A PRINCEly Qualification

April 23, 2007

I was chatting to an acquaintance the other day.  He’s looking for work as a project manager.  But no one will take him on as he has no PRINCE2 formal qualification.   Shame.  Another good person going to waste because a box hasn’t been ticked.

I’ve dealt with a lot of project managers in my time, and whilst I think that processes like PRINCE2 et al are great, it really boils down to the individual.

I have seen project managers that are so well qualified it’s scary, but they were crap when managing a project.   Conversely, I have seen project managers with little, or no, qualifications, and they were bloody brilliant.

In my eyes a project manager needs to truly own the project, live and breathe it.  Understand it.  Know the capabilities of its people.  Know what its critical success factors are.  Know what the risks are.  Know where the pressure points are.  A good project manager will make sure everyone is crystal clear as to what they are supposed to be doing.  Relentlessly.  Process can help with this, but at the end of the day you need a rigourous, tenacious and unerring discipline to make it all happen.  Make no bones about it, project management is about people.

With respect to PRINCE2, it’s like any methodology.  You take what you need and adapt it to get it working best for you.  For most NZ based projects, it is complete overkill.  You’ll need about 10% of it – which is basic project management theory anyway.

Recruitment is all about people.  Not paper.  How can two weeks of PRINCE2 training replace years of experience?

It can’t.  It never will.

I’m a big fan of 37 signals.  So I was kinda surprised when I saw my name on a blog posting showcasing their new Basecamp features.

The world is indeed a tiny place.  Or there are a million and one Dan Lee’s.  Or both.

Basecamp

I can confidently say that I have just had one of the most frustrating customer experiences of my life.

Wednesday 6pm

I arrived home on Wednesday evening to find my broadband connection down. We’d seen a TelstraClear van on our driveway earlier in the day, and we’d received a call that afternoon from someone wanting to schedule a modem upgrade. Broadband was still down though. “No problems”, I thought. “I’ll give TelstraClear a call”.

I gave up the first couple of times as I had been kept on hold more than 20 minutes each time, but without any message telling me what the wait times were.

Wednesday 9pm

I tried again later on that night, and finally got through after 40 minutes. No apparent problems, according to the kind lady. So I asked her if she could give me a time for this supposed upgrade. I was told that I would have to be referred to another “business unit” and that their wait time was 79 (yes, seventy nine) minutes! Bugger that. She said I should try calling later.  So I did.  At 10pm (hold time of 40 mins), 11pm (hold time of 40 mins), and then at 6am (closed!), and 7.30am (hold time of 40 mins).   I wasn’t prepared to stick it out.

Thursday 9am

I tried at work the next day. Twice. Both times I was told the wait time was 15-20 minutes. Both times I waited about 30 minutes, but to no avail. Thank god for handsfree!

Thursday 10.30am

And then I remembered I could send an email as I was at work! Within 15 minutes of sending the email I got back a response. Not the response I was after, but one nevertheless. Subsequent emails went… unanswered. Back to the phones. More long wait times. Getting angry now.

Thursday 9pm

Tried later that night. More long wait times. Bugger that. 50 minutes +. Finally sat it out and got through. Still no apparent problems, and everything should be working. But it’s not. At least they confirm a time for my modem upgrade – sometime between 9 and 12 Saturday morning.

9am Saturday

Nothing.

10am Saturday

Nothing. Decided to call TelstraClear to ask for an update

10.30am Saturday

woohoo, only a 30 minute wait. She can’t get hold of the technician dispatched, but will call me back with an update.

12:00noon Saturday

He’s running late

13:15 Saturday

Technician turns up, does something at the Telegraph pole, swaps out modem. Fixed.

The Summary

I cannot believe how much time I spent on hold (broadband is important!).  Over three hours, for a massive total of three conversations. That’s just totally unacceptable. Once I endured the wait, the service was actually quite good.  Which was the only saving grace from me hurling multiple expletives down the phone.

Let’s face it – it all comes down to penny-pinching.  This is going too far.  I’m content to wait 5-10 minutes, or be offered a callback service.   But this was nowhere near that.   I never have to wait more than a couple of minutes when I call my electricity supplier, so what’s so different with these guys?

Call Guinness

I’d love to hear about other on-hold stories.  Can anyone else out there beat my call waiting record?   I might have to call Guinness.

Joost I got an invite to Joost today, and had to say that I was pretty excited.  There’s been a bit of
buzz around lately so I was keen on giving it a test drive.

