of the Event.PMI India team drives excellent coordination between volunteers of 7 different Chapters to ensure that the pre event coverage is extensive across industry and Project Management practitioners. In-spite of their day jobs all the volunteers draw synergy to make this event a grandiose success .

Mr V Srinivasa Rao, Chairman PMI India Team talks about how Mahatma Gandhi through his philosophy of ” Resistance through non-violence ” was able to successfully execute the greatest project of Delivery Freedom for India. He also cited examples of post independence projects like the space research programmes and . Successful Projects are not just about translating profits / bottom-lines but about impacting social change . There is a major need for Project management competency in India.
The Keynote was delivered by Mr Jagdish khattar, Former MD, Maruti Udyog who talked about how Maruti brought transformational change in the Automobile business landscape in India. He was all praise for the lessons we Indians learnt associating with japanese (Suzuki) The corporate mantra of Project management at Maruti Udyog was Plan – Plan – Execute -Plan more .

Mr Peter Monkhouse , Director At-Large PMI Worldwide, talks about Project Management as a Strategic Catalyst for transforming India. He showcases Indian success stories like Delhi Metro Rail Project and TATA Nano and how they stand setting precedents for more successful projects to come. Incidentally TATA NANO was awarded PMI’s Business Process Award on 30th Oct 2009 at London. Recent global survey conducted with employers on “What Skill is the most important in Staff ? ” the top answer was ” Project Execution”. The Key value drivers in India Economy was the advancement of the Baby boom generation and the incoming workforce being smaller and more demanding. This also resulted in increasing demand even on global downturn. PMI India today boasts of 12000 certified professionals with more than 16% growth (Second largest in the world). 20 years back we had just 20 PMI professionals here.

Mr Steven Fahrenkrog, VP, PMI USA recalled his Indian experience . Vote of thanks was delivered by Mr Suresh Chandra, President PMI Pearl City Chapter thanking the 7 coordinating chapters for the success of the event. As soon as I came to the venue I met with Mr Arun Kiran Ponnekanti, who heads Corporate communications and Brand Management for PMI PMC. After a 10 minute discussion we got to work on updating the Social Media tools like Twitter ( #PMIPMC ), Facebook and Youtube with minute by minute live updates. All presentations will be loaded with copyright to Slideshare and all pictures to flickr and picasa for benefit of the attendees.

Incidentally i am at the HICC at the same place exactly a year ago (2008). I was invited by NiXi(National Internet Exchange of India) as a Internet Governance Research Fellow on IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) to IGF 2008 and here i am a year later as part of PMP sharing notes with the peer group.

L&T Award Ceremony for Distinguished Project Award

Harold Kerzner talks about Future PMO @ PMI Project Management Conference

Mr Harold Kerzner initiated a discussion on Future Project Management Office – A Value driven approach for Key stakeholders

Mr. Harold Kerzner

Share of Projects using Project Management software is less than 35%. There is a shift of trend towards more non traditional projects being executed under current business conditions.  Unlike in Traditional projects where the focus is only on the Triple constraints , in non traditional project there is an additional parameter focus on triple constraint +Value

The shift of Contractor Expectations is towards Long term strategic partnerships (Engagement Expectations).Each project is seen as a collection of values scheduled to attain corporate objectives.  Statement of Work ( SOW ) is subject to numerous changes in current PM’s with multiple stake holders.  Unique value driven KPI (Key performance Indicators) are enumerated.  Flexible “Fluid ” PM methodology adopted.  There is a demand for Real time reporting  of Project progress. Managing multi stakeholder expectations.  All this is illustrated as a matrix.

Governance>>Dashboard Design>>Key Performance Indicators>>Measurement>>New Success criteria

With this there is a Multiple definition of success of a project (each customer / stakeholders have different definition). This demands the need for Creation of customer satisfaction Index.  that can be measured occasionally on the project.  Metric driven PM will be the future.

Project failure is bound to happen when linear thinking is adopted and  when Methodology doesn’t not allow out of box thinking.

Newer analyses tools like Different Value analyses – Intellectual Cap valuation. Intellectual Property Scoring , Balanced Score Card method, Future value management, value management methodology to take customer engagement to a higher level.

Project management reports like Forecast reports >>Status Reports>>Progress Reports help in monitoring how projects progress in future.

Forecast Reports tend to capture data point and parameters like  >> Time @Completion, Cost @completion.

The entire session was so informative and good perspective of what project management will be in the future.