Author: Will Kelly

Will Kelly

About Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer based in the Washington, D.C. area. After having to learn Microsoft Project early in his career, he developed an interest in writing about project management applications. You can visit Will’s website at http://www.willkelly.com and follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

What Project Teams Need to Succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Productivity is on the rise in manufacturing, and employment is down. This trend points to a rise in automation, as well as the need for product teams to leverage the latest technology more than ever. There’s no doubt about it: We’re entering a new world of industry.

project team

The upcoming Fourth Industrial Revolution, also called Industry 4.0 is about a future with self-driving cars, 3D printers, and customized automation. This revolution begins when the cyber and physical realms converge in the form of data and analytics from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), automation, mobility, and the cloud. Project teams who can harness these technologies now will find themselves leading their industries in this coming digital transformation.

The project teams that win in the new world are already positioning themselves to sail through the potential disruptions that these changes will produce.

You can count yourself as a 4.0 team if you are:

  • Implementing big data and analytics throughout the current project life cycle
  • Building IIoT experience through personal study, work, open source projects or side projects
  • Using mobile devices as the primary interface for some of your major systems
  • Getting automation to work for you (not as a replacement strategy), enabling teams and organizations to think more strategically
  • Moving your software systems to the cloud.

Another way project teams can resist the disruption of the fourth industrial revolution is through security expertise. The dangers of hackers will only rise in the fourth industrial revolution as even more critical systems connect to the internet.

To be successful today and into the future, here are five technology best practices that project teams need to embrace.

1. Get Ready for the Smart Factory

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will give rise to what they call the smart factory. Here, all elements of a plant including machines, products, and virtually the entire environment are networked with each other and connected to the internet.

The smart factory marks some unprecedented changes for the manufacturing project team, such as:

  • Flexible production capabilities to respond to changing world markets for your company’s products
  • Greater efficiency with building materials and energy
  • Greater speed through smarter production processes
  • More intelligent logistics through technology solutions that support product manufacturing from the customer sales cycle through final delivery.

IIoT and big data serve as the “smart” in a smart factory. IoT turns manufacturing machinery and the supply chain into intelligent agents that generate data. Analytics tools pull in that big data for self-learning.

Project teams that harness that self-learning can move from being reactionary to becoming visionary because they grasp this technology evolution. The technologies behind the smart factory offer workers improved user experience (UX) not just in application user interfaces but a modern, efficient, ergonomic workplace.

2. Big Data for Everyone

For project teams, data analytics will play a growing role in the fourth industrial revolution. One of the main reasons is that IIoT is enabling firms to capture actionable data from machinery across all their manufacturing facilities.

This means, everybody on the team will have a graphical view into data anytime, anywhere—not just project managers. A picture of machinery health and other related data will always be a few taps away. Three breeds of analytics will start to dictate what your project team maintains on the factory floor:

  • Descriptive Analytics using data aggregation and data mining to provide insight into the past and answer: “What has happened?”
  • Predictive Analytics using statistical modeling to understand the future and answer: “What could happen?”
  • Prescriptive Analytics using optimization and simulation algorithms. The output can offer possible outcomes to operations and maintenance scenarios and answer: “What should we do?

For example, collaboration, project management, and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions will use analytics for security. Management may consult the analytics for usage trends before negotiating the next license with the platform vendor.

The first project team in a manufacturing organization that harnesses data and analytics is going to have a front seat to the fourth industrial revolution. It’s important for your team to factor analytics and data into your project management strategy and learn to tell data-driven stories about progress (and not see the analytics as intrusive).

Think of the team in the future that wants their employer to purchase new technology to extend their manufacturing platform. The investment makes sense to the technical people on the floor. Executives, however, aren’t such an easy sell because none of them have turned a bolt since they were out of school. The crafty project team can now present compelling data that can enable them to speak to executives like they are a fellow person, not a lower level worker on the manufacturing floor.

