Monday, November 12, 2012

PPM - Project Categorization

PPM is about ‘doing the right things right’ where things refer to work efforts, projects and programs, doing the right things refer to prioritizing and selecting projects and programs in line with the strategy & objectives of the organization and doing things right refers to execution of projects and programs in such a way the benefits are realized.

Portfolios, programs and projects are all formal expressions of resource assignment decisions. Accordingly, a systematic approach to collecting, selecting, planning and managing them is key to a high-quality Governance process. Projects, programs and portfolios share a common life cycle formed around four key stage gates, which are Create, Select, Plan and Manage. In the context of portfolio, an important and first task is to determine the investment types or categories with which the project or program are categorized. The purpose of this blog is to examine the need and methods of project categorization.

Purpose of Categorization

Broadly, the following are the purposes for which organizations find categorization useful.

Strategic alignment: Certain projects share common characteristics that will mean a common approach with respect to prioritization, project tracking and monitoring, strategic visibility, etc. Appropriate categorization of projects would offer better visibility in terms of strategy execution and benefits realization.

Capability specialization: Another reason, organizations would be interested in categorizing projects is to identify and group similar projects, so that they all share common tools, technology and terminologies, which will help better management of resources and communication across projects.

Promote project approach: Though this purpose is of minor nature, it helps organization to promote the project culture and differentiate operations from projects and also to use a common methodology to manage such projects

The following table presents a mind map of organizational purposes around categorization:

Primary Purpose
Sub Purpose
Strategic Alignment
Selecting / prioritizing or projects / programs
Alignment commitments with capabilities
Managing Risk / controlling exposure
Allocating budget
Balancing portfolio
Identifying approval process
Planning, Tracking adn Reporting of
Resource usage
Performance, Results, Value
Comparability across projects, divisions, organizations
Creating strategic visibility
Visibility across projects, divisions, organizations
Capability Specialization
Capability Alignment
Choosing Risk Mitigation Strategy
Choosing Contract Type
Choosing Project Organization Structure
Choosing Methods and Tools
Matching of Skill sets to Projects
Allocating Project to Organizational unit
Setting Price
Enhancing Credibility with Clients
Capability Development
Developing Methods and Tools
Managing Knowledge
Developing Human Resources
Adapting to Market / Customer / Client
Promoting a Project Approach
Providing a Common Language
Facilitate better Communication
Distinguishing Projects from Operations
To Better Manage the Work Efforts

Categorization Schemes

None of the standards or frameworks specify a particular scheme with which to categorize and it is left to the organizations to decide on the scheme that best suit their needs. It has been found that most of the organizations use a multi-dimensional composite attribute based categorization schemes.

Here again the following three broad approaches are in wide use:

Hierarchical scheme: In this scheme, projects are hierarchically grouped based on multiple attributes. For instance, at the top level, the projects may be categorized as small , medium and large, based on the estimated investments and then further categorized into the application areas like, Infrastructure, Enterprise Applications, Field Applications, etc. There could be further categorizations as well. Under this scheme, each project falls under one unique category under each level.

Parallel scheme: Unlike in the hierarchical scheme, in this case, projects are assigned several sets of attributes. For instance, the projects may be categorized by complexity, technology and strategic importance and a project may find a place in all three categories.

Composite scheme: In this scheme, the categories are determined based on the result of applying more than one attribute. For instance, the category project management complexity may be determined by combining multiple attributes like team size, number of units or modules to be delivered, development efforts, duration, etc. Similarly a category deployment complexity may be based on attributes like process impact, end user scope of impact, project profile, project motivation, etc.


There is no single scheme or approach that best suits an organization. It is for the people involved in the IT / Business Governance to carefully choose the categorization based on the organization’s Vision and Strategy and then create a process to consistently determine the appropriate category for a project so that the relevant strategic and tactical tools and methodologies can be applied to that project as well, which in turn will ensure realization of the intended benefits with a desired level of efficiency and effectiveness.


