Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Strategy and Big Data

Early this year I wrote a post arguing that business strategy and business needs must drive data collection. In this post I explained that the data and information available in a business intelligence (BI) solution must be the right type of data; the data and information needed to make informed decisions. The BI solution should be based on the information needs rather than simply reporting on the data from the existing information systems.

This week I read another article that reminded me of this issue. This article discussed the technical challenges of developing a Big Data solution. Just like big data is an extension of BI but with new problems to solve, the data issue I described associated with BI solutions is further extended compounded in a big data solution.

The issue of business needs driving big data solutions is far grater in big data solutions than for BI solutions. Both big data and BI solutions require the right type of data to yield systems that provide meaningful results and lead to improved decision making. The data issues with Big data solutions are compounded due to significantly larger volume of data, significantly wider scope of data collected, and the mixed type of data collected (structured and unstructured). Big data solutions require more processing horsepower than traditional BI solutions.

It is the processing horsepower and storage limitation issues that further require a focus on the end result when designing and implementing big data solutions. The volumes of data can be reduced if only data contributing to the decision making for strategic efforts are collected. The reduced data collection also leads to reduction in the data compression and filtering, data storage, data cleaning and integration, and data representation needed to process all of the data in the big data solution.

If we allow our business strategies to determine the types of decisions we need to make we will then be able to better focus our big data efforts. With focused efforts we reduce the data and processing needed to yield meaningful outcomes. This results in improved decision making in areas that are strategically important to the organization. The strategic focus reduces the big data load and improves the value derived by the organization.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Project Manager - Professional Behavior

This post is the final post on the discussion of my conceptual model for project manager competency building blocks. I have previously explained the foundational building blocks of industry experience and organizational experience and described the process knowledge building block and the project performance building block as two of the three project management-specific competency building blocks. In this post I'll explain the third and final project-specific building blocks - professional behavior.

The professional behavior is based on the personal competencies in the Project Manager Competency Development framework. This building block consists of the ability to manage the project resources, guide a team through motivation and goal setting, communicate effectively with all project stakeholders, understand the project complexities as well as the external environments affecting the project, applying good judgement in evaluation the project environment leading to good decisions, and demonstrating ethical and professional behaviors to achieve the desired project results.

The professional behavior is developed outside of the project management skills and knowledge. The professional behaviors must be developed through experience, education, and mentoring. A project manager may be technically sound in the knowledge and application of the processes and tools but, without developed professional behaviors, the project manager will struggle in leading the team and stakeholders to achieve the desired results.

The professional behaviors building block along with all of the project manager building blocks require continual development. The project environment is always changing and we can always find ways to learn new techniques or improve our existing practices. These building blocks are simply a way to view the different types of skills and knowledge needed to be a successful project manager. Use these building blocks to begin evaluating and improving your own project management competency.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Project Manager - Project Performance

This post is a continuation of my discussion from a previous posting about my conceptual model for project manager competency building blocks. I have explained the foundational building blocks of industry experience and organizational experience and described the process knowledge building block as the first of the three project management-specific competency building blocks. In this post I'll explain the second of these project management-specific building blocks - project performance.

The project performance competency building block represents the project manager's ability to apply the project process knowledge and technical skills to the project environment. Project managers must not only know the project management processes and tools but also must be able to apply them to real projects. The project performance competency is developed by identifying the performance elements, determining target performance criteria, evaluating the individuals project performance competencies, identifying gaps between performance and target criteria, establishing a development plan, engaging in performance competency development activities, and re-evaluating the performance. The evaluation, gap analysis, development plan, and development steps are continually iterated as the project manager continues to develop project performance competency. This cycle of performance competency development should continue throughout the career as the project manager constantly learns and improves in applying project management process knowledge.

There is a lot more to the project performance competency building block that what I covered in this brief explanation. A project manager needs to determine the elements of project management that are important to evaluate, determine how to measure the performance for each of the elements, define a target goal for each element, and discover ways to improve in the lower performing elements. I'll try dive into this further in a future post on this blog site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Project Manager - Process Knowledge

In previous posts I explained my conceptual model of the project manager building blocks and have described the foundational building blocks of industry experience and organizational experience. In this post I will describe the first of the three project management-specific building blocks - process knowledge.