3. Get Behind Automation on the Manufacturing Floor

Another outcome of the fourth industrial revolution is going to be automation. Indeed, it’s a sensitive topic across many industries, as automation is going to disrupt project teams. Executives spy cost savings. Employees fear the unemployment line. This clash between employees and management ultimately needs to become a platform where both parties seek out the opportunities and benefits that automation delivers the business and how to cast employees into the future.

Automation speeds up production and delivery because it reduces manual intervention on age-old jobs. To gain the benefits you’re seeking from automation—whether it’s freeing up skilled hands for more important work or reorganizing your staffing structure—you’ll need to consider the following:

Inevitably, industry watchers and analysts say that automation is going to replace certain types of jobs, which may challenge the bonds of your project team. While automation-proofing your position and your team is difficult if not impossible, the smart and savvy teams facing down the fourth industrial revolution will be the ones developing, implementing, and managing automation solutions lest they might be one of the teams replaced whole or in part by automation.

4. It’s Also the Mobile Devices Revolution

Billions of people already reach for their smartphones and mobile devices first for information, collaboration and business interactions. However, the manufacturing industry is still relatively mobile poor in their technology stack. Industry 4.0 will change that by pushing mobile usage on the manufacturing floor for managers and technicians who need on-demand access to data. No more creating pivot tables in a spreadsheet; instead, think graphical rendering and reporting of data and statistics for machinery across the line.

Other factors like the rise of the citizen developer will also push mobile adoption in the fourth industrial revolution. These developers are digital age business users (not programmers) developing their own business apps using code-free or low code tools and cloud platforms. While manufacturing is seen by some as a mobile device poor industry because of budget and security concerns. Expect Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to be the first step for manufacturing enterprises to use mobile devices every day.

5. Cloud Computing Powers the Smart Factory

With the dominance of IoT, data, and analytics in the fourth industrial revolution means that cloud computing will be the platform of choice because of its flexibility and affordability. While the cloud isn’t new to some industries, manufacturing firms are behind on this trend. The retiring of legacy applications and mobile apps will help push this trend on the manufacturing floor. Forward thinking teams and organizations are already moving to the cloud; going forward, the usage of cloud and application programming interface (API) integration will increase exponentially.

Project teams walking into a smart factory for work can expect the following:

  • Cloud-enablement of legacy systems
  • Cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Proactive tools including analytics for scheduling of system maintenance
  • DevOps-like alerting for system and machinery failures.

While cloud security remains a concern across industries there have been security advancements by public cloud providers. The hybrid cloud, and the private cloud are lessening such worries for small to mid-sized firms that can’t afford in-house IT security expertise on a full-time basis.

Change Strengthens Project Teams

Change can be disruptive to some types of personalities and management structures. Some pundits and analysts tracking the fourth industrial revolution believe the role of government will become even more important. I say the role and power of the technology project team will become more important because they are the ones doing the work.

Today’s knowledge workers have some recourse for the fourth industrial revolution because they can educate themselves on the technologies powering the fourth generation to better position themselves inside their company.

How is your team preparing for the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution?

In our latest eBook, “Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” we take a look at what it means to thrive in Industry 4.0, and what tools are necessary to keep up with new world market demands. We’re going there right along with you!

Download the eBook now!
Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

5 Project Management Trends for Manufacturing Teams to Watch in 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s time to look at some project management trends we can expect to see in 2017. With all the talk of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and anticipation among future-thinkers and business leaders around Industry 4.0, a lot of industry trends and processes are focused on how to succeed in a new world of technology, market demands and productivity requirements.

2017 project management trends

As always, market forces continue to influence how businesses manage their projects. To prepare for what’s ahead, here are five project management industry trends that will gain traction in 2017.

1. IIoT becomes a project foundation

While IoT made our 2016 project management trends list, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is going to hold sway over manufacturing project teams in 2017 and well beyond.

Open source development platforms will make IIoT development possible for even smaller to mid-sized manufacturing firms. Each of those IIoT devices implemented across a manufacturing facility will generate data on the health of the machinery. That data, in turn, will be a foundation for new implementations, maintenance, and just daily operations.

