Agile Project Management

In response to a comment that I left to a blog post of his in Herding Cats, Glen Alleman said "... phrase Agile Project Management, were so clearly defined". While I'm not an official source of definitions, I would like to take a stab at answering "What is Agile Project Management?". There are really four questions here:

  1. What is Agile?
  2. What is a Project?
  3. What does it mean to manage a project?
  4. How does one manage a project in an Agile fashion?

What is Agile?

Agile is a mindset, a philosophy, for software development. The Agile Manifesto lays it out quite clearly. Any software development, product management, project management or other methods that claims to be Agile must embody the mindset laid out in the Agile Manifesto. You really must read the whole manifesto. I won't copy it here, but I will discuss the main ideas. The emphasis in the Agile Manifesto is on satisfying the customer and responding to changing user needs for competitive advantage. Self-organizing teams, ongoing communication and working end products are preferable to formalized, stultifying processes. Supportive environments for sustainable efforts using simplicity, technical excellence and good design allow the sponsors, developers and users to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. Reflection on the process at regular intervals allows for continual and appropriate tuning and adjustments to the agile process.

Most of this isn't strange to project management, though the concept of "self-organizing teams" might seem a bit odd to a traditional, hierarchical organization. :>>

What is a Project?

A project is a temporary, collaborative effort to achieve a specific goal in a set time. At least, this paraphrases the definition I first saw in my first project activities in the Aerospace & Defense industry back in 1979. I've seen definitions that add things like "create a unique product", but the end result can be almost anything: a product, a pyramid, a rocket engine, a scientific advancement, a data warehouse, etc, etc, etc.

The emphasis for a project is that people and other resources come together temporarily to deliver a well-defined result by a specified due date.

What does it mean to manage a project?

Whips often come to mind. That was the main tool to manage the various pyramid building projects. &#59;) Ok, maybe not.

Project management is the skill of leading people and controlling the expenditure of resources to achieve specified goals on-time and within budget.

There are a variety of schools of thought, methodologies and guides to managing a project. I agree with Glen in that a good starting point is the Project Management Institute (PMI) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK). I would also add PRINCE2 to that. Updated 20100308 per Jay's comments, below: The Prince2 link given is to a USA based training organization; Jay gives a link in his comments, which redirects to a UK based training and accreditation organization, APMG-UK.

I also need to step onto one of my favorite soap boxes for a moment. Project Management does not equal Product Management. Program and Portfolio Management are also unique and separate disciplines. These four professions often get confused. Product Management is a blend of marketing and engineering with the goal of translating user needs into technical specifications that result in marketable goods or services. Program Management specifies, implements and governs large initiatives that impact cross-disciplinary groups within a organization, and changes the process by which an organization conducts its daily affairs; examples are things like a Quality Program or a Decision Support program. Portfolio Management is the art and science of prioritizing and coordinating a set of Projects, often large capital projects, that may or may not overlap in goals, but definitely compete for money, people and resources. Ok, stepping down off the soap box and getting back on point now. :p

How does one manage a project in an Agile fashion?

Ah, well now. This is the point isn't it? Agile project management requires reconciling the discussion of Agile above with the definition of a Project and Project Management and developing a methodology that uses the Agile mindset of customer satisfaction, responding quickly to changing market needs for competitive advantage with self-organizing teams that reflect upon how they work and change their processes on the fly, while delivering working, valuable, as-specified results in an incremental fashion, on-time and in-budget.

Hmm, that doesn't sound so hard, does it?

Over time, we have evolved our project management methodology for delivering data warehousing, business intelligence and MDM solutions in such a way that, in the words of Todd McGrath of supergloo, inc. have become quite agile, and are now deliberately agile. We've gone from five dimensions of a project to eight over the eight years that IASC has been in existence.

Here's a mindmap that gives you an idea of what we're doing. Though there's a lot more to discuss about this, including the strategic, tactical and implementation tracks, and how iterative waterfall and agile mindset must work together to keep everything and everyone working a sustainable fashion, without burn-out and without missed deadlines, while learning from each iteration, and responding to changing user needs.

