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1-Minute Assessment: Configuration Management

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you name configuration items, those specific technology components that make up your technical solutions?
  2. Do you have a tool, 3rd party or open source, to help with configuration management?
  3. Do you package your configuration items as baselines?
  4. Do you track change requests?
  5. Do you propagate the necessary changes into the configured items, maintaining baseline and version integrity?
  6. Do you have people who can objectively audit the configurations?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you are potentially lacking fundamental control of the product solutions you deliver to your customers.  Some examples might help.

  • Imagine a library without the Dewey Decimal System.  Publications of all sorts are strewn about the library, no cataloging order, no grouping of subjects, authors’ last names in any sequence, no regard for taxonomy.
  • Think of every tax return you ever filled out, all the receipts and records, jammed into one burgeoning folder, shaken up and tossed to the wind, and the IRS invites you tomorrow to a sit-down audit.
  • How about an automobile pieced together with last years interior, this years exterior, including the recalled components!
  • Consider you are working with an interior decorator on your kitchen and you express interest in the blond cabinets, but she installs the redwood ones, despite your having negotiated and agreed to the change.
  • Maybe you’ve worked all night on your thesis and when you pick up in the morning, you begin to revision the copy from two nights before, losing all the changes, incurring time and angst in the process.

Now, let’s look at CM in IT.  Hundreds, thousands, of IT workers, at the office, or distributed globally, in the United States, China, India, Mexico, and elsewhere, creating thousands, hundreds of thousands, of technology components:  code files,  GUI, data, SQL,  stored procs, .configs .dat, .java, .jsp, XML, HTML, requirements (business, functional, and non-functional), designs, test cases, test procedures, test data, learning content, all of it going through constant revision, today’s work obsoleting yesterday’s, changes needing to cascade and propagate, related items needing “stapling,” all progressing through the lifecycle, the quality gates, on their way into the customers’ hands.

Can you really afford to deny yourself a world-class practice in configuration management?  Do you seriously believe that all the necessary versioning, labeling, and baselining, the Dewey Decimal System, is going to somehow miraculously manifest itself?

Product quality, brand integrity, and your customer base, are all that you have to lose.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Integrated Project Management

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do your projects start with a well-known set of defined activities, that people will do, in an integrated and coherent way, to develop and support the products and services, that your business partner is requesting?  (A mouthful, but follow along.  Reread it if you have to.)
  2. Do you have a shared vision for the deliverable across the team, including 3rd parties, as well as those folks on the other side of the country, and those on the other continent?
  3. Do you integrate the plans of the various contributors?  It’s OK if they’re loosely coupled, as long as there is some overarching and controlling view of it all.
  4. Do you then manage the project using that integrated plan?
  5. Do you coordinate, and facilitate collaborative sessions, with the teams?  Consider how well you manage dependencies, and resolve coordination issues.
  6. Do you exercise change management across the integrated team?
  7. Does communication flow easily up, down, and across the integrated teams?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might have opportunity to improve the way you set up and manage your projects, and involve your stakeholders.

Consider goodness when starting projects, right out of the gate, and help each project through a well-known series of start-up events, to assure consistent and thorough kickoff.

These events take the wonderful and varied mix of people on the project, through a number of well-scripted exercises, to get them to discuss and formalize initial scope, charter, and plan.

It is an opportunity to agree to the organizational processes that the people on the project will use, to get to know one another, to break bread together, to create vernacular and enjoy the camaraderie, to find early risks, to impart vision, to gain commitment, and to assure one another that we’ve each got the others back.

See You Get What You Don’t Pay For, and consider this: invest in the Project Start-Up Coach, a group of respected, senior project and program managers.  This is not a junior position.  These are the folks who know how to make it happen.  Leverage them at the source, at the fount, of where each project in your organization begins.

Spread their smarts across it all.  Provide them the talent they need to then continuously intervene in those projects, in value-added ways, not as auditors but as mentors and coaches, to further help in facilitating major milestone events for those projects now underway.  Leverage your leaders to create more leaders.

The lifecycle will maybe manifest itself through some extra-sensory magic that is unique to your organization.  But I doubt it.  You need to apply levers to keep pushing the rock uphill until you reach a point, and then let it roll.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Organizational Process Focus

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you regularly appraise your organization’s processes?
  2. Do you identify process improvements?
  3. Do you author and carry out process action plans?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be missing an opportunity to bring better practices to bear on your operations.

Regular appraisal will give you a timely and recurring view of your process strengths and weaknesses.  Consider all sorts of process: financial, technological, quality, talent management, marketing, and others.  You can benchmark against your previous performances, and to the industry. Seek to improve in those areas where you do not meet your own expectations.

Name your process goals: reduced cycle times, greater quality, higher productivity, increased market, improved brand, whatever your aspiration.