IIoT will bring changes to project management, including:

  • New challenges to support a constant availability of systems
  • More analysis work on part of project managers and their teams because of the explosion in data that  IIoT bring to the company
  • The need for an IIoT strategy across the manufacturing floor.

Such a fundamental change in the foundation of projects will drive project managers to adjust their frameworks, strategies and how they deliver projects to their customers.

2. Big data and analytics join the project team

Big data and analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry. I’ve been tracking the influence of big data and analytics in IT project management, but manufacturing project management is going to take these technologies to a whole new level.

With IIoT, project teams will be building out more analytics tools and dashboards to give executive management insights into the manufacturing systems under their control.

Analytics will also have some profound changes over project management because of the unprecedented access to analytics including:

  • Descriptive Analytics using data aggregation and data mining to provide insight into the past and answer: “What has happened?”
  • Predictive Analytics using statistical modeling to understand the future and answer: “What could happen?”
  • Prescriptive Analytics using optimization and simulation algorithms. The output can offer possible outcomes to operations and maintenance scenarios and answer: “What should we do?”

While prescriptive analytics might seem a bit Star Trek, think of how simulation algorithms could improve how you plan projects and even staff scheduling!

3. Flexible knowledge management

The changing workforce in manufacturing is going to require project managers to keep knowledge management (KM) flexible to meet the learning needs of a transitional workforce on the manufacturing floor. You can expect to see more KM in the cloud, as more companies retire legacy KM solutions that have been cobbled together over the years. Don’t expect to see any new KM platforms entering the market; with the volume of data and documentation that manufacturing project teams produce, cloud collaboration platforms (with full featured mobile clients) will effectively handle the growth in KM.

2017 will also mark more decentralization of KM because of the growth of the cloud inside the manufacturing enterprise. Project teams will add KM to their already growing list of tasks.

4. Project management platform by API

Project management tools started on paper, moved to the desktop PC, then evolved into the cloud and mobile. You can expect to see what I call project management by application programming interface (API) as a future trend. It’s where project management extends beyond your cloud project management platform of choice through integration with other backend business platforms–whether it’s your enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, customer relationship management (CRM) platform or some legacy applications your internal development team has already migrated to the cloud.

Digital transformation and the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will start pushing this trend in 2017 and over the next few years.

5. Mobile project management tools and strategies

The primary interface to project management applications in a manufacturing environment is going to be mobile first. Project managers walking the floor, going to meetings, and working with machinery will need real-time access to project management data anytime, anywhere–and not just from their desk.

Mesh networks and next-generation WiFi will help push this trend forward. Not to mention, project management tool vendors must continue improving user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) to push this trend fully to its potential.

Look for service engineers to get their assignments and report on their activities directly from their mobile or handheld devices. Some are saying that mobility faces an uphill battle in manufacturing. I see project management as the best on-ramp for firms to go mobile. I see shadow IT and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) igniting this trend inside mid- to large-sized companies until budgets and the IT department align.

To a successful 2017!

It will be interesting to see how this year takes us further into Industry 4.0. However the markets unfold and affect businesses, the way teams manage projects is changing to keep up with shifting productivity demands. The organizations that can harness these trends will find themselves as leaders in their industries.

In our latest eBook, “Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” we take a look at what it means to thrive in Industry 4.0, and what tools are necessary to keep up with new world market demands. We’re going there right along with you!

Download the eBook now!
Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

8 Best Practices for Prioritizing Project Work for Your Team

Prioritizing project work is a challenge for project teams across many industries. While shifting priorities are a natural part of working life, when you don’t prioritize work you can lay havoc to all your team’s projects and initiatives, and even drain team morale.

prioritize project work

Effective prioritization is as much an art as a science. Here are some best practices for prioritizing work for your project team.

1. Make the Project Schedule Visible to Everyone

Running a project team without using a schedule that’s accessible by everyone is a sure-fire way to set your team up for problems. At some point during a project an executive is likely to make a demand that shifts priorities; or, another team’s work is delayed and that has a ripple effect. This new information doesn’t always disperse itself through the entire team, so you have some individuals working on either a shelved task, or yesterday’s priority.