Apps on my iPhone

In January of 2007, I wrote that the iPhone didn't qualify as meeting my perfect handheld criteria. Now that I own one, and now that the app store has been open for five months, but mostly because Tawny Press has bought a new iPhone and asked for app advice on Twitter &#59;) I'm writing to say that I'm close to changing my mind. The iPhone isn't perfect, but it's close.

screen shot of iPhone

While having a conversation with Tawny Press in Twitter about her new iPhone, I realized it was time to start blogging again, and what better way to start than with my use of the iPhone apps that have come close to replacing my Palm Lifedrive.

screen shot of iPhone

The home page of the iPhone, or the first screen of apps, or the screen that shows when you press the one big round button at the bottom of the phone, is the screen that holds my most used apps. First, let's take a look at my 2005 criteria for a perfect handheld, slightly updated in 2007 for the iPhone:

  • Open Source OS but I would take MacOSX, if it was really the full OS - Check
  • Lot's of third-party apps - as of today, there are 1573 Games, 705 Entertainment, 141 Social Networking, 204 Music, 320 Prodcutivity, 270 Lifestyle, 301 Reference, 258 Travel, 201 Sports, 135 Navigation, 276 Health & Fitness, 101 Photography, 180 Finance, 166 Business, 413 Education, 41 Weather and 277 Books - that's a lot of apps
  • Multiple input methods including [soft] QWERTY keyboard, handwriting recognition, taps and multi-touch gestures, and voice [commands and dialing] - yes on the soft keyboard, handwriting recognition coming through Phatware apps, yes to taps & multi-touch and third-party apps do a so-so job of voice recognition in some areas
  • wired & wireless synchronization of ALL my digital life: contacts, calendar, audio/video/photo/eBook media, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases... all files, all the time - yes and no, which is why it's not perfect yet, some of this is available through third party apps, but it's all in individual sandboxes
  • wireless PAN, LAN, MAN & WAN and GPS, and keep IR too - whatever the latest protocols, such as those listed above for today, with expandability and upgradeable for tomorrow - again, yes and no, with limited bluetooth for PAN, WiFi for LAN, EDGE/3G for WAN, and iPhone3G gives GPS
  • convenient Voice and Data, and SMS, MMS, IM, chat, VoIP, and web & video conferencing - Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes [3rd party], Yes [3rd Party], Coming [3rd Party]
  • advanced graphics rendering for data visualization, games, and more - oh yes, indeed
  • Storage and more storage, hard drives, solid state disks, and maybe more than one compact flash memory slots, like SD and CFII - not really, no, but maybe in the future
  • Full IMAP & POP3 email compatibility with all servers that meet those protocols and with the ability to send, receive and handle all attachment & MIME types - yes on IMAP & POP3 & Exchange, Yes on viewing attachments and many MIME types, but No on sending attachments; there's that sandbox again
  • Complete web, wap & location services - Yes, emphatically so, though no need for WAP
  • feed syndication reader - third party apps & web apps
  • cookies & javascript enabled, with security management - Yes, but no Flash, which is cool as I don't like Flash on a computer, let alone an handheld
  • Full encryption handling for SSL, VPNs, etc. - Yep, yep, yep

So, look at what's on the home page, the main screen, the number one of my iPhone. The bottom four are the native apps that come with the iPhone, even before web apps were available. You can decide what four apps are in that bottom area, and the four apps in that bottom area appear in every screen. I stick with the phone, safari, mail and iPod as the four apps. But then, I'm a bit anal. :) I should also mention that I arrange the apps from the outside in, that is, the apps on any one screen that I use most often are towards the outside of the screen, top or bottom, left or right, and then I move inwards.

The rest are more important. I used my Lifedrive mostly for reading books and taking notes, so the first thing I wanted from the App Store when it opened in June was eReader from Fictionwise and a way to sync my 12 years of memos from my various Palm devices to my iPhone, to take new notes and to edit the old ones. On the very first day, eReader was on the App Store with a very easy way to get my purchased books from Peanut Press, Palm Digital and Motricity onto my iPhone. This was a serious win for me, and was the first step for the iPhone in approaching my perfect handheld. The second area, notes, is more problematic. The MissingSync from Mark/Space allows one to offload notes from the native Notes app onto one's Mac, but no two-way sync. That's not good. The iPhone doesn't have a system wide select/cut/copy/paste clipboard mechanism. That's not good for notes. But TextGuru does have copy & paste, and an awkward but workable two-way sync, and I've been able to get my old notes onto my iPhone and my new notes into Mark/Space Notepad. I prefer to take notes by writing vs. typing, to break up my day from keyboard to cursive, and a third party app may one day fulfill that desire. We'll talk about that later.

Next to eReader, and below TextGuru, you'll find TwittelatorPro. Now, I never tweeted from my Lifedrive but I use TwittelatorPro all day long to keep in touch with my tweeps. Twitter has been the best social networking medium I've found, and TwittelatorPro allows me to use all the features of Twitter with ease. Next is the web app leading to m.newsgator.com/iphone and that is my preferred feed syndication app for the iPhone, as the mobile page of Newsgator was for my Lifedrive and earlier Palms. Later you'll see that I also have NetNewsWire, and it's good for a pared down list of my feeds, for reading offline, such as when traveling, but it becomes too unstable with all my feeds, and I'm rarely away from a connection around the Bay Area.