Project Portfolio Management: Doing the Right Things Right

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Windows 8 - My initial experience

As you all know, Microsoft has been betting big on Windows 8 and much have been talked about it in the recent times. I wanted to try it out myself and the attractive upgrade offer from Microsoft tempted me further and I just went ahead for the upgrade.

I decided to try it then on my office Laptop, which is DELL XPS 13, which eventually is my own as I have bought it from my organization. I know that Microsoft has made the upgrade easy using their Upgrade Assistant. I just googled for it and ran it . It did not took much time to scan the hardware and all the installed application to come up with a compatibility report. Among few others, the components that are not compatible were the Cisco VPN client and the Touchpad driver. While the I would not be using the VPN client any more, thought I could find a driver update from DELL and as such went ahead the upgrade by ordering it online.

The 2 GB download took under two hours, and after downloading, it prompted me whether to create a disk or to save it for later install, but I just chose to run it then as I did not had any data to be backed up and I was fine to lose everything on the Laptop. The installation did not took much time and there were couple of restarts in between and I was greeted with the Windows 8 screen prompting me to login. Logged in, I saw the Start screen, much like the Windows Phone, with tiled shortcuts for the Windows 8 Applications.

Amongst the apps on the Start screen is the short cut for the Desktop, which is similar to the typical Windows 7 desktop screen but without the Start button used to explore the programs.During Login, Windows 8 did greeted me that there are certain hidden shortcuts on the corners, which I did not pay much attention though, but figured it myself later. Hover your mouse on the lower left of the screen, you will see the shortcut to switch to the start screen / desktop. When you take the mouse cursor to the top right, you will find the previously used applications be it Windows 8 Apps or Desktop Apps. The Alt + Tab also works for switching amongst the open applications. The lower right corner hides a context menu, which brings up settings, search options, the operation of which is dependent on the actively running application on the foreground.

I experienced an inconsistent response from my external wireless mouse, but did some research to find that it was a problem with the driver for the USB 3.0 hub which I was using to plug in the wireless USB dongle. The DELL XPS 13, being an ultrabook, it has only two USB ports, and did not had Ethernet port. That’s why I had to use a USB hub to have enough USB ports. I could find a driver update for the USB hub, which was from Fresco logic and it worked well after the update.

I then looked up the DELL support website for available driver updates for Windows 8 and there were quite many updates for the Touchpad, Wi-Fi, WIDI (Wireless Display) and I downloaded all and updated them. With this, the OS and Hardware worked fine.

Chrome and Firefox worked as before, but the desktop version of IE did not work well. But the new IE part of the Windows 8 Apps worked very well, but the UI is far different and it needs time to get used it. It is more like the IE on the smart phones. No Menu bar / tool bar, etc. I still find better working with the Desktop version of the browsers as I have been used to it. But also making attempts to use the other browser time and again to familiarise myself with it.

It took a while for me to figure out how to shut down my Laptop, as there isn’t a start button and the Windows 8 start screen also does not has an option. But later figured it out that it is hiding in the Settings context menu, where you will find a power icon, which then leads to options for restart, sleep or shut down. Later I also figured it out that the Alt + F4 on the desktop brings up the usual shutdown screen. Alt + F4 also works for closing the active applications. The Windows 8 Apps do not have a title bar and there are no close buttons or menus. Alt + F4 seem to be the only way to close such applications.

Another issue I ran into is that I had lose my corporate domain user account and login using my own local account. Switching to a different local account was very easy, but I did not get to see the apps / configurations that I did as the corporate domain user. Though this is the expected behavior with any version of Windows OS, I need to explore much to figure out how to get these working for multiple users.

The native mail application allows you to set up your google mail, exchange email or even any other email accounts. The mail, calendar and the people applications are all integrated and it allows you to setup sync the contacts in facebook, linkedin, twitter and google to the people.

Though the UI and the OS is good and usable, it is far different from the earlier versions of Windows and one may have to spend considerable time in exploring, learning and getting used to this all new Windows 8 OS.

Though little confusing as there are considerable changes in the UI it is very much usable. There is still so much for me to explore and I will post one more blog on this topic, covering more of my experiences with Windows 8.