To keep team members updated on their top priorities every day, use a collaborative project and work management tool that lets everyone from individuals to managers to stakeholders have unlimited visibility into the project schedule and all the associated work in progress.

2. Create a Project Backlog

A great way to prioritize team work is to use the project backlog concept from Agile software development. This lets you capture all of your project tasks before you assign priorities to team members. A great way to put this into play, is to use a work management application that includes a folder for your backlog tasks; or, create your own team folder for backlog tasks yourself.

The project backlog concept can be an important tool to show management all of the work that falls under your team’s responsibility that still needs prioritization.

3. Manage Your Team for the Long and Short Game

I once worked for a manager prone to distraction because he was eager to please his managers and show off to his office crush. To display his industriousness, he responded to incoming work requests by pulling the whole team off ongoing work, despite looming deadlines. If he used a project schedule, he would have realized the team was almost evenly spread between longer term projects and short-term work.

Instead of always defaulting to all hands on deck, this manager could have pulled a team member or two from a project where the new priority wouldn’t compromise the whole team’s deadlines. Managing the short and the long game means effectively prioritizing work on longer ongoing projects, as well as the shorter projects that will occur as well.

4. Know Your Business

The manager from the preceding point #3 had a few more shortcomings: He didn’t understand the subject matter, the technology or the processes underlying his team’s projects. Further complicating matters, he would take work management advice from his office crush, someone who knew even less than he did about the team’s work. This combination really messed with the team’s priorities.

When you know your business, you’re in a much better position to prioritize project work. Here are some ways to learn more about your business, and continually stay on top of trends:

  • Read widely in your field and industry.
  • Pursue continuing education.
  • Ask each team member about the work being done.
  • Learn what matters to your manager, other stakeholders and customers.

When you know the business, and understand how your team’s work fits in to a larger vision, you’ll be able to set the right priorities for your team.

5. Give Project Tasks a Finish Date

Most organizations are kept in business by meeting deadlines and delivery dates, especially manufacturing companies. When team members receive a task that has a deadline attached to it, they’re much more inclined to start that over another one without a finish date. That’s why best laid project plans always include deadlines or finish dates assigned to every task that makes up the project.  The dates alone can help both management and team members prioritize their work. And if priorities still aren’t clear, or there are too many overlapping dates, this spurs conversations about project priority and what work most matters to move forward.

6. Add Buffers: Account for Uncertainty in Your Schedule

You can be sure that something unexpected will occur during the course of your project—a stakeholder request, a delay, resource issue, you name it. When you work in an environment that’s especially notorious for shifting priorities, some project or team managers will build in a buffer of time to plans. For example, a buffer could be a few hours or days added to a review period. You can remove a few hours from the buffer without disrupting project delivery while still meeting new priorities.

Another way to do this is to use a project management tool that accounts for uncertainty by letting you make ranged estimates for work and consider best case/worst case scenarios, rather than a single-point deadline. This way the buffer is automatically built in to the schedule.

7. Learn How to Predict Incoming Priority Shifts

I once had a project lead who was able to create a little oasis of productivity and rationality in what was otherwise a dysfunctional organization. His secret was that he could tell when a priority might shift before it even happened.

He did this by becoming a student of project failure and dysfunction; he could identify the exact project milestones where the process might break down and priorities would change.

He took a proactive stance: Whenever he saw a possibility where a priority would shift, he adjusted team priorities and schedules accordingly. The lesson I learned was to always try to be aware of all parts of the project, not just my own responsibilities. The issues that affect your team’s priorities usually begin upstream.

8. Draw the Line between Urgent and Important Tasks

Managing the long and short game also means balancing priorities on urgent and important tasks, and knowing when to draw the line.

