DIReach is initiating the “Global IT Transformation Movement"

Read more about GITTM here

DIReach is proud to feature its very first GITTM feature Saffron Technology – Transforming organizations with cognitive computing for anticipatory sense making and decision support.

Read more about our feature Saffron Tech here.

**NEW**DIReach is proud to feature its second GITTM feature CytoComp – A Revolutionary Biological Computer.

Read more about our feature CytoComp here.

Review of The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter Senge

The Fifth Discipline Book Cover

I started reading “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (Senge 1990) is a book by Peter Senge (a senior lecturer at MIT)” for one potential client who believes their company should transform itself to a “Learning Organization”. I am planning to read the book, summarize it here and then provide my insights on the trans-formative aspect of this book. (Well, one issue I can tell right away is that the book has been published on 1990 which is a 13 years back that means the professor has been conceiving this theory and his analysis much longer than before. So right away I am a little skeptical as to how relevant it is after 15 years and when the world has changed significantly due to the advancement of technology and the depression in economy)

Peter Senge believes there are 5 disciplines that makes a company to become a “Learning organization”. Here they are:

The five disciplines functioning together

The five disciplines functioning together

1. Systems Thinking

2. Personal Mastery

3. Mental Models

4. Shared Vision

5. Team Learning

Here they are more elaboration on the above points:

1. Systems Thinking:

The practice of systems thinking starts with understanding a simple concept called “feedback” that shows how actions can reinforce or counteract (balance) each other. It builds to learning to recognize types of “structures” that recur again and again. Ultimately, it simplifies life by helping us see the deeper patterns lying behind the events and the details.

Systems Thinking Visual Model

Systems Thinking Visual Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business and other human endeavors are also systems. They, too, are bound by invisible fabrics of interrelated actions, which often take years to fully play out their effects on each other. Since we are part of that lacework ourselves, it’s doubly hard to see the whole pattern of change. Instead, we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system, and wonder why our deepest problems never seem to get solved.

The Habits of Systems Thinker

The Habits of Systems Thinker

2. Personal Mastery:

It must always be remembered that embarking on any path of personal growth is a matter of choice. No one can be forced to develop
his or her personal mastery. It is guaranteed to backfire. Organizations can get into considerable difficulty if they become too aggressive in promoting personal mastery for their members. Still many have attempted to do just that by creating compulsory internal personal growth training programs. However well intentioned, such programs are probably the most sure-fire way to impede the genuine spread of commitment to personal mastery in an organization. Compulsory training, or “elective” programs that people feel expected to attend if they want to advance their careers, conflict’ directly with freedom of choice.

Personal Mastery Discipline

Personal Mastery Discipline

What then can leaders intent on fostering personal mastery do? They can work relentlessly to foster a climate in which the principles of personal mastery are practiced in daily life. That means building an organization where it is safe for people to create visions, where
inquiry and commitment to the truth are the norm, and where challenging the status quo is expected—especially when the status quo includes obscuring aspects of current reality that people seek to avoid.

Such an organizational climate will strengthen personal mastery in two ways.

  • First, it will continually reinforce the idea that personal growth is truly valued in the organization.
  • Second, to the extent that individuals respond to what is offered, it will provide an “on the job training” that is vital to developing personal mastery.

As with any discipline, developing personal mastery must become a continual, ongoing process. There is nothing more important to an individual committed to his or her own growth than a supportive environment. An organization committed to personal mastery can provide that environment by continually encouraging personal vision, commitment to the truth, and a willingness to face honestly the gaps between the two.

3. Mental Models: The discipline of working with mental models starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny. It also includes the ability to carry on “learningful” conversations that balance inquiry and advocacy, where people expose their own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others.

Mental Model Discipline

Mental Model Discipline

4. Building Shared Vision: The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared “pictures of the future” that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance. In mastering this discipline, leaders learn the counter-productiveness of trying to dictate a vision, no matter how heartfelt.

Shared Vision Discipline

Shared Vision Discipline

5. Team Learning: How can a team of committed managers with individual IQs above120 have a collective IQ of 63? The discipline of team learning confronts this paradox. The discipline of team learning starts with “dialogue,” the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine “thinking together.” To the Greeks dia-logos meant a free-flowing of meaning through a group, allowing the group to discover insights not attainable individually. Interestingly, the practice of dialogue has been preserved in many “primitive” cultures, such as that of the American Indian, but it has been almost completely lost to modern society. Today, the principles and practices of dialogue are being rediscovered and put into a contemporary context. (Dialogue differs from the more common “discussion,” which has its roots with “percussion” and “concussion,” literally a heaving of ideas back and forth in a winner-takes-all competition.)

Team Learning Discipline

Team Learning Discipline


GITTM Feature – “CytoComp – A Revolutionary Biological Computer”

Dr Gerd Moe-Behrens CytoComp Biological Computer

Since the conception of GITTM , I got to interview the brightest minds in the world who are destined to change the world of technology. A more than worthy predecessor of Saffron tech our very first feature in GITTM,  is CytoComp – a Revolutionary biological computer.