Anyone new to the project management field will begin developing project manager competencies in the process knowledge building block. The process knowledge competency is developed by identifying and understanding all of the processes used across a one or more project management methodologies. For instance, becoming familiar with the Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), reading project management textbooks, discovering project management tools and resources (ie projectmanagement.com and pmi.org), and other resources.

Understanding the common processes and tools successful project managers use is an important step in developing as a project manager. Although the project management field is fairly new, there is a growing body of best practices available and these best practices help a project manager understand and adopt proven project management practices.

In developing the process knowledge building block, a project manager becomes familiar with common and unique processes and tools and understands how they are applied to the project setting. While process knowledge building block is primarily developed when new to the project management field, a project manager should continually refine their process knowledge to discover new and changing tools and processes in order to improve their own project management practice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Project Manager - Organization Building Block

A few days ago I posted an introduction to the project manager competency building blocks. These are the categories of skills and knowledge project managers should possess in order to be effective. I also previously posted a description of the industry building block that is one of the foundational project manager competencies. Today I will describe the next competency; the organizational building block.

Similar to industry experience, organizational experience is a foundational competency for project managers. These skills and knowledge are not directly related to project management but provide the background needed for a contextual understanding of the project environment. The industry experience building block I previously described represented the industry-specific experience that help project managers understand how projects are successfully executed within a specific industry. The organizational experience, on the other hand, provides the project manager with an understanding of how projects are executed within the context of the organization.

Organizational experience is gained from developing an understanding of the processes an organization follows, recognizing the power structures that exist within and outside of the organization and realizing who has the authority to make things happen, and observation of the unwritten rules and expectations the organization has for its employees and supervisors. These organizational factors may be unique in each organization and it is beneficial for the project manager to understand these characteristics before initiating a project.

Organizational experience is an especially important competency for project management consultants who may be experts in the project management field but may be at risk in the role due to insufficient experience with the organization. People unfamiliar with the organization will need to quickly understand the organizational context and apply it to the project.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Project Manager - Industry Building Block

I recently shared my conceptual model for the building blocks for project managers. This model is based on the PMCD framework published by the Project Management Institute. The building block model includes the project manager competencies of industry experience, organizational experience, professional behaviors, process knowledge, and project performance. In this post I'm going to describe the first of these building blocks; industry experience.

Industry experience is a supporting competency for project managers. Competent project managers should have a solid foundational knowledge of the industry and some technical skills, or at least an appreciation of the technical skills required in the industry. The industry knowledge includes awareness of regulatory and legal requirements, past and future trends within the industry, and experience with projects in the industry. For example, a project manager within the construction field should be familiar with OSHA and local building requirements, history and trends in construction materials, and possess the insight gained from previous construction projects to understand the sources of project risk in a construction project (like weather, fuel costs, transportation logistics, etc.).

In addition to the industry knowledge, a project manager must also posses the technical skills or at least an understanding and appreciation for the skills needed and the work to be carried out in a project within the industry. For example, in an IT project, the project manager should understand the level of difficulty for writing the code for a piece of software and understand the amount of time it takes to design, code, and test the software. The technical experience or technical skill appreciation helps the project manager assign the work to the properly skilled team member and evaluate the schedule needed to complete the work.

Industry experience is not required to meet the basic requirements for a project manager. Project managers may still succeed managing a project outside of their industry expertise. However, the knowledge of the industry and the technical skills within the industry are beneficial in understanding projects within the context of the industry. This contextual understanding of the industry enables the project manager to better communicate with the project stakeholders, better understand the sources and solutions to project risk within the industry, and improve project decision making.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Project Manager Building Blocks

conceptual model
Project Manager Building Blocks
I'm beginning to prepare for a project management workshop I'm leading in Brainerd and St. Cloud. In this workshop I plan discuss the skills and knowledge that project managers must possess and help attendees inventory their own skills and knowledge to prepare a professional development plan. I plan to use the Project Management Institute's Project Manager Competency Development (PMCD) framework as the foundation for this workshop.

As I began to dive into the PMCD framework I found a useful model but wanted to re-conceptualize the model to better differentiate the project management and supporting skill sets. What I came up with is what I refer to as Project Manager Building Blocks. These blocks represents the different types of knowledge and skills required to serve in the project manager role. The individual blocks are personal behaviors, (project) process knowledge, project performance, industry expertise, and organizational expertise.

