Monday May 06, 2013

The Eating Contest - How a software project is like an eating contest

It may be hard to imagine, but there are some similarities between software projects and eating contests. No, I'm not implying that both are messy  and leave you feeling ill. Done properly, only an eating contest will produce those results.

What I am talking about is that both eating contests and software projects should employ an iterative and incremental approach. In other words, smaller chunks are better whether you're eating or implementing.

Click here to hear about a guy named Steve, his eating contest exploits, and how my sleeping brain made a connection between Steve's approach and successful software projects. This brief video describes OUM's principle of iterative and incremental and how it should be used to create success in eating contests and on software projects.

Whether it's an on-premises implementation or enabling a customer in a public cloud environment, businesses expect very rapid time to value for all of their IT investments. An iterative and incremental approach helps implementers live up to those expectations.

Once you're finished viewing the video please leave a comment or go to the "Oracle Unified Method" group on LinkedIn to give us your thoughts.

Friday Sep 28, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 5: Conclusion

Thank you for joining me in the final segment in the Iterative and Incremental series.  During yesterday’s segment, I discussed Iteration Planning, and specifically how I planned my daily exercise (iteration) each morning by assessing multiple factors, while following my overall Implementation plan.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, regardless of the type of exercise or how many increment sets I decide to complete each day, I apply the 6 minute interval sets and a timebox approach.  When the 6 minutes are up, I stop the interval, even if I have more to give, saving the extra energy to apply to my next interval set.  

Timeboxes are used to manage iterations.  Once the pre-determined iteration duration is reached – whether it is 2 weeks or 6 weeks or somewhere in between-- the iteration is complete.  Iteration group items (requirements) not fully addressed, in relation to the iteration goal, are addressed in the next iteration.  This approach helps eliminate the “rolling deadline” and better allows the project manager to assess the project progress earlier and more frequently than in traditional approaches.

Not only do smaller, more frequent milestones allow project managers to better assess potential schedule risks and slips, but process improvement is encouraged.  Even in my simple example, I learned, after a few interval sets, not to sprint uphill!  Now I plan my route more efficiently to ensure that I sprint on a level surface to reduce of the risk of not completing my increment. 

Project managers have often told me that they used an iterative and incremental approach long before OUM.   An effective project manager naturally organizes project work consistent with this principle, but a key benefit of OUM is that it formalizes this approach so it happens by design rather than by chance.   

I hope this series has encouraged you to think about additional ways you can incorporate the iterative and incremental principle into your daily and project life.  I further hope that you will share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of us.

Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 3: The Implementation Plan (a.k.a The Fitness Plan)

Welcome back to the Iterative and Incremental Blog series.  Yesterday, I demonstrated how shorter interval sets allowed me to focus on my fitness goals and achieve success.  Likewise, in a project setting, shorter milestones allow the project team to maintain focus and experience a sense of accomplishment throughout the project lifecycle.  Today, I will discuss project planning and how to effectively plan your iterations.

Admittedly, there is more to applying the iterative and incremental principle than breaking long durations into multiple, shorter ones.  In order to effectively apply the iterative and incremental approach, one should start by creating an implementation plan.  

In a project setting, the Implementation Plan is a high level plan that focuses on milestones, objectives, and the number of iterations.  It is the plan that is typically developed at the start of an engagement identifying the project phases and milestones. 

When the iterative and incremental principle is applied, the Implementation Plan also identified the number of iterations planned for each phase.  The implementation plan does not include the detailed plan for the iterations, as this detail is determined prior to each iteration start during Iteration Planning.  An individual iteration plan is created for each project iteration.

For my fitness regime, I also created an “Implementation Plan” for my weekly exercise.   My high level plan included exercising 6 days a week, and since I cross train, trying not to repeat the same exercise two days in a row.  Because running on the hills outside is the most difficult and consequently, the most effective exercise, my implementation plan includes running outside at least 2 times a week.   Regardless of the exercise selected, I always apply a series of 6-minute interval sets.

 I never plan what I will do each day in advance because there are too many changing factors that need to be considered before that level of detail is determined.  If my Implementation Plan included details on the exercise I was to perform each day of the week, it is quite certain that I would be unable to follow my plan to that level.  It is unrealistic to plan each day of the week without considering the unique circumstances at that time.  For example, what is the weather?  Are there are conflicting schedule commitments?  Are there injuries that need to be considered?  Likewise, in a project setting, it is best to plan for the iteration details prior to its start.

Join me for tomorrow’s blog where I will discuss when and how to plan the details of your iterations.

Tuesday Sep 25, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 2: Finding Focus

Welcome back to the second blog in a five part series where I recount my personal experience with applying the Iterative and Incremental principle to my daily life.  As you recall from part one of the series, a conversation with my son prompted me to think about practical applications of the Iterative and Incremental approach and I realized I had incorporated this principle in my exercise regime.   