While the first feature Saffron Technology, Inc.has developed a Cognitive Computing technology platform that is based on brain-like connectivity and human-like reasoning; our second feature CytoComp is a biological computer that is set to diagnose and cure any and all endocrine disease through our blood stream. (16 million people suffers from endocrine disorder just in the USA. )

Dr. Gerd Moe-Bohern, is the founder of CytoComp and the genius behind this ground breaking technology. This is his second initiative in business venture for Dr Moe-Behrens, first one being the cloud collaboration platform. As per nature.com:

Gerd Moe-Behrens has a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway.  During a brief Post Doc at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany his scientific focus was on Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. This work introduced him to Systems Biology. This was the starting point for his interest in Synthetic Biology with a special focus on biocomputing. He started to join the Apple developer program, focused on dry lab work and work on an Apple platform (xcode, dashcode, objective c, html5, css3, java). He then founded the Leukippos Institute for Synthetic Biology, a research institute solely in the cloud. He has a strong interest to explore novel forms of scientific work on a web platform. His personal research interests are computer assisted design, morphogenesis and cellular computers.”

Biofilm, program, hello world

A Biofilm displaying programmed “Hello World” message!

Advancing on the bio-computing and entrepreneurship arena Gerd conceived CytoComp in the Standford class in entrepreneurship, which was among one of the few top team of the projects submitted. He is by far one of the smartest people I had a chance of speaking to and not only that he has the right attitude and passion to be a successful entrepreneur.

To appreciate this technology I had to read up on

 

So this is how this revolutionary system works – take diabetes for example (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes/) currently if you have diabetes you need to prick your finger to get blood and then a device analyzes the blood sugar level and then you have to inject yourself with the right insulin level. CytoComp will be developing a biological computer in the form of a tiny microchip build from biological material. This microchip has an input output unit which has both a biological signal and and electronic signal as input and a biological regulator and electrical signal as output. The chip is so tiny that it is implantable and can be connected to your bloodstream. CytoComp's solution to endocrine disease includes mobile monitoring Type 1 diabetes is one example for usage, although the biochip is applicable in many areas of monitoring and regulating diverse body functions. Eg the biochip can monitor in the case of type 1 diabetes your blood sugar and provide the correct insulin amount. If you are interested what is going on in your body , you can follow the values of your blood  sugar and insulin on your mobile phone. So once the biochip is implanted, you can forget about ever diagnosing and fixing your blood sugar level – the biochip will automatically do that! But for safety this will be encapsulated.

artistic biological computing cytocomp

An artistic rendition of Biological Computing.

Currently this technology is in the incubator stage. Potential partnerships are planned with major pharmaceutical (eg Eli Lilly, or Genentech) and electronic companies (such as Apple) or other major players who wish to capitalize of the next big change – biological computing.

Find out more about CytoComp on their official website

http://www.cytocomp.com/CytoComp/CytoComp_-_a_revolutionary_biological_computer.html

Or their CytoComp Youtube Video – Intro!

5 Simple steps to become a Project Manager!

project management professional

Ques: “Hi Farah, my name is xxxx and I like to learn more about project management. my background is Web and I like to change my career . How should I start? Any certification is necessary to find a job as a Junior Project manager? Please give me your advice.
Cheers,
xxxxx”

Ans. Dear xxxx, Project management is a highly challenging and rewarding career so I definitely give you kudo’s for fostering the right ambition. Specially if you have a background web w0rk then you can definitely become a web project manager! “Web project manager”s are in high demand right now, as web related work is usually treated as a project.

Following are 5 ways to get into the field as a PM:

1. Talk to your current company: By talking to your HR team and other teams to see if you have take on some project management/coordinator roles along with your current role! The fact that you are already in the company and are used to the processes and the business already adds to your value.

2. Find out what a PM role requires: Search online for Project coordinator/manager roles and see what skills sets those position is asking for. Do a gap analysis with your own skill set. See what you have and what you need to improve upon.

 

3. Take a course/Enroll in a program: There are many courses out there offered by universities and colleges in Project management. In my career when I was working as a Senior Analyst for Microsoft I started taking Project management certification program with Sheridan college. My first course what Introduction to Project Management and the professor was a PM from World Vision. She had us work on case study and gave example of real like projects from her work. Also she made us write project charters, project plans, stakeholder analysis and all sorts of project artifacts that I found really important to build my foundation as a project manager. Also it eases your way into the PMBOK book for PMP if you are inclining in to write that certification program. These courses also offers you PDU (professional development units) which you need to also write your PMP certification exam. So you are killing two birds with one stone. Actually 3 birds, because you can put that in your resume or tell your HR manager in your company and the company will see that you are serious about making a move as a PM as you have investing your own time outside of work in the pursuit. Some companies have an programs, PMP Exam Prep, and courses regarding PM you can also take advantage on those. There are few online resources that are free but not enough. A lot of it you have to pay.