Drawing the line means:

  • Urgent tasks get immediate attention based on business-critical factors like winning new business and keeping existing business. Getting a check from a customer as the result is often the big decider with urgent tasks for many organizations.
  • Important tasks receive ongoing attention, and are only put on hold when an urgent task truly requires all hands on deck. Important tasks support the projects that together keep the business going, so don’t undervalue their priorities.

When a new work request comes in, ask yourself if it falls into Urgent or Important task buckets. If you’re not sure, use it as an opportunity to have a conversation clarifier around what the larger goal is, and structure your priorities from there. You don’t want to be the person always saying “yes” to an incoming “urgent task.” Because as we all know, not every piece of work is business-critical—no matter how much it might feel like it is.

Be a Proactive Manager of Priorities

Your team wants to be working on the right priorities! They want to know that the work they’re doing is the right work to move the business forward, no matter how often priorities change. As a project manager or team leader, it’s up to you to stay proactive in directing the undulations of the team’s priorities. Make sure your team has the tools and schedule access they need to know what their priorities are; get to know what your team is doing, what individuals need, and what your stakeholders are expecting from you.

If you manage priorities effectively, not only will you increase productivity, you’ll improve your team’s morale. Everyone wants to do work that really makes a difference!

Are your team’s priorities supported by a solid project management process? Find out! Take our Project Management Health Check, a 9-question multiple-choice assessment of your project management process.  

Take the assessment!

The Future of Digital Business: What Does This Mean for Project Teams?

It’s Monday morning. A project manager from the dev team has a meeting with partner marketing to see if his team can help the marketing group launch a new mobile app to corporate partners later that day. Two of the team’s developers hop onto a conference call with one of the company’s cloud hosting providers to discuss the new features they are pushing into production for a client-facing application. The rest of the team is working with a programmer from the finance department, completing a new accounting system feature scheduled to launch that evening. It’s just another day in digital business.

digital business for project teams

Digital business blurs the line between the physical and digital worlds to create new ways of doing business according to the definition set by analyst firms Gartner and Forrester. Here are some changes that project teams can expect in the digital business future.

The democratization of project management

The centralized project management office (PMO) comes into direct conflict with the digital business where traditional lines become blurred. A traditional PMO is a top-down command structure for delivering software projects. A digital business does away with that age-old power structure and even lets business units manage their software development projects without IT assistance.

While part of me can understand one view that says digital business is going to end project management. But what I really see is how digital business democratizes project management. Yes, the PMO as we know it might be gone, but cloud-based project management applications will enable project team members to enter and interact with project information in real-time, and in visual formats that are helpful and accessible to them. In turn, project managers and executive stakeholders can set up personalized views into project schedules and information as they need them.

IT organizations grow increasingly decentralized

Once upon a time, organizations had a centralized IT department that supported the various business units and departments—from engineering and marketing to accounting and support. The migration of business systems to the cloud, along with mobile app clients for those cloud platforms, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and DIY app development are going to making it easy for business departments to fend for themselves.

I’ve reviewed some of these apps and DIY app development tools in the past for clients. While these tools may never replace some enterprise applications, they are good enough in 2016. Give some of these tools another few versions and it might be a very digital business friendly story including shorter development timelines and less reliance on programmers.

These technological changes will make for a more decentralized IT organization. Project teams could lose their buffer with their business customers. By necessity, project managers will have to become more business savvy and entrepreneurial because their projects could be spread out across multiple departments and business units. Project terms may shorten too. While I don’t foresee software developers losing their jobs, those jobs could become increasingly more specialized. In the case of operations teams, digital business means leaner operations groups because so much of the digital business infrastructure is outsourced to cloud providers.

PPM goes bye-bye

There’s been some significant investments and exciting developments around project portfolio management (PPM) in recent years. These developments promised executive stakeholders a single view into all of the projects going on inside their organization. The future of digital business disrupts that nice one-person view as projects become smaller, more agile, and more than likely move outside the IT department. The scope of PPM will no longer be necessary as digital businesses seek out more collaborative cloud-based project management solutions to manage smaller more iterative development projects pursued by the IT department and business units.

