Thursday, February 26, 2009

Program Metrics Dashboard design guidelines: 10 useful guidelines from experience

I have been experimenting with some metrics design dashboards for pipeline tracking of programs. I have used these guidelines and tricks

1. Keep it simple - the chances of making a super heavy dashboard is high - stick to fixed number of metrics (You want to add something, You have to delete something! - crude but effectie rule)
2. Let users use an excel sheet or a web page - dont make them use a complex database
3. Make users fill directly into a dashboard like page - that way they know how it will look rather than them filling a form and you creating a dashboard. This also provides them instant feedback on performance
4. On most companies, poorly performing programs report far fewer metrics than better ones. [A symptom of what you dont measure you dont manage (I dont beleive that you manage by just measuring though)]. More in the "red" zone is a better sign than No metrics. REPORT % of metrics filled in your dashboard
5. Achieve balance - report on cost, quality, purchasing, sourcing, delivery , issues et al. Failing to achieve balance will scuttle all-round execution and delay programs.
6. Follow  some simple xls rules: Validate everything using Data Validation rules, Use input messages that are descriptive, use comments in xls, format each cell based on the input format you need, unlock entry cells and protect worksheets,Test with sample data before distributing! - It is much better to do all this before you get it to the programs than to send out a poorly validated set of measures dashboard
7. Use charts were possible to break monotony
8. Keep improving and standardizing - it is important to let users know where to look for what information.
9. Create a mapping file for creating a summary from all project xls files and load into access or any enterprise database that you have. It is improtant to archive both plans and actuals on the monthly or quarterly rates at which PMO collects information.
10. Create also a reverse mapped dashboard to generate any of the metrics dasboard reports from the database.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The negative spiral of poor process adherence.

Most companies are complaining of insufficient resources for the wrong reasons (I believe having more ideas and initiatives and hence no resources is a good scenario)

Short term
People want to do things fast (or atleast think they can) by short cutting processes. Poor process adherence (in intent) leads to poor quality and capability build up. This results in fires. Fires result in a surge in resource requirements. Sudden surges cant be met with external resources. They are met by redeployment from other processes and projects. By the time the problem is fixes, the other processes with poor resources are way behind schedules resulting in people want to things faster! - Indeed a fantastic negative spiral!

Long term
Further, in the long run, poor process adherence leads to no metrics and continuous improvement. Resulting in poor capability buildup (and inflexibility). This results in poor business efficiencies and results. This leads to fires and patchwork.

This is probably the only real reason to create and execute to processes even at the risk of first time being a little late - The net result will always be better than getting into the negative spiral

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Structuring the PMO

The debate between heavyweight vs. light weight PMO is less important than the freedom/authority and reporting given to Program Managers. Often the structure of the PMO is done only to facilitate span of control and less by decision on design of the PMO.

The structuring of projects into logical blocks or programs is an interesting way to control span of control without having a heavyweight PMO (This provides accountability with program managers and also the required span of control). Delivering a KRA definition of Program Managers is critical to success of the organization.

See article from where I picked the picture above for the reference.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How simple should metrics be?

There are 3 things that we need to remember,
  • Rapid growth - you have too many things to measure and too many ways for things to go wrong
  • Impact of the blackberry gen - You need to give the information as fast as possible for a drill down
  • Information overload - too many reporting frameworks means that both executives and staff need things simple
At the same time, over-simplification can also be due to poor thinking. I have seen that the pyramid principle is one of the best ways to ensure better thinking and yet ensure simplicity.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Janani Seemandham Video - Trichy - Restricted list

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Systems thinking and Product planning - Theres a hole in the bucket dear Lisa

Most product planners (program managers and PMO) spend a lot of time taking calls to break negative loops and establishing positive spirals. It is easy to get caught in organizational politics and a new process into the "hole in the bucket" scenario.

How to paste data from excel into an existing table in MS access 2007 without appending records

1. Export the table from access to excel
2. Update the records in excel
3. Create a form (datasheet) in access
4. Select the column(s) you have updated in excel
5. Select the column in the access form
6. Select paste special in access and paste as text

This retains updation in the order of the primary key and is fairly useful if you update based on excel sheets. Its usually better than  having a linked table.