4. Volunteer! Try getting involved in a community event to help organize an event. Put your project management learning to good use in a practical event. Or get together with friends and organize a charity event. Few years ago few of my friends organized a charity singles mixer, raised funds and donated that to Global Medical Relief Fund. So you take charge of your learning and skills and create your own opportunities. The more you manage few project the more confident you will become. The last thing you want to do is take on a project as work without being prepared for it and create a stressful situation for yourself and your company.

5. Find a mentor! Talk to another PM. Either in your company or outside. Talk to them find out what it is like. How they go into the role. What advice they have to share. I have done that initially in my career. One of the participants shared that PMI org offers regular meet up and mentor ship program. But at the same time we all agreed that the PM community is very dispersed even though there seems to be just few of us. What the participant felt was the events organized by PMI were too big and it took him about 6 month to get the advice he needed from the mentor that he got in our meet up group in about 15 mins! Also it cost money to be part of the PMI org! One of our team member said she calculated that it would cost her 2k to just upkeep her PMP cert through PMI. I am personally not part of the PMI org and I don’t have to really worry about my PDU (as you need a certain amount to keep on renewing you certification) as I still have 2 more courses left with Sheridan, which will give me 36+42 = 78 PDU (much MORE than I need) AND on top I will get a PM certification from Sheridan for LESS than 1k.

Hope this helps all the aspiring PM’s out there! Check out the meet up group that I created for GTA project managers here: http://www.meetup.com/GTA-Project-Managers-United/ and a first hand account of our very first meet up here http://www.direach.com/gta-pms-afterwork-soiree/ :)

 

 

IT Transformation is necessary – even for IT companies! EMC’s Story!

IT Transformation

I get really happy when I see an established IT company like EMC sing the same tune that I have been singing for the past few months to my clients. I have found my passion and my expertise which is to transform IT for small to mid size organization who doesn’t have the in-house skills like Microsoft, IBM, EMC etc.  Just to prove my point EMC published its own IT transformation project that it had undertaken for the past 5 years. The good thing for smaller companies is that it doesn’t take 5 years a company of 200 employes need 6 months (on average) and a company of 800-1500 no of employees needs 12 months in average.

The EMC IT Transformation: Five Years In The Making

The need: In EMC’s own words

“In the case of EMC IT’s transformation, it is a story that began nearly five years ago, when we recognized that we would not optimize the beautiful infrastructure we built if we continued to operate with the same antiquated processes and governance we had used in the past. When looking at ourselves objectively, we had to admit that the truth hurt.

• We never had enough capacity to meet requests, and were constantly in the position of having to “manage demand down” to meet the available supply.
• Disconnects between the funding made available for IT services and the consumption of IT services was creating unproductive friction between IT and our clients.
• Increasingly, Business Groups looked to the public cloud because it’s faster and they could avoid the IT bureaucracy, even if it came at an increased cost.
• The increasing speed of EMC’s business was putting huge pressure on us to become faster and more adaptive.
• We found ourselves “sweeping up the mess” too often.”

This is all too common for ANY organization when has an small to mid IT team – more time than not they are too busy “putting out fires”. Mostly they are being “REACTIVE” rather than “PROACTIVE”. That is NOT the ideal state for ANY team to be. One of my services includes creating a knowledge base and a system (ITIL inspired) which is in alignment with the business strategy for at least the next 5 years.

The Solution: In EMC’s own words

“To accomplish this, we first had to agree on the critical attributes of this cloud operating model. We came up with the following:

• Standardized services that deliver valuable business capabilities
• Self-provision-able
• Consumption-funded
• Automated deployment
• Transparent pricing and service levels
• Built-in security and GRC
• Services brokered as well as built”

In other words,

  • Find out what services are occuring over and over again – For example, password re-set or username creation. Find a way to automate them or standardize them.
  • Standardized, self-service semi-automated “aaS” offerings for Infrastructure, Business Analytics, Database, App Hosting, Content Management, Virtual Desktop
  • Automation of events that an IT staff (or business) has to do over and over again – Such as data entry, creating templates, etc.
  • Just to name the few.

Just like your jeans pant one size does NOT fit all! So a strategy or a solution that might work for a another company doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for your company! That is why as per my methods I create a customize solution for each companies I work for! Feel free to reach out to me if your company is going through or is planning to go through a transformation!!!

To read more about EMC’s Transformation Story here – http://itblog.emc.com/2013/04/28/the-emc-it-transformation-five-years-in-the-making/

 

End of Procastination and Begining of Productivity

Win by being highly productive

For the past couple of days I have been struggling with being productive. Its not that I haven’t done anything but I felt I haven’t been as productive as I should have been. It has been bothering me – there is so much I want to do and so much I want to accomplish that I can’t allow myself to “feel” unproductive!