I have been a runner since college but about a year ago, I sustained an injury that prevented me from exercising.  When I was sufficiently healed, I decided to pick it up again.  Knowing it was unrealistic to pick up where I left off, I set a goal of running 3 miles or approximately for 30 minutes.    I was excited to get back into running and determined to meet my goal.  Unfortunately, after what felt like a lifetime, I looked at my watch and realized that I had 27 agonizing minutes to go!  My determination waned and my positive “I can do it” attitude was overridden by thoughts of “This is impossible”.   My initial focus and excitement was not sustained so I never met my goal.  

Understanding that the 30 minute run was simply too much for me mentally, I changed my approach.   I decided to try interval training.  For each interval, I planned to walk for 3 minutes, then jog for 2 minutes, and finally sprint for 1 minute, and I planned to repeat this pattern 5 times.  I found that each interval set was challenging, yet achievable, leaving me excited and invigorated for my next interval.  I easily completed five intervals – or 30 minutes!!  My sense of accomplishment soared.

What does this have to do with OUM?  Have you heard the saying -- “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!”?  This adage certainly applies in my example and in an OUM systems implementation.  It is easier to manage, track progress and maintain team focus for weeks at a time, rather than for months at a time.   With shorter milestones, the project team focuses on the iteration goal.  Once the iteration goal is met, a sense of accomplishment is experience and the team can be re-focused on a fresh, yet achievable new challenge. 

Join me tomorrow as I expand the concept of Iterative and incremental by taking a step back to explore the recommended approach for planning your iterations.

Monday Sep 24, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 1: The Dreaded Assignment

A few days ago, while making breakfast for my teenage son… he turned to me and happily exclaimed, “I really like how my high school Government class assigns our reading homework.  In middle school, we had to read a chapter each week.  Everyone dreaded it.  In high school, our teacher assigns us a section or two every day.  We still end up reading a chapter each week, but this way is so much easier and I’m actually remembered what I’ve read!”

Wow!  Once I recovered from my initial shock that my high school son actually initiated conversation with me, it struck me that he was describing one of the five basic OUM principles -- Iterative and Incremental.   Not only did he describe how his teacher divided a week long assignment into daily increments, but he went on to communicate some of the major benefits of having shorter, more achievable milestones. 

I started to think about other applications of the iterative and incremental approach and I realized that I had incorporated this approach when I recently rededicated myself to physical fitness.  Join me over the next four days as I present an Iterative and Incremental blog series where I relate my personal experience incorporating the iterative and incremental approach and the benefits that I achieved.

Thursday May 31, 2012

The Use-Case Driven Approach to Change Management

In the third entry of the series on OUM and PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, we took a look at the continued importance of change management and risk management. The topic of scope change management and OUM’s use-case driven approach has come up in few recent conversations. So I thought I would jot down a few thoughts on how the use-case driven approach aids a project team in managing the project’s scope.

Use-case models are one of several tools in OUM used to establish and manage the project's scope.  Because use-cases can be understood by both business and IT project team members, they can serve as a bridge for ongoing collaboration as well as a visual diagram that encapsulates all agreed-upon functionality. This makes them a vital artifact in identifying changes to the project’s scope.

Here are some of the primary benefits of using the use-case driven approach as part of the effort for establishing and managing project scope:

  • Use-cases quickly communicates scope in a straightforward manner. All project stakeholders can have a common foundation for the decisions regarding architecture and design and how they relate to the project's objectives.
  • Once agreed upon, a use-case can be put under change control and any updates to the model can then be quickly identified as potentially affecting the project’s scope.  Changes requested or discovered later in the project can be analyzed objectively for their impact on project's budget, resources and schedule.
  • A modular foundation for the design of the software solution can be established in Elaboration.  This permits work to be divided up effectively and executed in so that the most important and riskiest use-cases can be tackled early in the project.
  • Use-cases help the team make informed decisions about implementation priorities, which allows effective allocation of limited project resources.  This is very helpful in not only managing scope, but in doing iterative and incremental planning which relies heavily on the ability to identify project priorities.

Bottom line is that use-cases give the project team solid understanding of scope early in the project.  Combine this understanding with effective project management and communication and you have an effective tool for reducing the risk of overruns in budget and/or time due to out of control scope changes.

Now that you’ve had a chance to read these thoughts on the use-case driven approach and project scope, please let me know your feedback based on your experience.

Tuesday May 08, 2012

OUM and PMI's Pulse of the Profession: The Fifth In a Series

Welcome to the fifth (and final) blog entry of the series on PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession .  The previous blog entry focused on Key Finding #4: Organizations will renew their focus on talent development as they look to grow and gain competitive advantage in new markets.  That entry highlighted how the OUM Training Program prepares project team members in various roles to be effective on an OUM project.

