PMXPO – It’s better than I expected!

Just a heads up that I’m attending the virtual PMXPO 2008 right now.  It is much cooler than I thought it would be.  It’s just like being at a conference without all the hassles of travel and that annyoing thing called walking between sessions and booths!

Right now I’m listening to the keynote speaker and there are several more sessions coming throughout the day.  I don’t think it’s too late to sign up so just go to and sign up now.  I’ll have more details on what I liked about it later.


OpenWorld 2008 – Open for Business

In case you missed it, registration for OpenWorld 2008 – the premiere event for anything related to Oracle each year – is now open.  I happened to be at our HQ the last couple of weeks and got to scout out a possible location for our annual Projects party, typically held on the Tuesday night of OOW.

I can’t say where the location is of course, but I wanted to leave you with a little taste of what the view COULD look like if we go with this spot.



8 Ways to Save your next Project…and how we can make it happen!

On the Baseline site recently there was an article posted about the recurring theme of IT projects running chronically late.  The title of the article is 8 Ways to Save Your Next Project.

Here I’m taking that article and giving it an Oracle spin!

1. Get your head out of the software

Most project managers spend too much time in their project-planning applications and not enough time doing the briefing and communicating for which they are solely responsible. You should be spending the bulk of your time talking to and corresponding with project constituents – your team, the stakeholders, vendors, consultants and key end-users. The “soft” skill of communication is integral to project success.

Oracle Spin: Totally agree!  Our Project Collaboration module pushes the task of tracking progress and creating issues and managing documents and deliverables to your team members.  Why have the PM have to ask for status updates and then enter those when it’s best done if the hands of the task owners?

 2. Plan and define as much as possible—but don’t go overboard

A key component of project management is the thorough and meticulous planning of every aspect of a project, but a perfectionist could spend all his or her time in the planning stage. There’s no way to anticipate every variable so at some point, you have to pull the trigger.

Project managers are increasingly using rapid project deployments and iterative models that have been successful in the software development world. These models are based on the principle that in some ways it’s better to start the project and see what you’re up against.

Oracle Spin: Our project creation templates take the pain out of making new projects!  Why create a project from scratch when you already know 80% of what you want it to look like because you’re doing the same thing over and over?  From pre-defined templates with most of your relevant information included, to actually choosing a past project to copy from to build your new project, we’ve got you covered when it comes to saving time setting up your details.

3. Manage scope creep—for real

Like a turkey on Thanksgiving, you can rely on the fact that the project you think you’re heading for may bare only a passing resemblance to the one you end up with. With the increasing complexity of data centers and the Pandora’s box of surprises once you get under the hood, it’s advisable to game out and document the potential sources of scope creep. For instance, the team may want to take a different approach than planned, management may want to change, add or expand the deliverables or you may uncover a technical aspect you didn’t know existed.

Oracle Spin: Our Change and Issue management feature helps you keep on top of those constant changes that occur in your projects and even lets you see the impact of accepting a change request before you approve it!

4. Don’t be lazy with risk management

If you need 200 servers delivered at the same time for a worldwide mail server upgrade, it’s not enough to know what the risk is if the vendor doesn’t deliver. It’s time to manage the risk by deciding ahead of time that, as reliable as your vendor has been in the past, there’s little margin for error. Going with two or three vendors might be more complicated but in the end, it may save your project if only 20 severs aren’t delivered on time instead of 200.

Oracle Spin: Nothing to spin here since we believe Risk Management is something every good PM will do – in this scenario it’s a business decision that just might make sense for the given project.  If you want, you can model several different versions of a budget under various costing scenarios by different vendors so you can see what cost impact that redundancy will have.

5. Get a grip on expectations

Ask vendors and consultants for the best, most likely and worst-case scenarios and then use your own resources to calculate the aggregated risk so you can determine the probable outcome.

There are risk management software applications that can help you do the job. There’s no way to guarantee that a project won’t be delayed or go over budget, but taking off the rose-colored glasses will reduce the likelihood of extreme variances.

Oracle Spin: Check out one of our newest acquisitions called Crystal Ball – this best of breed predictive modelling software suite of analytical tools includes Monte Carlo simulation, optimization, and forecasting.

6. Govern with strength

Even with all the good work you did up front, problems and roadblocks will surely arise. Don’t blow it when it comes to actually addressing the problems. To the degree you can, refer to the approaches you documented and discussed with your team. If planned properly, your team should be able to tackle the problems early on before they become major hindrances.

Depending on the event, governance may include gaining approval from management to sign off on project changes that effect the project budget or time frame beyond a certain point. For example, if changing direction means the project will cost 10 percent more and take 10 percent longer, it may be time to bring senior stakeholders into the loop.

Oracle Spin: Again I refer to our Issue and Change Management features of our product which will help you assess the impact of unplanned project bumps.  If you’ve tracked an Issue (and if you’re using Project Collaboration, any team member can create an Issue!) and now it’s time has come, you can easily roll it over into a change request and route it for approval.

If you need enterprise strength Governance, check out our complete solution here!

7. Prepare for intervention

If your approaches are better in theory than in practice, it might be time to intervene with the project plan. Create an intervention plan before the project starts and communicate the plan to everyone directly and indirectly involved. The plan may include steps to take when adding resources, for assessing project-management practices and even changing the project leader.