So I’ve attracted the solution to myself and obviously twitter and facebook like a good friend brought me articles and videos that gave me a big boost in productivity. I’d share with you the two posts I came across:

The first post: Six tips for forcing yourself to tackle a dreaded task: This is a great article I found – although I don’t have anything the I’m dreaded at the moment except paper work. Most of the things, about 90% I need to do is the things I LOVE to do. Even so I found the blog to be in particular helpful. Here are the tips in a nutshell:

1. “Do it first thing in the morning. If you’re dreading doing something, you’re going to be able to think of more creative excuses as the day goes along.” – I have to admit – this is VERY true! Its amazing how I never realized it!

2. “If you find yourself putting off a task that you try to do several times a week, do it EVERY day. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I’ve found that it’s easier to do it every day (well, except Sundays) than fewer times each week. There’s no dithering, there’s no juggling. I know I have to post, so I do.” – It was hard to hear it but I see her point! It will be hard to do the paper work that I dread doing but OK – I’ll give it a shot :S

3. “Have someone keep you company” – now this one I totally agree. I have been doing this ever since! I always recruit a friend of an acquittance to do the things that I don’t like to do with myself. For example, I don’t like shopping, yes I’m those very rare feminine specimen who don’t like to shop – so I always recruit a friend of mine to come shopping with me – so that I can keep myself distracted and have fun talking to the friend. Another thing that helps me going through work that I perceive to be “hard” is  some good and happy music :) Music can be a great companion too! I can definitely vouch for that!

4. “Make preparations, assemble the proper tools – Clean off your desk, get the phone number, find the file. I often find that when I’m dreading a task, it helps me to feel prepared. There’s a wonderful term that chefs use: mis-en-place, French for “everything in its place.” This is a hard one for me – if I don’t like to do a task its particularly hard for me to “prepare” for that task. I try to avoid anything that has to do with that particular job! I’m take the yank off the band-aid approach. 

5. “Commit. We’ve all heard the advice to write down your goals. This really works, so force yourself to do it.” – Yes, I do agree, it does work to have a “Things to do” list. I do it all the time! and there’s no feeling like to cross off items from that list! However, sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with work that I don’t even WANT to write down anything! Its almost like if I don’t write it down it doesn’t exist! But yes I’ll definitely follow this tip!

6.”Remind yourself that finishing a dreaded task is tremendously energizing – Studies show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in the brain that give you pleasure. If you’re feeling blue, although the last thing you feel like doing is something you don’t feel like doing, push yourself. You’ll get a big lift from it.” – Who can argue with this! Just have to remind myself that :)

The second post is actually a youtube video that facebook “suggested” I should view! facebook – how did you know? But yes this is exactly the jolt of motivation I needed to see/hear. Its a video by someone named Brendon Buchard titled “How Millionaires Schedule Their Day – 1-Page Productivity Tool” – even though I’ve never heard of him – I decided to see the video anyhow. And I’m glad I did. He is positive, enthusiastic and contagious :) Also after some digging I was able to find the pdf version of this 1 page productivity tool. I downloaded it and printed it out. Am going to give this a shot. But so far I like it! I love how he says to restrict viewing the inbox to twice a day! I am one of those “compulsive-inbox-checker” but I see his point – how it may distract us from our true goals.

Hope this helps you – now I have to go and follow what I preached 😀

Entrepreneurship – My Story – Continued

In continuation of my first blog Entrepreneurship – My Story I thought I would elaborate on how DIReach came about.

I founded DIReach on 2010 with a vision to help companies realize their potential through technology. I strongly believe technology should empower companies and individual to achieve their goals, free the employees from rudimentary work so that they can bring productivity and become high functioning entities.

My passion for technology goes quite back from when I got my first computer. I wanted to learn everything about this computer – how it functions and I felt deeply that it will be the way to the future. I took computer studies in High school and I found out that I discovered I loved programming! My first program was a snake and ladder game programmed out of a Structured language called Pascal. I worked in the computer lab of the High school also I was the project manager of our high schools website team. I encouraged teachers to post their homeworks, assignements and tests on the website. I was also the Math teachers assistant when I was grade 12 teaching students in grade 10. It is not too surprising that I went on to study Computer Science at University of Toronto, one of the worlds top most programs in Computer Science. I loved each and every minute of my time in UofT. However, it was very demanding program, with high pressure and high expectations from worlds best professors. I remember the countless sleepless nights and weekends spent in the universities computer lab. Now that I think about it – I was pretty much sleep deprived for 4 years! However, the indepth knowledge I got with all the various programming languages is worth every single of those sleepless nights! I was also fortunate enough to work with the University of Toronto’s Computer Science Center as a Web and technology advisor. This gave me invaluable practical experience along with my education. I helped the IT manager develop an automated system to track all the orders coming into the Computer Center. I created web-based form similar to that of SharePoint technology by Microsoft.