In this blog entry we will look at PMI’s Key Finding #5: Despite tight economic conditions, organizations have been and will continue to increase their focus on benefits realization success metrics.  PMI’s research shows project/program managers must maintain a focus on the strategic objectives of the project.  Anyone who has been on a project knows it is not easy to keep the big picture in mind when we are caught up in our day-to-day tasks.  So in this blog entry we will take a look at some of the key elements in OUM that help keep projects aligned with the organization’s strategic goals.

Whenever we talk strategy in OUM we turn our attention to the Envision Focus Area.  The development and maintenance of enterprise level IT strategy, architecture, and governance done in Envision helps to ensure IT delivery is in alignment with the organization’s strategy.  Ideally, every enterprise should be executing the processes in Envision or similar processes. 

I am going to get on my soapbox at this point and say, because the processes in Envision provide the glue between the business and IT strategies, true benefits realization will be very difficult (or nearly impossible)to achieve without an Envision or similar engagement.  We discussed in the first blog entry of this series how Envision helps ensure projects will align with an organization’s objectives by providing the processes to support effective portfolio management.   We know that organizations who focus only at the project level will wind up with a collection of stovepipe projects that have limited ability to address the organization’s strategic needs or provide return on investment.  We also know that project teams starting out without an enterprise IT strategy and architecture, or the appropriate IT governance in place will often find it necessary to gather enough information to establish the project’s objectives, scope, and estimates for the solution.  This can cause significant project delays and possibly lead to costly re-work. 

In order to understand the connection between the artifacts produced in the Envision Focus Area and how they relate directly to the tasks in the Implement Focus Area, project teams should be aware of the Envision Touch Points found in the OUM Method Overview page.  These touch points are potential prerequisites from Envision work products to Implement tasks.  As we know, an Envision engagement does not always precede an Implement engagement and, therefore, these touch points are not always available to the project as artifacts.  The project team must then determine the degree to which the Envision tasks should be executed to generate the necessary information to proceed.

The project manager should also look to the Envision artifacts when establishing the project structure to make sure the project is set up to achieve the expected benefits of the project.  During the Project Start Up phase of the OUM Manage Focus Area, resources are allocated to achieve specific objectives, satisfy needs, and set expectations through a planned and organized approach.   The project manager should start with the enterprise IT strategy and governance when formulating this approach, and then document the approach as part of the Project Management Framework (the precursor to the Project Management Plan).

As you can tell, I am a big fan of Envision.  I put a great deal of value in this focus area of OUM because I have seen so many projects that benefited by having a view of the big picture.  But, if you disagree with my assessment of how important enterprise-level work is to benefits realization, please let me know in the comments section.  For some really good advice on the role of an Oracle Enterprise Architect and how they can benefit a project, check out a blog entry written by my colleague called “When to Call an Oracle Enterprise Architect”.

This wraps up the series on PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession.  I hope you enjoyed reading these entries as much as I did writing them.  It’s been a great opportunity to demonstrate how OUM is in-tune with leading industry trends.  The series has generated quite a bit of inspiration for future blog entries. So please keep watching this blog, as well as our LinkedIn Group and Twitter for OUM information, tips, and techniques.  If you have a suggestion for a future blog entry or have a question, you can reach us at ominfo_us@oracle.com.

Monday Apr 09, 2012

OUM and PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession: The First in a Series

Taken your pulse lately?  Recently, PMI released their 2012 Pulse of the Profession which contains five key findings based on the results of their global survey:

  1. Tight economic conditions will continue to force the issue of strong project portfolio management.
  2. The desire for organizational agility will also lead to increased use of iterative and/or incremental project management methods such as agile and extreme.
  3. As organizations continue to strive for agility, change management and project risk management will become even more important.
  4. Organizations will renew their focus on talent development as they look to grow and gain competitive advantage in new markets.
  5. Despite tight economic conditions, organizations have been and will continue to increase their focus on benefits realization success metrics.

Since of PMI’s 2012 key findings are highly relevant to the ever expanding Oracle ecosystem, I thought it would be beneficial to put together a series of blog entries to discuss each of PMI’s key finding in the context of OUM.  Through the entries, I hope you find some useful tips and techniques you can apply to your projects right away.

Let’s jump into Key Finding #1:  Tight economic conditions will continue to force the issue of strong project portfolio management, which is defined by Wikipedia as “methods for analyzing and collectively managing a group of current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics.” 

We all know there has never been a time when organizations intentionally threw money away on frivolous projects.  During times of constrained and uncertain economic conditions, it is even more critical to make sure money is allocated to projects and programs which will provide the most business value and highest return on investment.  When guidance is needed for project identification and prioritization, we look to where projects are born in OUM:  The Envision Focus Area.