The diagram at the top of this posting is my model for these building blocks. Granted, these categories are directly based on the PMCD complementary framework but in my model I am separating direct PM skills and knowledge from supporting skills and knowledge. The industry experience and organizational experience are needed to value the nuances of the industry and organization so that the project context is better understood. This industry and organizational experience provides the foundational building blocks for the project management-specific blocks.

I plan to further develop this model and extend it to include skill and knowledge assessment to support building professional development plans. I'll share more about model as I continue to work on the workshop over the month.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Growth of Project Management Professionals

membership summary
Each month when the Project Management Institute (PMI) publishes their PMI Today newsletter magazine I look at the Fact File page where they provide the number of members, published copies of the PMBOK Guide, and active credential holders (CAPM, PMP, PgMP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, AND PMI-ACP). Noting these numbers we can see the size of the project management profession and the credentials these professionals possess.

Over the past 18 months I have been capturing these PMI-reported numbers in a spreadsheet in order to make observations on trends in the project management profession. For instance, this month there were 3,490 more active certified PMP professionals than the previous month and 13.55% more than this time in 2013. What really caught my attention was when I compared the number of active PMI members in June to this time in 2013. PMI membership actually dropped from 451,871 to 449,769 (a decline of 2,102 members).

Looking at this closer I see a trend in both PMI membership as well as PMP certifications. While both membership and PMP certifications continue to grow from this time in 2013. The growth has slowed throughout 2014. The image at the top of this posting summarizes the % change each moth from the same time the in 2013 (ex. percent increase from January 2013 to January 2014).

Why do we see a slowdown in the growth of PMI members and PMP credential holders? Is it the time of the year were members forget to renew or are there environmental factors leading to a slowdown in the number of project managers becoming active in the professional organization? I have not yet captured the numbers before 2013 but it will be interesting to see if this growth pattern occurs each year or if this is a new trend. For the sake of the profession, let's hope this is not a new trend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Social Value Identification and Knowledge Sharing

In an earlier post I noted the influence of organizational culture on knowledge sharing and the dimensions of organizational culture contributing to knowledge sharing behaviors. I later expanded on the managerial prompting and group identification dimensions. In this post, I will describe the third dimension of social value orientation.

Social value orientation is a personal attribute indicating a person's interaction with others. There are three profiles of social value orientation: competitors, individuals, and collectivists. Competitors seek to increase their return in order to maximize the distance between themselves and their competitors while individualists seek to maximize their own return regardless of the return of others. These two types are referred to as proself contributors. At the other end of the contribution spectrum are prosocial people with a social value orientation of collectivists. Collectivists are more interested in maximizing the group's return with less of a concern over their own personal return.

Since prosocial collectivist employees value the benefits of the group over their own benefits they are more likely to share knowledge than proself competitor and individualist employees who are more likely to hoard knowledge to improve their own benefits. Organizations employing or developing people with prosocial behaviors are more likely to see higher levels of knowledge sharing. While some employees may tend to be more competitive or individualist in their social value attributes, organizations emphasizing group value can influence proself workers to exhibit more prosocial social value behaviors and be more likely to contribute to sharing knowledge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Group Identification and Knowledge Sharing

group or team
A few days ago I noted the three dimensions of organizational culture that influence knowledge sharing. These dimensions include managerial prompting, group identification, and social value orientation. In my previous post I further described the managerial prompting dimension so now in this post I will expand on my description of group identification.

Group identification is the degree to which people associate with a particular group. Individuals are a part of many groups such as religions, fans of a sports team, book clubs, college alumni, professional organizations, families or any other collection of people with a common interest or connection. A person belongs to many groups and the level of affinity for the group varies. This can be seen by the amount of time and energy people are willing to commit to any particular group. The higher affinity one has for a group the more likely they are to volunteer or spend time working toward the group's success. This affinity for a group is the driver of group identification.

Organizations or project teams that are able to develop cultures where employees have a strong affinity for the group are more likely to share knowledge with the group. The individuals value the success of the group and are more willing to contribute their own knowledge and expertise to help the group reach its goals. An organizational culture encouraging group identification will be more successful in knowledge sharing because its members are invested in the group's success and are willing to contribute knowledge to help the group succeed.