Upon graduation I got the biggest break of my career to work as the Computer Studies Instructor with Georgian College. I mainly taught Computer Programmer Analyst students for all level. This is an very high valued program as it not only teaches students in the hands on approach with 1:2 ration between classroom and computer lab. The students also had to do co-op in related field every 3rd semester. Laurentian university was also offered 4 year Computer Science degree program in 2 years for the graduates of this program. I was fortunate enough to teach Data Structure I for Laurentian University.  My students that I had the pleasure of teaching are now working for IBM, Deloitte, Accenture, Blackberry and other fortune 500 companies. It was great because the program had very similar courses that I took in University of Toronto. What my students don’t know was that I was studying and preparing lessons till the wee hours of the night and on weekends. It truly felt like I did not leave university at all!

Although it was a very rewarding working as a Computer Studies Instructor for Georgian college – I decided to work in the industry to prove that “those who can’t do – teach!” is not true! My first gig out of the Academia was to work as an assistant IT Manager for MJR Collections, a fast growing 3rd party collections agency known for their high performance in collections run by a passionate and driven owner Mr. Marty Rosic. When I went in the IT department was doing a great job in supporting the 200 and growing employee base. The backbone of the whole company was IT and Mr. Rosic wanted to invest more in IT since he knew that by utilizing the technology a collector can become a super-collector. When I joined I took Mr. Rosic’s “IT wishlist” to heart and worked relentlessly to turnover IT in a period of a year. I hired a VB programmer and developed using agile project management methodology a “Real Time Reporting System” which gave the owner KPI of all the accounts. You can say it was our own version of BI tool! I also lead company wide transformation to make MJR collections ISO17799 compliant by implementing new processes, improving existing processes and establishing an IT Steering Committee. Being ISO17799 compliance was very important for MJR as this was a requirement for Canadian Tire who was interested in working with MJR. I communicated with the Director of IT in Canadian Tire and gave him weekly status updates of all the improvements we were making. It was a great day at MJR when Canadian Tire came abroad! Another project that I was part of was to upgrade CallThru (Debt management software) to a new version. I worked with developers in USA as we were the first company to use the Beta version. I trouble shooted along with the senior developer over phone and web conferences.

It is then that I got to work for Microsoft. That 2.5 years working there was a so very invigorating. Every day I would go to the Microsoft Canada office in Mississauge and pinch myself to see if I am dreaming or not. It is a great company with super talented and hardworking people working. I have gone into the office at 7 am in the morning and I was not the first one there. I had left the office at 9 pm someday and I was not the last one to leave. First year of my tenure there I worked with the DMO (Data Management Organization) of MS as Senior Data Analyst. I worked on SQL Database with CRM and financial data repository providing Sales and Marketing team specialized report, improving upon ETL processes (in SSIS) and work on high visibility global data cleansing initiatives. After that I moved into the Marketing Services Center team working with the Marketing team to support them with all technical aspect. Along with the operational support and I enhanced the tools and set in best practices procedures for my team. One of the major projects that I was part of was the migration of the Marketing Data Warehouse project. It was a 2.5 million dollar project involving the Americas (North America and South America) with a team of 60. I consider this project to be career defining.

Coming out of Microsoft I faced a dilema of taking the next step. Although I had a lot of good employment opportunities coming my way I felt I really need scratch my entrepreneurship itch which started when I was in grade 4. (http://www.direach.com/entrepreneurship-my-story/) And that is when I founded my company DIReach with the vision to help companies utilize the right technology. You can say I jumped head first into the world of entrepreneurship without really thinking much as just going with my passion for technology and helping companies. I have learned a lot and still am learning a lot from a business point of view. I have met some incredible people and have often felt overwhelmed with the helping hand that I have had.

Please feel free to connect with me via LinkedIN: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/farah-tanzeem-pmp/3/905/49a

Or Follow me in Twitter: @direach

Or Like DIReach page in Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/DIReach-Associates/156890737656002

GITTM Feature – “Saffron Technology – Transforming organizations with cognitive computing”

GITTM_Saffron_Technology

DIReach is proud to feature its very first GITTM feature Saffron Technology – Transforming organizations with cognitive computing for anticipatory sense making and decision support.

I had the tremendous please to have an illuminated chat with the acting CMO of Saffron Tech Mr. Steve Ardire! Times like this I want to thank the stars for bringing technologies like Twitter, LinkedIn and the web into our lives which make this connection possible.

Even though our conversation started with chocolate (yes! chocolate!!! Steve is a dark chocolate aficionado) soon enough it went to Saffron Tech and let me tell you – I was blown away by the transformational power of this technology.

Now I have worked with Data most of my career and I appreciate the need of it in the business world – but all the recent hype about big data/BI makes me want to get a little skeptical, because No 1. I DO NOT like hypes. In business world no one denied the NEED of data – fueling business intelligence. It seems almost always the easy sell to C-level execs. Specially when times are tough and C-level execs wants to cut costs and increase revenues. Of course as an operational expert in their field they already have calculated in their mind which units are low performing and already has a hunch where the bleeding occurs, however when you have to take tough decision like closing down the low performing unit (may involve lay offs, and low moralle among the employees) they need to have enough KPI reports to back up their decisions. Now they may already have enough KPI reports put in place already (produced via ERP, CRM and other financial systems).  So unless you are a retail company or companies that relies on data to drive their business an investment on DWH/BI might not be as easy of a sell as you think. Mr. Dan (Daniel) Kusnetzky puts it down very simple for us that maintaining a DWH/BI infrastructure requires an amount of investment on its continuity if its in house (on the cloud a little less but never-the-less)  http://www.zdnet.com/blog/virtualization/what-is-big-data/1708 