Agile across the business

Agile development and Agile project management will gain the widest possible adoption in digital business. When it comes to digital business, Agile will transform the business culture and processes, not just software, which will help organizations be more responsive and adaptive to change.

Project teams with Agile development experience will do just fine in a digital business future. However, it’s Agile across the business, meaning the entire enterprise will need to learn and adopt Agile-related processes to ensure successful adoption on the road to becoming a digital business. You can expect to see Agile practices crop outside the development organization in areas including human resources, marketing, and even accounting.

DevOps breaks down silos

Many analysts following digital business agree that DevOps will be one of the great accelerators that can help companies enable digital business transformation. A real test before getting to DevOps will be development and operations teams finding shared goals. Passing that test will be another step in preparing project teams for a digital business future. Another test will be representatives from development and engineering groups educating business units about DevOps to help shepherd the needed cultural changes forward.

More analytics? Yes, please!

Digital businesses are increasingly data-driven. With all the excellent work being done by project management platforms, business intelligence (BI), collaboration platforms, and big data vendors to provide analytics in the cloud, project teams can expect a lot more analytics in digital business.

project teams and data

I expect that there will be project managers and team members who won’t trust the rising tide of analytics across their backend systems. The savvy project managers new to digital business will look for ways to use the newfound analytics to bolster their business cases, proposals, and team’s standing in the organization. Analytics will also play a larger part in cloud and mobile security. This will enable even a decentralized IT department to spot trends in cloud-based application and mobile usage by their employees, contractors, and customers to enable them to manage BYOD reimbursements and even pinpoint usage anomalies that are the first sign of a potential security breach.

Project teams inside digital businesses

In a digital business future, Agile development, DevOps, harnessing data, and collaboration will be the order of the day. Development teams will follow more traditional Agile and DevOps methods that might be modified for organizational needs. Sales, marketing, communications, finance/accounting and other business departments will also become more Agile by following more iterative business processes, contributing to cross-functional teams on a regular basis, and taking a greater development, operational, and operational stake in technology projects that affect them at departmental and corporate levels.

If you want to ride the digital business train and become a more agile organization and team, see how this fast-moving process works for your business. Download our eBook, “Agile for Everyone.”

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The Project Manager’s Guide to Managing Job Stress

managing job stress

You probably know about some of the negative impacts of stress—on your health, on your relationships, on your career. But here’s an angle that few of us speaks about in the world of project management: managing stress so it doesn’t have a negative outcome on your project.

When project leaders are stressed and their teams are as well—and that stress isn’t managed or contained—it can result in a calamity of poor judgments, impulsive decision making, lower quality work, bad morale, the list goes on. But any one of these fall outs from stress can make a mark on a project, and leave behind a bad experience for everyone involved, as well as a poorly executed project.

We’ve all been there—stressed to the gills, and unable to find a way to come off the mountain of anxiety.

Why does stress happen, and why is it so hard to let go of?

Well first, a few things about stress. The human body recognizes stress on both negative and positive levels according to “Job Stress: Finding the Right Amount of Job Stress For You,” by Jim Porter. Managing stress then becomes finding the right balance of negative and positive stress in your life.

Some stressors that are universal for project teams include:

  • Micromanagement
  • Ill-defined and even technically unfeasible requirements
  • Inadequate training
  • Too much overtime
  • Information silos
  • Coworker and departmental level disputes

Porter points out in his article that European companies take it upon themselves to manage employee stress. In the U.S., it’s on the worker’s shoulders to solve their stress.

Here’s what I say: If stress management is incumbent on the worker, then project managers and leads should make their responsibility to use tools and processes to help their team manage stress as effectively as possible—because it will ultimately put them in a better position to deliver at project deadline time.

Find the stress sweet spot for your team

A job with too much stress leads to burnout; a job with no stress can be mind-numbingly boring. A key takeaway from Porter’s blog post is the Yerkes-Dodson optimal performance curve. It’s a graph, and it shows how, as your levels of stress or arousal increases, your productivity increases.

job stress curve
The Yerkes-Dodson optimal performance curve. From StressStop.com

Everybody has their limits. When I hit my stress limit, I feel overwhelmed, cranky, and negative. But my line is different from someone else’s.

