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Tools for blogging

Maintaining a blog sometimes is a difficult task, specially when you’re in the middle of a battle. It takes discipline and the belief that your ideas and experience could improve someone else’s.There are some tools to assist you in writing a blog but I discovered that my old palm and a simple sheet of paper can work better than new editors or browser plugins that allow you to post from any webpage. Maybe I’m facing a corollary of KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid).On the other hand, reading many blogs is almost impossible without a specific tool. I had a good time using RSSOwl and now I’m using GreatNews, both are free. I tried the Google Reader version of it but I’m usually offline when reading the blogs – usually at the airport.I also use my iPod to follow podcasts. If you’re a project manager I recommend Jerry Manas Project Results Podcast.What are you using to follow my blog? Leave your experience as a comment here!
Recent posts

Running a lot...

I’ve been running a lot recently. My team received a lot of attacks… I guess the best piece of advice after this period is: be diligent and systematic on the project basics. I mean, you should focus on project progress and in keeping scope clear, setting and updating a workplan, keep writing your progress reports.Even when it looks you should focus on other things, do not forget to keep the basis of project management. After the turbulence, nobody will remember that you were doing the “other things” and they will ask for the basic items. More than that, even during the turbulence, your team depends on you to keep project progress.Go back to PMBOK if you don’t understand what basis is. PMBOK is not perfect but it contains a solid foundation. Agile PM only means (to me) that you don’t have to create and sign formal documents. But you have to materialize this tools: post-its, whiteboards pictures (read previous posts) work well enough.

Priorities & MoSCoW

One of the most important tasks a PM has on a software development project (maybe in all projects) is setting priorities. Usually time and money is shorter than everybody would like and you have to choose what to develop and what not to develop. It takes communication skills, a lot of negotiation and, at the end; everybody is a little bit frustrated…If your team is developing software iteratively and incrementally (and you should… but that’s a theme for another post), you have to prioritize each iteration sub-scope.To make scope more clear, at my company we adopt the MoSCoW list. I believe it originally has roots on DSDM (although it is used similarly on SCRUM, UP and it has elements of Cockburn’s actor-goal list) and it is a very powerful tool.Simply stated, it is a list of requirements (or actor-goals, or use case titles…) each one prioritized with a letter MSCW (Must, Should, Could and Won’t – that’s the origin of MoSCoW list name). I simplify the explanation to my clients, key-use…

GTD

In my previous post, I mentioned I have been using GTD. In fact, I’m a big fan of it.I have worked for many years as a programmer, then as a systems analyst, also as an architect. Of course you have a lot to do in this positions! But it was when I occupied the Project Manager and the Consulting Manager positions that my to do list exploded. It seems that in these positions you substitute some big tasks for a plethora of small tasks. You have some tasks to solve problems with development, another set of tasks to solve problems with analysis, with infrastructure, with architecture, with you stakeholder management needs, with your project bureaucracy, with updates on workplans, with status reports…Basically, David Allen (the author of GTD) suggests keeping everything out of your mind – you make a mental dump on lists. Then you organize the lists: you identify the “next action” for each item (e.g.: for an item like “Fix the car” you probably have a next action of calling Dad and get the m…

TimeTo

I just licensed a new software for my personal organization system: TimeTo. It tries to conciliate your schedule with you to-do list, automatically scheduling your tasks based on priorities and deadlines. It has helped me in maintaining the concentration on what I’m doing at each time and how much time I spend on doing each type of task. Additionally, I have a very powerful way to complete my timesheet. I can tell you exactly what I was doing at a specific time in the past.
It is not easy to conciliate it with GTD and I still keep my lists on my Palm but I have improved my focus and I’m achieving more. I suggest you to give it a try.

My Vacations

My Vacations
After vacations, children is instructed to write a “my vacations” composition. This is “my vacations” blog ;-) I’ve been to Italy looking to some of the greatest projects of mankind - Coliseum, Caracala Baths, Sistine Chapel…
Tourists usually think: “Uau! That’s big / old / beautiful”, or something more elaborated like “That’s a fundamental part of human history” or “Too many people died here”.
I must admit that my PM (project manager) bias took me to a particular version: “Uau! Without gantt or pert diagrams (or MS-Project) or even without any Excel Spreadsheet!!!”
PMs usually complain against these tools and the triple constraint (time, money and scope) - I imagine how these old PMs could control and deliver without these tools or EVA techniques etc. Depending on their mistakes I imagine a PM could be “invited” to be part of the show with lions…
As expected, I tried to research on “ancient project management” - I could not find any references. I found material stating that …

An experience in customer care

After some months desiring a DVR (VCR-like equipment with a high capacity hard disk) I found a Sony HDD250 for 20% of the regular price in a prestigious US store. The price was due a small scratch and a missing manual. I bought it!

Back to Brazil I downloaded the manual and installed the cables but…the remote control did not work - it was of another equipment. OK, I should have noticed that but… I was VERY frustrated.

The wrong side of customer care:

1. I wrote BestBuy. In a canned answer they suggested me to phone the store attendant or returning the equipment. They neither tried to understand my problem.

2. I talked to Sony (I have two of their “universal” remote controllers). Answer: if the code was not in the manual I could not operate the DVR. They suggested me buying a replacement control from a company that …did not sell it. In another demonstration of “customer care”, their product forum has many complaints about not being possible to manually setting the clock - and no answer. I …