Another area that BI often lacks is to answer “WHY”. I’ll explain. So in one of my project I employed OLAP cubes from the ERP system to provide the C-level execs a report that will allow them to drill down to the transaction level of how a certain resource unit was performing on real-time. When I rolled out the report – I got a push back from the business saying the report was wrong. I had just taken on this project which I was told was completed and just needs to be rolled out. So I dove deep with my newly acquired team to see IF there were any logical/programming error on our side. After reviewing the logic with my team and scrutinizing the ETL process we came to a conclusion there were no error in the report/Data. However, the directors who were involved in the day to day operations (who knew almost close to certainty how their unit is performing everyday) said the numbers just not matching up. So then we went further back into the ERP system and investigated with the BA’s who SME’s in generating reports. We then found out that there were wrong data being entered within a certain resource code. So, this then led to an agreement/disagreement of what the codes mean in different provinces/regions. Long story short – Big data gives you the indication of what is wrong but it doesn’t tell you WHY or WHERE the disjoint is.

SO when me and Steve were talking about what is cognitive computing for anticipatory sense making and decision support, I quickly dawned to me that this is the next generation of BI or “Big Data”.

Saffron Tech: All Source Intelligence for Anticipatory Sensemaking:

Cognitive Computing systems work the way humans learn and reason, in real time, with no rules or models or data scientists, always sense making and unifying prior experience with new information in order to see emerging patterns and to anticipate what will happen next.

Mission: Deliver real-time, always learning cognitive computing systems that transform how organizations think, act, and operate to manage risks and drive better outcomes.

3Cs – Connections, Counts & Context!

I would highly recommend this 2 min video by Saffron Techs CEO Ms. Gayle Sheppard on this ground breaking technology – http://goo.gl/hR5Ok

How it works: Cognitive Computing Platform is built upon Saffron’s patented associative memory technology for knowledge representation and reasoning. Our approach combines schema-free semantics with model-free statistics to represent the connections within diverse data sources – structured and unstructured – without need for rules, modeling, or data curation. Saffron’s reasoning methods include advanced discovery, diagnostic, anticipatory and prescriptive analytic.

Mr. James Taylor a veteran on Decision Management Solution world had put it ever so eloquently in his report –  http://bit.ly/13LfuN6

If this is not enough – you definitely HAVE to see the three demos (LinkedIn analysis – recruiters dream, Lehman Bankruptcy, London Bomber) posted on Saffron’s website to FULLY appreciate this technology!

Saffron has big plans for 2013, you I can assure you this is not the last time you will hear about them.  With a track record of successful project in National Security – Saffron is planning on taking over the corporate risk management domain!!!

GTA PM’s Afterwork Soiree!

Project Managers After Work Soiree - My order Curry Chips

Curry Chips from Swan and Firkin – Curry Chicken on fries – this is what I ordered!

Yesterday was the very first meet up of the “GTA Project Managers United“, the group I created in Meetup.com. I was surprised to find there were no existing Project Managers group in Meetup! So I just opened the group just as an experiment and been pleasantly surprised at the response I have been getting from project managers or aspiring project managers around the Greater Toronto Area.

Our very first meet up was a great success! Much more than my expectation. It was a cozy group of 6 project manager from a varied background but we all got along really well in a short time. We talked about quite a few things regarding the world of PM! The venue was Swan and Firkin at the Bloor west area and the staff were extremely friendly and accommodating. We had a whole corner to ourselves underneath a greenhouse like terrace. Even though it was raining outside we stayed warm with the heating system cranked up. Following are some of the thing we talked about with great good and drinks:

Challenges a PM faces:

Being a PM can be a thankless job. When the project goes well and ends well – it is to the credit of the Project sponsor or the project team. No one really cares to thank the project manager, sometimes comments – “of the project manager what do they do? they just show up for status meeting and boss everyone around”! We all laughed and nodded in agreement. One of the PM’s had a direct stories to tell in this regard. How she worked day and night very hard at completing a project but when it was done successfully the project lead who she reported to got a bouquet of flower as a recognition and not her. I think it is important to thank each and every one of the project team as every one equally does a great contribution in their own domian – INCLUDING the project manager. The moral of the story: If you are a project manager you have to do it because you love doing not – not in expectation of recognition or money even because a project managers salary isn’t always higher than that of the rest of the team mates.