The interface is fantastic, more akin to something on the PS3 or the XBOX360 as opposed to something you’d expect on the web.

Setup is easy.  Finding content is easy.   You can definately understand why some people are wetting their pants over this one.

However, I had two major gripes, which means for me that the jury is still out.

  • Too slowwwwwwwww.   I’ve tried it on my iMac.  I’ve tried it on my Macbook.  It just feels a little bit too clunky.  Not only did I find the interface sluggish, I found that my broadband connection was not fast enough (I’m supposedly on a 2MB download speed). 
  • Crap content.  I don’t care if you have the worlds biggest plasma TV on your wall with the highest resolution and the best surround sound.  If all you can watch is the Guinness Book of Friggin’ Records then it just ain’t gonna cut the mustard.   I have enough crap TV through my cable.  Why would I want more?

I think once the broadband speeds sort themselves out, and good content gets itself onto Joost (or any other on demand IPTV initiative) then we’ll see some real traction.

Until then, it’s just a geek toy as far as I’m concerned.  Albeit, a very nice looking geek toy.

I was giving a presentation the other day about ITIL, and our experiences with adopting the framework.

I see many companies nowadays who think that you can just buy the ITIL books and adopt the processes verbatim.   “Good bloody luck”, is all I can say.  A sure fire way to shaft yourselves.

The whole ITIL methodology needs to be baked in to everything that you do.  It needs to become culture.  It needs buy-in.  From everybody.  And the only way that you can achieve that is through taking the parts of ITIL that are most relevant to your business,  modify them to best suit your needs, socialise, and demonstrate that it truly will help.  This process takes time, and lot of going backwards and forwards to get it right.    The process changes too.  It can always be improved.

Thinking about ITIL?  I’d recommend you start small, get runs on the board, and build from there.  Get real.

ITIL should help you, not hinder you.  Just buying a tool won’t cut the mustard.  You’ve gotta live it.

Homebrew By the size of my gut, it’s pretty self-evident that I’m partial to a good beer every now and again.

M-co have kindly accommodated YouDo within their offices, so imagine my delight when my friends there suggested that we hold a home brew competition.   Brilliant!   The buzz is really beginning to gather some momentum now that the beers are nicely brewing.  It’s bringing a good sense of competition around the place and the levels of banter are moving to new levels.  People are really looking forward to it.

Actually, we kind of new this was coming.  Back in late November, Neil Miller from Real Beer New Zealand kindly held a corporate beer tasting session for us.  What a great night!  I had been working at M-co for a number of years, and this one was top of the pile of the corporate events we had held.  We vowed to make the next one even more special.

We have about five weeks to go before the final brew is ready (that’s mine on the left), and Neil is promising a few special “guest beers” on the night.  We’re even going to blog the event live!

Over the years, we’ve held a wide range of corporate events to stir up the ole’ motivation.  These have included:

  • Corporate mini golf (i.e. build your own course within the office).  Still an annual event.
  • Treasure hunts
  • Corporate It’s a Knockout
  • BBQ at the Big Cheese’s gaff
  • BBQ at Frank Kitts Park
  • Sailing out on the harbour
  • Sumo Wrestling
  • Toilet Racing
  • Rafting, abseiling and rappelling in the Wairarapa
  • Corporate triathlon and team challenges
  • Numerous fancy dress and black tie dinner-do’s
  • Movie nights
  • Pool (the snooker variety) parties
  • Karaoke

I’d love to know what other zany things other people get up to.

But seriously, if you’re looking at doing something different for a team or company bash, give Neil a yell.  It’s a really good night, and contrary to what you might think, you’ll learn a lot.   Hey, if it even catches on we could even hold an industry wide competition.

Brewing 2.0.

BYO Web Applications

April 3, 2007

CogHead

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Teqlo, a drag and drop mashup maker.

Today, I stumbled across CogHead.  It seems to be a very similar deal.  The key difference is that Coghead appear to be more focussed on web apps as opposed to mashups.  Maybe they will end up being the same!

There are a lot of really simple web apps out there (as opposed to the simple-to-use web apps that actually do something useful).

Can the likes of Teqlo and Coghead stimulate the community to build web apps to replace these simple apps?  How good can these Teqlo and Coghead apps become?  How customisable are these apps?   At what point in complexity do you have to throw it away and truly build your own?

I suspect that these drag and drop app makers, combined with the likes of Yahoo Pipes, are just scratching the surface of community built applications.

Fun times.