Oracle Spin: Oracle Projects allows you to store and share documents with all of your team members to keep track of important items such as the Charter, Statement of Work, Risk and Compliance Procedures, templates etc.

8. Drive behavior to use the technology

Whatever you do, don’t rest on your laurels when the technical aspects of the project are completed. Creating a plan to ensure that people actually use the technology you just spent 18 months implementing will serve you well. If you and your organization want to see your expected return on investment, make sure you have a hand in educating and training users.

Oracle Spin: And if you want to see that your project ROI has been positive, be sure to use our Earned Value reports and calculations as you progress through the project.  So even if the end users decide they really didn’t need that whizz-bang new application that you built, at least you’ll make sure you were managing your project to expectations and within budget and you’ll have a great story as you’re looking for your next project to run!

Complete. Open. Integrated. Here.

Hear Oracle President Charles Phillips’ April 14 keynote from COLLABORATE08 as he reviews the path Oracle has taken and previews the road to come in the Applications Unlimited journey, with an update on Oracle’s strategy to enable business transformation with complete, open, and integrated enterprise software. Hear details on today’s available integrations, SOA integration, advances in Enteprise Performance Management, what’s new in Business Intelligence, Enterprise 2.0, and Oracle WebCenter.

Charles Phillips at Collab ’08


New Oracle Whitepaper Released on Projects

A newly released whitepaper focuses on the common pitfalls that lead to project failures.  Written by our Director of PPM Product Marketing, Kazim Isfahani, the whitepaper entitled Why Projects Fail: Avoiding the Classic Pitfalls discusses the core reasons for project failure, and goes one step further by proposing recommendations for avoiding the risks and pitfalls.

This is a product agnostic look into whether project failures are considered normal these days given the high rates of failure, but also addresses six common reasons why projects are doomed to fail before they even start.

Mr. Isfahani will be speaking on Project Management Best Practices at Collaborate 08 in Denver this month.  See the time and a synopsis of that session below.

Oracle Projects at OAUG Denver 2008!

Hi all,

OAUG Collaborate is in Denver this year from April 13-17th.  I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that the Oracle Projects team will be there this year with a few presentations.

The first one is called Project Management Best Practices: Achieving Business Results and is on Tuesday April 15th at 1.45 pm.  The synopsis is:

This session will deliver key insight into the industry-leading practices companies have adopted in managing their project-driven organizations. These practices are based on the real-world experiences of thousands of customers of Oracle’s PPM solutions, across industries, managing and governing their project management office (PMO), and driving corporate change initiatives. The speakers will identify challenges and recommend best business practices to address the challenges, while providing guidance in making the critical decisions involved in implementing software solutions. Finally, the audience will learn how to address these challenges with Oracle’s PPM solutions.

The second session we’re presenting is called Managing the Project Portfolio: Delivering Balance, Alignment, and Optimization. This session is on Wednesday April 16th at 11 am. Here is the synopsis for that session:

Getting the most out of available resources and assets while ensuring that the “right” programs and projects are initiated is a critical business requirement across industry. This session will detail how Oracle’s Portfolio Analysis tool can help companies align their portfolios of projects and programs with their organizational objectives by taking advantage of standard criteria, weighted scoring and ranking, and what-if portfolio analyses.

Finally, our third session is titled Program Management with EBS Projects Integration to Microsoft Project Server and Primavera.  This session is also on Wednesday at 4.30 pm.  This is the abstract for that session:

Running a successful project management office requires both strategic management and tactical scheduling. Learn how Oracle and Impress Software are simplifying this challenge by integrating Oracle E-Business Suite Projects with Microsoft Project Server for project scheduling. Regardless of your industry, if you have wondered how to reconcile executives’ demands for analysis and project managers’ need for detail, make time to attend this session.

Hope to see you there!

The curse of the buttons

Just read an interesting article over at PM World Today,called “Innovation and the Curse of Knowledge”.  It deals with the topic of how so many products are over-engineered because the people that design and build them are intimately familiar with so many of the features they jam in, they assume the end users will want them as well.  Using a TV remote as an example the author, R. Max Wideman, suggests many of the buttons are on there because the engineer knew what they did, but the typical user probably won’t have a clue.

The other interesting commentary in the article suggests that intimate knowledge of a product stifles innovation.  This is very true with engineers and product managers and really anyone that follows a typical business process over and over during their daily work routine.  I remember years back hearing Tom Peter’s make a comment that many companies lament when a person retires from say the AP department.  “There goes 25 years of experience out the door”, they’ll say.  Tom’s take on that was “No, there goes 1 years experience repeated 25 times!”  Everyone tends to fall into that trap where it’s often easier to just do things the way they’ve always been done than to continually push for innovative ways to improve the process or product.

We’re no stranger to this phenomena ourselves with our products.  We do hear from customers that some of our pages and processes are a little more cumbersome than they need be, and we love to listen to this feedback.  When we’re designing a page it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting multiple buttons and links on it so the users can do whatever they want, whenever they want and from wherever they want.  With ultimate flexibility though comes complexity and often confusion.

Our goal is always to improve upon our processes and streamline whatever we can.  We want to make a typical process much easier to complete – less pages, less clicks, less time – while at the same time offering the ability to branch out when the non-typical process is called for.  So gathering that feedback from our customers is critical to the process of learning what is it that people use versus what’s superfluous on a page.  That’s the kind of experience you can’t gather from someone working 15 years with the same product.