And now, in the lower right hand corner, you'll find my new favorite app, Pandora. Pandora radio has been around for about three years, but it really became useful to me on my iPhone and has replaced my car radio as I drive around the Bay Area to meet with clients, work out of my café offices and run errands.

TextGuru also provides for other files to be brought onto the iPhone, and it has viewers for MSoffice, PDF and other file formats, but the viewers aren't great. One powerful capability that TextGuru provides is to share files between mobile devices that also have TextGuru [that sandbox principle again]. By mobile devices, I mean iPhone, iPhone3G and either generation of iPod-Touch devices. Next to TextGuru, you'll see AirSharing. This app provides a more streamlined way of moving files from a desktop/laptop to your mobile device and it provides very good viewers for MS Office, iWork, PDF and other file formats.

The remaining apps on the home screen are from Apple, standard on the iPhone, and apps to which I want quick access.

Now what else do I have on my iPhone?

screen shot of iPhone

The second screen has apps that I use somewhat frequently, or, such as Hahlo3, a web app for Twitter, that I moved while checking out a native app. EccoNotePro is my favorite of the voice recorders. Facebook is a native app for accessing Facebook - doh! Sketches provides a very nice way to draw and to annotate pictures, drawings and google maps, and is nicely integrated with the iPhone apps. As you move across that row, you'll see other media oriented apps, MediaShare, from Brancipater, the TextGuru folk, allows for sharing media file formats, as TextGuru allows for sharing of other formats. MyShow accesses pictures on the web, according to your search terms, and creates slide shows: a great screen saver. Next is Photos, from Apple.

The next row are news oriented. Instapaper allows one to bookmark web sites, transfer them to the iPhone for offline reading in their original or text only format. Seismic ties into the USGS and provides updates on earthquakes worldwide. AP Mobile news provides world, US, local, whacky, etc news from AP for both online updating and offline reading. NetNewsWire is the best iPhone feed reader for me, as it syncs with Newsgator and NetNewsWire on my Mac.

Palringo for IM and Fring for IM plus Skype for communication. Fliq is from Mark/Space and provides a way to send contacts as VCF files and media files from one Fliq user to another.

screen shot of iPhone

The third screen has some good apps for translations, social networking, such as LinkedIN, another file sharing app, and two types of terminal apps: VNC to control my Mac remotely, and iSSH to log into our linux server out in the Internet.

screen shot of iPhone

The fourth screen is a mish-mash from Obama'08 to Uiqloq: performance art and a clock, another screen saver sort of thing. Shazam and Midomi listens to songs and identifies them for you; you can even purchase a tune through iTunes from them. The rest are self-explanatory, I think.

screen shot of iPhone

Screen 5, above, has some good ones. SplashID, which syncs with Mac or PC, and is available for PalmOS, WinMo, etc, etc, etc is a great way to generate and securely store passwords and private information of all types. eMailContact is a great way to share contact information with others. I use it to introduce folk that may want to do business together. Wikipanion reformats wikipedia for the iPhone and stores searches, great app. Most of the rest show that I'm a geek. :>> One app for which I have great hope is WritePad, handwriting recognition for the iPhone; this is a proof of concept only, and I'm waiting less than patiently for a note taking app that takes advantage of it. The last app, EasyWiFi has proven to be useless useful once you RTFM and know to enter the information for each public WiFi network manually, even if you don't actually need login information; it doesn't keep me connected to free WiFi at Tully's or others that require web logins.

screen shot of iPhone

Screen 6 has some games, which I rarely play. Sorry, I try, but gaming just isn't my thing.

screen shot of iPhone

The final screen has the web apps that I used before the App Store opened, and I rarely use them now.

I'm still looking for an outliner to replace BrainForest on my Palm. The app, Outliner may be it, especially as it now imports OPML, which BrainForest exports, so I can have my old gift lists, business plans, corporate values, etc. There is also mindmapping software for the iPhone that might do the job even better, and of course, there is the renowned but troubled and expensive OmniFocus.

Since I like taking notes on my handheld, you may ask why I don't use Evernote. Two reasons: no cut and paste, and I don't want my notes stored on a web service that may or may not be available in ten years.

So there you have it. The apps I use now. The apps that are making the iPhone close to my perfect handheld, and have very much replaced my Lifedrive.