Being a PM you have lot of responsibility but no authority (unless you are the functional manager and the Project manager at the same time). How do you get resources to listen to you and keep deadlines when they are not really reporting to you. Sometimes team members or stakeholder creates hindrances because of their own gain/politics/agenda. How do you deal with that? Well the answer is it depends from person to person and situation to situation. You have to have a LOT of soft skills, like communication, likability, relationship building in order to get the work done. Like if you are personable and have a great rapport with the team members you can casually check on them and say “hey, I would really appreciate if you can do this by ..” So being a diplomat and peoples person is make things easier for a PM. If this fails you can talk to other PM’s in the office or the team members functional manager “off the record” to see if they have experienced something similar and what have they done in that case. Often times the functional manager will say to “CC” him/her in emails when dealing with that particular team member. It will work for sure but the risk is that you may anger the team member and he/she will feel like you are “outing” him/her to their boss. Here one of the PM’s commented that once after finishing a project successfully she hated to go into the office because she thought everyone was hating her. So being a project manager is a constant juggling act. I think to make a project successful you have to have 50% method 30% expertise and 20% soft skills (like communication, relationship building, negotiation)

There were couple of really good questions, such as –

What sectors often require you to have PMP certificate? Ans, so far in my experience I have seen Government sector and banks asking for PMP more and more. I know Deloitte also requires their PM’s to have PMP certification. We had one attendee from the government section from the municipal side and she mentioned that in her team there were PM’s that didn’t have PMP certification. So the case might be relevant for Provincial government and not municipal.

Does having a PMP certification increase your chances of getting more jobs? Ans, Yes and No. The job searching methodologies are still the same in terms of landing a job such as networking, applying, working with recruitment firms. However, I have applied to positions where PMP is mandatory. So in that sense I would say that it increased my chances cause I can apply to jobs that has PMP mandatory and also where it is recommended.

It seems like the HR professionals doesn’t always know what PMP entitles for! Discussion, yes PMP is still not so widely recognized. But in the world of “Project Management” professionals it is pretty well known.

How do you get into project management profession from another profession? Ans, I shared my story. Since I was in IT I was always exposed to projects. The nature of IT is that we are often responsible to enroll a new software of a build a new solution. You need to promise the clients a delivery date and a plan to help them adopt. So in IT project management is absolutely necessary. Also there’s the cost involved. Often times IT resources comes with a high price so it becomes absolutely mandatory to put in proper project management principles to have a strong hold on the cost. Another industry where project management is crucial is Construction industry. I’ve been taking project management courses with Sheridan College for a while now and I met quite a few project managers from the construction industry. In that industry you have deadline and material and resources that comes at high cost and not just that the timeline of one task to be completed before another is absolutely crucial to success. Similar to custom building software.

Can a project manager from one industry can work in projects in another industry? Ans, Depends!!! For example, I am an IT project manager however, lately I’ve taken on projects that are more “business” side such as managing an RFQ project for a printing company and also a startup plan for a Technical Consulting company. However, I would be kind of skeptical to venture into lets say project management in the construction industry because I know it will be a steep learning curve and I have a make sure I have a good SME or a project lead to work with me. The debate was why? Project management is still the same no matter which industry! True, however, me and another of my team mates agreed that if you are really relentless in getting the project finished in time you may need to “roll up your sleeve” and dive deep into solving roadblocks (technical or otherwise) and a background in the industry you are in brings a lot of value from you to the project along side of that of your skills as a PM.

I’m an analyst and I now when if I switch to a PM by salary is going to go down! Yes, that is rue, if you have been an analyst for 10 or 20 years you do bring a lot of value as a PM however, your salary as a PM will be measured by the years you have worked AS a PM! So if you have the goal to be a PM I would say start as soon as possible making a move in that role. But how?

1. By talking to your HR team and other teams to see if you have take on some project management/coordinator roles along with your current role! The fact that you are already in the company and are used to the processes and the business already adds to your value.

2. Search online for Project coordinator/manager roles and see what skills sets those position is asking for. Do a gap analysis with your own skill set. See what you have and what you need to improve upon.

3. Take a course! There are many courses out there offered by universities and colleges in Project management. In my career when I was working as a Senior Analyst for Microsoft I started taking Project management certification program with Sheridan college. My first course what Introduction to Project Management and the professor was a PM from World Vision. She had us work on case study and gave example of real like projects from her work. Also she made us write project charters, project plans, stakeholder analysis and all sorts of project artifacts that I found really important to build my foundation as a project manager. Also it eases your way into the PMBOK book for PMP if you are inclining in to write that certification program. These courses also offers you PDU (professional development units) which you need to also write your PMP certification exam. So you are killing two birds with one stone. Actually 3 birds, because you can put that in your resume or tell your HR manager in your company and the company will see that you are serious about making a move as a PM as you have investing your own time outside of work in the pursuit. Some companies have an programs and courses regarding PM you can also take advantage on those. There are few online resources that are free but not enough. A lot of it you have to pay.

4. Volunteer! Try getting involved in a community event to help organize an event. Put your project management learning to good use in a practical event. Or get together with friends and organize a charity event. Few years ago few of my friends organized a charity singles mixer, raised funds and donated that to Global Medical Relief Fund. So you take charge of your learning and skills and create your own opportunities. The more you manage few project the more confident you will become. The last thing you want to do is take on a project as work without being prepared for it and create a stressful situation for yourself and your company.

