Friday, March 14, 2008

News, Conferences and a Project Management revelation


This blog has been rather quiet for the last couple of weeks, and most likely it will be quiet for the next couple of weeks. This hasn’t been for a lack of interesting things to say, quiet the opposite. In the last few weeks I’ve had insights coming left, right and centre. However, I haven’t had much time for blogging.

As I said at the start of the year I want to divert more of my writing into other projects. So this entry is here as a place holder and a preview of some stuff to expect. So please forgive me for breaking my one entry, one idea rule.

Those of you who know me off-blog will know I spent most of last year working with an Internet TV (IPTV) technology company. Some consultancy actually continued into the year, mainly with the CEO. Well now I’m please so say I’m going to get involved in IPTV again. I’m going to be doing some work with one of the major players to developer a completely new IPTV platform. Should be fun.

After XP Day last year I suggested that media companies are more open to Agile methods many other companies, specifically, banks. I am more and more convinced of this fact. Underpinning this is that fact that companies that use the traditional (broken) methods are still in business, these methods have brought them some success and fit with their business model - or their business model has been changed. Therefore these companies have little reason to go through a difficult change.

At ACCU London last month someone asked me: Why do banks have so many bad systems? It was that moment I realised: Because they can afford it. I hope to expand on this topic soon.

I’ve been busy with EuroPLoP 2008 and I’m at SPA 2008 next week, both look like being a good conferences. Then I’m at ACCU 2008 a couple of weeks later. Both of these will produce some reflections in this blog.
        
I’m going to be writing more about Project Management in the near future. Readers of this blog, and those who know me, will know I have been critical of them in the past. And I promise to carry on being so. But...

During the last two week I have taken Project Manager training, not just any training, PRINCE 2 certified training. Yes you read that right. Barring any surprised form the exam I took today I expect to be PRINCE 2 certified in the next few weeks.

So, why did I do it? Did I have a labotomy? Well it wasn’t an easy decision to spend nearly £1500 on the course but here’s why:
• I’ve criticised Project Managers in the past but this has been unfair, I haven’t really known what they should be doing, only what they do
• Increasingly I find that I’m asked to do Project Management roles, so the training should help there.
• More organizations look to PRINCE 2 to show you know about Project Management. To impress them you need to tick that box.
• I’d really like to understand how formal Project Management compares to Agile, and whether it is possible to bridge the divide.

I’ll write more about this soon but some immediate thoughts.

I had to do two courses for two exams, one last week and one this week. Consequently I’ve met over a dozen other people taking the same course and exams. Almost everyone of these people was an independent (contract) Project Manager in the IT sector. They were sending their own money to go on the course, and foregoing even more money by being there. Why?

Because increasingly PRINCE 2 is becoming a necessary qualification, if you don’t hold it your CV won’t get beyond the recruiter or HR department. PRINCE 2 fans are probably delighted to hear that. PRINCE 2 is wining! But actually I think its a very dangerous development.

This is because PRINCE 2 is massively risk averse. Of course PRINCE 2 practitioners would probably say “No its not, it just identifies and managers risk, you decide the risk level, isn’t that sensible?” but actually the very mechanism is risk averse.

Why is this dangerous? Because most companies - unlike the Government who developed PRINCE 2 - want to make a profit. Economists tell us “Profit is the return for Risk”. So, remove the risk and you remove the profit... more on this shortly.

Interestingly nobody on the course expected to actually use PRINCE 2. Even those sent by their companies (about 2) didn’t. So I don’t think PRINCE 2 is increasing in use, its just the qualification that is being asked for more and more.

Second insight. PRINCE 2 is not reflective, it considers the cost of projects, the cost of work but not the cost of itself. To run a full blown (or even half blown) PRINCE 2 is going to cost you a lot in administration and paperwork. That’s before you count the missed opportunities.

A few years ago I found myself introducing Agile at a company which hired a PRINCE 2 manager. We didn’t get on. We were both trying to do good for the company, and in many ways our prescriptions matched but ... well I’ll explain where PRINCE 2 and Agile match soon, and I’ll explain why they are incompatible too.

Somehow I got cast as the zealot. Some people came to believe that I wanted Agile, Agile, Agile. He never got cast as a zealot, that only dawned on me this week. Actually advocating PRINCE 2 and its practices the way he did was every bit, more so, as zealous as I was. But...

PRINCE 2 is so respectable nobody will call you a zealot for advocating its use. Its like suggesting you play Bach or Mozart. How can anyone object? Its respectable. Agile on the other hand is punk, its putting a safety clip in your nose and taking risk. No wonder I was seen as the bad guy! Now, once my certification comes through....