Process action plans will list the improvement activities, and will help you to communicate strategy and tactic.  Manage these action plans as you would a project or a program.  Be certain to take the necessary steps to motivate people and to gain their agreement, along the journey’s way.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Organizational Learning

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you identify your organization’s strategic learning needs?
  2. Do you tie your learning strategy to resource planning and to talent management?
  3. Do you have a tactical plan for organizational learning?
  4. Do you consider the needs of your 3rd parties in your learning strategy and plans?
  5. Do you indeed deliver the required learning?
  6. Do you assess the learning’s effectiveness?
  7. Do you consider your Learning Organization a chief lever to pull for managing effective change?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you probably should consider if you are succeeding in developing the skills and knowledge of your people, so that they can do their roles effectively and efficiently, in support of the book of work you have signed up for.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Value Management

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Organizations typically have a framework for Risk Management.  Do you have one for Value Management, to enable business and IT decisions to maximize the value from IT-enabled business investments?
  2. Is your Value Management integrated with your financial planning?
  3. Do you have a targeted investment mix for your IT Portfolio?
  4. Are you happy with the Value/Return side of your business cases?
  5. Do you plan for people and talent in line with the managed Portfolio?
  6. Do you watch and report on Portfolio performance?
  7. Do you retire programs that crowd out potentially more lucrative investments?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you aren’t realizing ideal value from your IT-enabled business investments, and potentially flying blind with respect to practices to aid the Board and executive management in understanding and carrying out their roles related to such investments.

A framework for Value Management will enable you to:

  • Manage costs, risks, and benefits, in an integrated way
  • Increase the chances for a Portfolio mix having the potential to generate the highest return
  • Reduce the number of losing propositions in the mix, and so cut cost and free-up talent
  • Increase business value and goodwill

ISACA’s ValIT, one such framework for Value Management, provides a foundation for you to manage strategy, architecture, delivery, and value, from a common set of principles and practice.  Are you doing the right things?  Are you doing them the right way?  Are you getting them done well?  Are you seeing the benefits?

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Requirements Management

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you have templates to formalize the capture of requirements?
  2. Do you have well-known governance around who you authorize to articulate requirements, and who can accept them?
  3. Do your teams attribute requirements to catalog business priorities, plus rank the complexity, time, and cost to deliver?
  4. Does IT, together with the Business, agree to baseline the requirements at some point during the delivery lifecycle?
  5. When requirements change, do you understand the effects of those on design and on the project’s schedule?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be seeing inconsistencies in the way IT products and services are reflecting Business needs.  Consider that requirements are upstream from planning and scheduling, analysis and design, coding and testing, learning and roll-out.

Requirements management is a continuous and dynamic process.  Competency here pays off in predictable cadence for all involved, and is a solid foundation for goodness in design and architecture.  Lack of it results in thrash and dissatisfied customers.

Related Reading

Quality Attribute Workshops

1-Minute Assessment: Sizing and Estimating

Agile Architecting

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Risk Management

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you have a strategy and procedure to find, analyze, and mitigate risks?
  2. Is your team familiar with industry frameworks, like ISACA Risk IT, or NIST RMF ?
  3. Does the Business acknowledge risk-mitigating projects as important, deserving of IT investment?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be lacking a continuous and forward-looking process, at the project, program, portfolio, and enterprise levels, that would enable IT and the Business to effectively manage risk.

Consider sources for risk, internal and external, like staff, contractors, partners, competitors, the market, regulators, the disgruntled ex-employee, the organized and syndicated hacker.  Risk will manifest through acts of omission and commission.  Remember what’s at risk – your people, facilities, information, value, brand, intellectual property, perhaps even your very existence as a practical public or private entity.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Sizing and Estimating

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you differentiate between Sizing and Estimating?
  2. Do you have a standard bill of components, the quantifiable items that make up your software solutions? e.g. servlets, controllers, reports, tables, classes, queries, screens, the file types output by your development stack – these are ultimately the “things” that are quantifiable, that will drive estimates of effort and cost.
  3. Do you keep up history that correlates what’s built with the effort expended to build it?
  4. If your development team sold its services externally, would you be willing to do fixed-fee engagements based on your estimates?
  5. Do you have a lifecycle for estimating, aligned to your funding process?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be seeing some lack of control around project and portfolio delivery, the budget, resource allocation, capacity planning, and the like.  Capability in sizing and estimating is paramount for staffing, cost, and schedule accuracy.  It’s just a SWAG otherwise.  Lack of this ability is a chief cause of diminished IT goodwill in the Business.

Sizing & Estimating, something other than software:  Your partner asks you to redo the kid’s room.  It’s 10 X 16 with 8 foot ceilings; 416 square feet.  You’ll need 13 panels of sheet-rock (14 if you want some leeway) and 52 feet of ceiling molding.  The paint you like covers at a rate of 350 square feet per gallon.  You want 2 coats so you buy 2 gallons plus 2 quarts for the walls, and 1 gallon for the ceiling, giving you about 5% wiggle room for the walls and 9% for the ceiling.  The on-line shopper at your local store makes it easy for you to price the materials.  You let your partner know that it will take 5 days to complete the job, since you’ve experienced redoing a similar room just 2 years earlier.

Need more? If so, feel free to email me or comment below, and I will send another example where we size and estimate what it will take to make lunch for 10 guests – 6 vegetarians (2 of them gluten-free) and 4 carnivores.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Quality Gates

Take today’s 1-minute assessment

  1. Does your IT organization have a standard naming convention for its quality gates? (e.g. DEV, QA, End-2-End, UAT, PRE-PROD, other)
  2. Do the delivery teams abide by those?
  3. Do the various functions who have a stake in the gates, like release managers, testers, and those who provision environments, subscribe to the same standard and coordinate their activities so?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be seeing some thrash across a handful of service and process areas that you can fix, relatively quickly, for good return.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

What would you do with 1000 square feet?

You’re given 1000 square feet of real estate in your business’s headquarters, and have the financial resources to build it out and staff it as you please, as long as it becomes a major hub of activity for IT and the Business.  You need to make it a place that buzzes, where things get done.  What’s the plan?

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013