Peer1 ServerBeach Impresses

Yesterday there was a network outage at Peer1 ServerBeach, our IT infrastructure company [sounds a lot more impressive than rack hoster] &#59;) The problem was corrected within an hour. More impressively, the forums had a post up almost immediately from Peer1 technologist QT. Their forum post was updated twice, once to say that the network seemed stable and another to explain that a "memory issue on an aggregate switch that caused services to be interrupted for approximately 40 customers".

In and of itself, that is great service: acknowledging a problem, giving an update, and explaining the cause.

But, there's more.

Yesterday, in the midst of the outage, I tweeted about the problem and asked Coté, who lives nearer to the data center than I by about 2000 miles, if there were any problems in his neck of the woods. Today, QT a.k.a. Charnell Pugsley, is following me on Twitter. I'm following back.

Amazing times. Thank you, Charnell.

Now I should call about the special offer to move up from the unmanaged hosting at ServerBeach to the managed hosting at Peer1. :)

Microsoft Acquires Datallegro whither Ingres

I've been "hearing" all day on Twitter that Microsoft would be announcing something big at OSCON2008. Perhaps this is it:

Microsoft today announced that it intends to acquire DATAllegro, provider of breakthrough data warehouse appliances. The acquisition will extend the capabilities of Microsoft’s mission-critical data platform, making it easier and more cost effective for customers of all sizes to manage and glean insight from the ever expanding amount of data generated by and for businesses, employees and consumers.
-- Press Release "Microsoft to Acquire DATAllegro"

This is very interesting given the progress that Microsoft has made with its analytic services binding MS Office and SQL Server. Further quoting from the press release:

“Microsoft SQL Server 2008 delivers enterprise-class capabilities in business intelligence and data warehousing and the addition of the DATAllegro team and their technology will take our data platform to the highest scale of data warehousing.”
-- Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Data and Storage Platform Division at Microsoft

The direction for DATAllegro's data warehouse appliance is also made clear in the press release:

“DATAllegro's integration with SQL Server is the opti mal next generation solution and the acquisition by Microsoft is a great conclusion for the company.”
-- Lisa Lambert, Intel Capital managing director, Software and Solutions Group.

For those who don't know, DATAllegro is a data warehousing appliance company that utilizes "EMC® storage, Dell™ servers, Cisco® InfiniBand switches, Intel® multi-core CPUs and the Ingres® open source database".

So, whither Ingres in this acquisition? As we've written before here, Ingres is one of the earliest and strongest RDBMS products, which was absorbed by CA and then spun off again with an open source play in 2005. MS SQL Server, of course, started out as a rebranding of Sybase SQL*Server, until the partnership dissolved in the mid-1990's. Since then, MS SQL Server has been geared mostly as a workgroup and data mart server. It seems that a switch from Ingres to MS SQL Server could heavily undermine DATAllegro's business. In addition, the switchover in code to T-SQL will be a nightmare for developers. Add to that the challenges of moving from Linux to MS Windows, and from C/C++ to C# and it will take quite some time in production environments to iron out all the wrinkles.

In addition, while most seem to think that this puts Microsoft in a good position to challenge Oracle for the Enterprise Data Warehouse lead, it actually puts Microsoft directly into competition with other DW appliance vendors, such as Teradata. I truly doubt that this move will position Microsoft strongly into competition with either Oracle or Teradata, but merely marks another tactical error in Microsoft's increasingly desperate acquisition strategy to move deeper into the Enterprise on one hand, while striving to move further into the online space on the other.

More can be read at:

BI for iPhone

With the opening of the Apple iPhone AppStore on iTunes and with the iPhone2.0 software, I decided to take a look for iPhone BI apps.

The first, from Pentaho, is open source. "Pentaho's BI extension for iPhone works with Pentaho Open BI Suite 1.7. Download and configuration instructions, as well as a short, recorded video demonstration are available..." from Pentaho's iPhone page. Matt Casters has more on his blog, "pentaho and the iphone".

The second is not open source, but is free from iTunes, but "Requires the licensing of Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition Plus, and Oracle Business Intelligence Applications, Fusion Edition..." Wow. &#59;)

Even though I have the latest iTunes7.7, it's showing that my iPhone1.1.4 is up to date. We'll have to start playing with these as soon as iPhone2.0 is generally available - later today maybe.

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The TeleInterActive Press is a collection of blogs by Clarise Z. Doval Santos and Joseph A. di Paolantonio, covering the Internet of Things, Data Management and Analytics, and other topics for business and pleasure. 37.540686772871 -122.516149406889

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Our current thinking on sensor analytics ecosystems (SAE) bringing together critical solution spaces best addressed by Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in Data Management and Analytics (DMA) is updated frequently. The following links to a static, scaleable vector graphic of the mindmap.

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