5. Find a mentor! Talk to another PM. Either in your company or outside. Talk to them find out what it is like. How they go into the role. What advice they have to share. I have done that initially in my career. One of the participants shared that PMI org offers regular meet up and mentor ship program. But at the same time we all agreed that the PM community is very dispersed even though there seems to be just few of us. What the participant felt was the events organized by PMI were too big and it took him about 6 month to get the advice he needed from the mentor that he got in our meet up group in about 15 mins! Also it cost money to be part of the PMI org! One of our team member said she calculated that it would cost her 2k to just upkeep her PMP cert through PMI. I am personally not part of the PMI org and I don’t have to really worry about my PDU (as you need a certain amount to keep on renewing you certification) as I still have 2 more courses left with Sheridan, which will give me 36+42 = 78 PDU (much MORE than I need) AND on top I will get a PM certification from Sheridan for LESS than 1k.

How do you handle the situation when you take on a project in the middle of execution and don’t really have a lot of support from the previous PM because they are no longer in the company? Ans. Been there, done that 😀 Sometimes it is what it is. And when you are faced with such a situation unfortunately its a bit chaotic. It will be hard to absorb all the artifacts that there were from before, like Project charter, plan, req docs, tons of docs that you will feel overwhelmed. And you might not have the time you would like to go through these because business is eager to get the project finished. Also project stakeholders MIGHT take the opportunity and try to persuade you to push in their own agenda. In this case, I sort of start working like a lawyer dealing with a case.

1. Scan the documents as fast as you can. Take a note of few key points that are important to you at this moment.

2. Meet with key stakeholders/team members INDIVIDUALLY first. Jot down the notes on what their take on the project. What they think is going well and what is not. Where they are in terms of contributing to the project. Brace yourself as they might put a lot of blame on the old PM. Just be objective. Stay on the project deliverable as much as possible. Initially DO NOT put the whole team in one room to get the update of the status. It will be a huge chaos (specially if the old PM is not there and the project isn’t going that well).  Its more productive (even if you think it will take up a lot of your time) to meet separately and you will be able to cross reference everyone story.

3. Now you go back to your project notes and compare it with the meeting notes of your team members. As a PM/Lawyer/detective you might start seeing the issue and start an appreciation of the story. At that point – you start bringing two or three sub-groups together and start coming up with an action plan. Once you have done that you go back and either apply it to the original project plan or produce a modified version. If you feel confident – bring the whole team and share the plan with everyone. Here it is crucial that you have already shared parts of it with the subgroup so that the meeting doesn’t get bogged down with questions but more or less everyone listens and agrees. This will establish you as PM in the group and the whole team will be in unison. Don’t afraid to be a very positive and cheerful! As we all know all the hats that we wear as a PM one of them is definitely that of a Cheer leaders!

4. Never forget to keep the project sponsor in the loop! and ALWAYS check your budget. Once the initial issues are ironed out you should be good to just follow the PM methodologies for the rest of the project.

I’m working as an Accounting analyst and want to get in PM. Is that a good idea? Yes, one of the big parts of being a PM is able to manage budget. A strong accounting background will definitely be a great asset for you as a PM. I know few PM’s who are good with technical or BA side but are afraid to take on multimillion dollar projects. It usually takes a strong budget skills, and subject matter skills along with methodologies and soft skills to be  a successful PM.

In conclusion, I would say the PM’s meet up was a great success! We had lots of laughs believe it or not along with the above really great discussion. I am looking forward to the next meet up and can’t wait to share more resources with the aspiring PM’s through my website here!

 

 

 

Entrepreneurship – My Story


 

I was in grade 4 when it started.

My father was a Civil Engineer. He often brought work home. Pouring over architectural designs and blueprints of buildings.  He would explain the floor plans to me. Since I was young the concept design of the end result drawn by the architects attracted me the most. My father had great relationship with the architects too. They would come over to our house and work on projects to meet deadline on bids.

My mother was a manager at a private bank and she often brought work home. I used to see her cut quite a few cheques  and calculate money (balance sheets) all the time.

Once my dad was throwing away his old briefcase as he got a new one and I asked if I could have his old briefcase. He was a bit puzzled – didn’t know why a 10 year old girl will want a briefcase but he didn’t think much to it and gave it to me. And then I asked my mom if I could have some of her cheque books. She had some expired ones so she gave those to me.

I took these two things to school and recruited my classmates to work for me. I founded an architecture firm.  I used to give them a project – to draw a building of a library or a movie theater or a mall. They had exactly one week to do it. And there was a deadline to submit these drawings. Once they submitted I would evaluate them, choose the top three designs and pay them. The top design obviously got the highest amount and second one less and the last one the least. Oh and I had an assistant too, who helped me out. We had folders for each. The whole class got involved. This business game was a huge hit. And a lot of fun!

Do you have a story you would like to share when you first had your entrepreneurship inkling?

More on my entrepreneurship  story here :)