The Envision Focus Area comprises the areas OUM that deal with development and maintenance of enterprise level IT strategy, architecture, and governance.  Every project that affects an organization’s IT landscape should have its origins here.   Envision also assists in the transition from enterprise-level planning and strategy activities to the identification and initiation of specific projects further supported by the Manage and Implement focus areas.

I think the Envision Focus Area is one of the areas that make OUM unique in that it addresses the business at the enterprise level, rather than just at the tactical project level.  You can read more about the Envision Focus Area and its touch points to the Implement and Manage Focus Areas in the OUM Overview section, as well as by reading the detailed content in the Envision view itself.  

This brings us to the Manage Focus Area, which is the standard framework and reference guide that provides a consistent and repeatable approach for managing Oracle-related information technology projects.  The Manage Focus Area includes guidance for managing both projects and programs.  While there is no substitute for good project management skills, Manage is essentially a tool that can be used to facilitate and support the program or project management process.  For more details about Manage and its relationship to Envision and Implement, check out the OUM Overview section and the in-depth guidance found in the Manage view.

Stay tuned for the next blog entry in the series which will focus on PMI’s Key Finding #2: The desire for organizational agility will also lead to increased use of iterative and/or incremental project management methods such as agile and extreme.  In the meantime, please provide your feedback on your experience with the Envision and Manage Focus Areas.

Monday Feb 06, 2012

Back to the Strategy

Methodologists are much like everyone else in that we are all too crazy busy to spend time reflecting on the past.  However, as I was preparing for a presentation at the 2012 JDE Summit last week, I found myself reflecting on the fact that I had returned to the site of an important milestone in the evolution of OUM.

It was seven years ago, in a conference room at the Oracle campus in Broomfield, Colorado, that several legacy Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards folks got together and sketched out what became Oracle’s method integration strategy.  We may have tweaked the actual wording since that meeting, but the foundations of the strategy have remained:

  • Support current methods (Compass, AIM, ABF, Siebel, DWM FT, etc.)
  • Develop a single, integrated method, to support the entire Oracle ecosystem, across all Oracle products (OUM).
  • Decommission legacy methods as the field transitions to OUM.

In the seven years since the initial meeting in Broomfield, this strategy has served as a solid foundation as OUM has evolved and many acquisitions have subsequently been brought into Oracle.  So I suppose that for even crazy busy people, there is benefit in reflecting back on the fundamental decisions that continue to drive our day-to-day tasks.

Thursday Oct 06, 2011

Iteration vs. Oscillation

What’s the difference between iteration and oscillation?  This is important distinction for an OUM practitioner to be able to articulate – that while OUM is indeed an iterative method; it does not mean you are endlessly oscillating on the same tasks like a washing machine stuck on the rinse cycle.   Since properly applying iterative development principles is vital to an OUM practitioner’s success, this blog explains why, in OUM, iteration doesn’t equate to oscillation.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ITERATIVE:  Let’s first understand iterations. In OUM (or any other iterative approach), you divide each phase into periods of time, usually from 2 to 6 weeks (some prefer 2~4 weeks), called iterations. During each of these periods, the team executes tasks in order to achieve the iteration's goal(s).  Therefore, the term, "iterative" means that work on an OUM project is divided into a series of "iterations" that are essentially run as mini-projects.

ARE WE THERE YET?  Now we have a solid understanding of iterations, but it still doesn’t completely explain why the project team isn’t oscillating into eternity.  The key here is that “iterative development” also includes the concept of growing the system incrementally.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE INCREMENTAL:  Turning our attention to incremental, this means that the system is developed in chunks, iteration by iteration.  Each iteration results in an increment, which is a release of the system that contains added or improved functionality compared with the previous release.  At the end of an iteration, the resulting increment of functionality is presented to users and requirements are re-evaluated so as to plan the next iteration.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:  Putting this all together, “iterative development” in OUM means that the system is developed through a series of mini-projects (iterative), and in smaller portions at a time (incremental), allowing the project team to take advantage of what was learned during earlier development, and incorporate feedback from project stakeholders.  As the project progresses, the emphasis given to a particular task shifts from phase to phase so that the appropriate phase milestones are met, and ultimately the project’s overall goals are achieved.

ARE WE THERE YET (AGAIN)?  You can see that an OUM project team will be working in iterations, growing the software increment by increment, and finally achieving a stable solution that real end-users can employ.  This is much different than being caught in an endless re-run of the movie “Groundhog Day”, forever oscillating on the same tasks; achieving nothing. Now that you’ve read this blog entry, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the differences between iteration and oscillation.
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