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January 6, 2011, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.

From the Editor

What does quality mean to your teams? Is it meeting the specs? Making "the customer" happy? Alan Koch has some thoughts on why these common definitions (and probably every other definition you've used or considered) fall short of true quality, and he's got an alternative for you to consider.

Also new this week, we have a great picture of an Agile WBS (since so many people have asked). Plus, Niel Nickolaisen suggests 3 keys for a successful Information Architecture and Alfonso Bucero explains how he maintains a positive project attitude even when he's in a really lousy mood.

Featured Article

Quality = Business Value
by Alan Koch

Alan Koch Part 1: Why common definitions of Quality fall short
How does your organization define "Quality"? Has a definition of "Quality" ever been formally adopted? Is there even a common understanding of what is meant by the word among all of the various people in your organization?

What about you? How do you define "Quality"? How many others in your organization would agree with you?

"Quality" is one of those words that is used all the time, but rarely defined. We are supposed to produce "quality" products (or to be more correct, "high-quality" products). But the precise meaning of that mandate is left to the imagination. Is it any wonder that we have so many disagreements about whether or not we have succeeded? Does your definition of quality meet the test? »

Site Highlights

NEWEveryone says that agile projects still plan and schedule, so what does an Agile WBS look like?PREMIUM
A stack of index cards. That answer probably sounds too glib to be entirely satisfactory, but it is an accurate description, especially for teams fortunate enough to be collocated. Rather than locking down scope, projects using an agile approach set time as the fixed constraint through the use of a series of 2-4 week iterations. These iterations are organized into a set of roughly quarterly releases (3-6 iterations in each release) that deliver functionality to the end users .... However the number of iterations and releases is decided, project scope is represented as a "list of things to deliver" for the team. This list is described in a variety of ways, depending on what agile approach you are using. Read the rest of the answer »

Meeting Management Bundle
Resolve to have better meetings this year. We love to bag on them (it's such an easy mark) but meetings are a critical element of team collaboration – at least, they should be. This economical bundle of templates gives you the tools you need to transform your team's meetings so you can get some real work done. Our templates and guidelines will help you work with your team to diagnose current problems, decide on some new approaches, and implement basic but often overlooked disciplines like agendas, task lists, and ground rules. Plus, we've included agenda examples for over half a dozen different kinds of meetings, to show you how you can plan a good meeting without leveling a forest (and to give you a leg up on critical team tasks like design reviews and project kickoffs. All this for less than you paid to wheel in bagels and coffee at the last fiasco – how can you lose?

Looking to mentor a few of your key team leaders in similar skills? Check out our Multi-User License version of this bundle for a great way to get them started with new, career-building skills.

Agile Technique Brief: Project Value ModelsPREMIUM
Are your projects dogs or ponies? Every organization needs to examine whether a particular project is worth doing at all, let alone doing well. This technique brief walks you through an agile approach to this universal issue: the Project Value Model. Learn how to reach agreement on a project's purpose, risks, constraints, assumptions, and more, and use that information to decide which projects and features to develop, prioritize them, and keep those priorities consistent with changing circumstances.

Scored and Ranked Project ListSPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until January 20!
Looking for a more traditional approach to project valuation? This template provides a simple worksheet format for creating a scored and ranked project list to aid your group or organization in prioritizing projects for portfolio management and resource allocation. Similar to the Value Models approach above, this spreadsheet emphasizes mapping each project to one or more business drivers—business reasons for doing the project—and scoring the projects according to how much they contribute to those business goals. If you're the curious type, consider trying both approaches side by side and comparing the results. Do the results overlap or conflict? Does one or the other surface as a better fit for your culture?

Software Integration ChecklistPREMIUM
A 10-year-old girl in Canada discovered a supernova over the holiday break – or was that just your latest "Big Bang" integration effort? This checklist will help you avoid implosions during that critical and often explosive project phase. It highlights considerations that the project manager or integration team leader can use to minimize common sources of risk and delays. It will also help convey the importance of planning ahead for this critical activity, including early involvement of team members that are often overlooked until it's almost too late.

Case Study: Spiraling InMEMBER
What happens when everyone is doing what it takes to satisfy the customer and meet the specs without watching the project's dashboard? Nothing good. This case study describes how a medical device project went disastrously wrong, and what the team could have done differently to stop it.

Premium How-To Course

Wow, Why Didn't We See That Coming? – Identifying Project RisksPREMIUM
Carl Pritchard
1 Category A (formerly Category 3) PDU

Your team members might not be giving you the whole story on project risks. The full list often gets neglected or abbreviated because team members (including project managers) fear appearing negative or are distracted by monumental but unlikely scenarios. But without a gory list of risk events, your project is almost guaranteed to run up against that iron triangle somewhere. Wouldn't it be nice to see it coming this time? This course by Carl Pritchard of Pritchard Management Associates explains how you can start a productive risk conversation with your team, so you know exactly what you're up against. 1 PDU. Learn More »

Project Practitioner Blogs

Information Architecture as the Key to Effective Data Management, by Niel Nickolaisen
Thankfully, the cost of storage has dropped dramatically because our need for storage keeps climbing. We just can't get enough. A terabyte? Even in my very simple business, we can blow through a terabyte in mere months. Three years ago we purchased a storage array that was going to last us at least six years. One year ago, we had to double the amount of usable space just to keep pace.

Of all of this data, I can pretty much guarantee that not all of it is usable or relevant. But, how do I know which data to use? Or how to get the data. Or, how to verify and validate the data? Or, how to make it usable? Or, how to put it in the hands of the people that need the data?

These questions beg for what I call an Information Architecture. Just like we have application architectures and network architectures, I have found that an information architecture is essential to effectively managing data. And, just like with application and network architectures, we need to plan for and thoughtfully define our information architectures. Find out how Niel manages terabytes upon terabytes of data »

Maintaining your positive attitude for project success, by Alfonso Bucero
First of all I wish you a HAPPY 2011 and HAPPY projects. Peace with all of you! I believe we have to start this year making some planning in order to maintain our positive attitude as great project managers. I'd like to start sharing with you my project management attitude rule for 2011. Many times people are getting confused between attitude and mood. You can have a positive attitude and one particular day have a bad mood, but you can maintain your positive attitude anyway.

In order to maintain my positive attitude I follow some personal rules that I'd like to share with you. I call them "Project Manager ATTITUDE RULES" and they are as follows. Find out how Alfonso manages his attitude as well as his projects »

Coming Soon: Webinar announcements for early 2011, a new telecourse for Premium subscribers, and a Project Scorecard to help you quantify what "success" means for your project.

Where's ProjectConnections?

Kent McDonald will speak at Software Development Conference (SDC) 2011. SDC is being held at Wellington, New Zealand March 21 - 22, 2011 and Sydney, Australia March 24 - 25, 2011. At both locations, Kent will present Strategically Speaking: Why Are We Doing This Again? and Is It Worth It? Using a Business Value Model to Guide Decisions.

Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing

Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.

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