What is positive stress?

The psychological community refers to positive stress as Eustress. It gives you that extra burst of adrenaline to meet deadlines and accomplish goals. Eustress helps with motivation, mental alertness and efficiency. For instance, eustress for me is a project deadline. In fact, I could feel the eustress as the deadline for this article approached. Other times I feel eustress include getting a new project assignment and resolving a project issue that was blocking my progress.

What is negative stress?

Negative stress or distress is what we most identify with as stress. Distress has negative implications that include anxiety, decreased productivity, and physical and mental problems. Those with medical conditions like thyroid issues can aggravate their existing health conditions.  Negative stress for me is a soft deadline because I live in a world of conflicting priorities making it easy for me to let soft deadlines slip down my task list only to haunt me at a later date.

Here are some strategies you can use as a project manager to help your team manage stress:

Recognize the signs of stress in your project team members

Project managers need to be aware of the signs of stress in their team members. The greatest tool I’ve ever seen for managing project team stress is open lines of communications and collaboration amongst the team. Doubly so, if you manage remote team members. Use team meetings, one-on-ones, team activities and other opportunities for team members to communicate the stress they might be facing on their projects. Do what you can within the bounds of your corporate culture to ensure that talking about stress is no longer a taboo.

Encourage well-being practices

Rich Fernandez in his Harvard Business Review article entitled “Help Your Team Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout” advises offering personal development tools like resilience training. The article also advocates for encouraging your team to take time to exercise and pursue their own form of renewal activities. He gave additional examples including walking meetings and building in buffer time into deliverable schedules for work flexibility.

Be a working project manager and democratize project information

A project manager needs to be a contributing member of their project team, not just a visitor from the project management office (PMO). Joe Knight, Roger Thomas and Brad Angus in their HBR article entitled “Project Managers Should Share Their Stress” encourage project managers to stop holding their cards so close to their chest. It’s better to drop even a well-intentioned I’m-in-control approach.

With more organizations moving to Agile development, DevOps, and more cross-functional teams, the era of the command-and-control PMO is coming to an end for many organizations. Team members can now get a bigger stake in the project direction.

Now, project managers can focus on more strategic tasks related to the project. Such changes can mean a win for the project and the client because iterative development gives engineers feedback throughout the development cycle versus doing so at the very end. Developers also gain a direct channel to update their status throughout the project to an audience that includes their project manager and team. This immediate feedback channel can be stress relieving for some developers. While such changes might be stressful at first, once implemented they can remove a lot of stress around fear of the unknown for team members.

Using tools to manage stress

Looking back over the stress in my professional and personal lives, disorganization is a reoccurring theme behind my negative stress. Often it came from a disorganized and reactive manager or client. Sometimes the negative stress came because of my messy office.

Over time, I began to use SaaS applications and online tools to cope with some of the professional stress I face as a contractor. I keep my working project files up in the cloud, where I can access those files anytime, any place. I’ve broken down my processes for particular reoccurring projects and keep them as checklists in another SaaS application.

Along the way, I’ve helped centralize project management and collaboration using Wikis and other cloud platforms to keep project information centralized and accessible to the team. I’ve also helped some organizations move from desktop project management applications to cloud-based project management platforms giving teams the opportunity to centralize and democratize project information for project managers, developers, and stakeholders alike.

For teams who stress out over the uncertainties of projects—status, incoming changes, priorities, etc.—online project management tools can offer the insight and collaboration needed to allay some of those fears. SaaS platforms can democratize project schedules and related information giving team members and stakeholders the view they need (and can understand) over project information.

Stress, your project team and you

As a project manager the better you know how to manage and channel stress for your team. There’s no one-size-fits-all stress management approach for project teams. It’s going to about better communications, collaboration, and putting tools in place to manage your stress and the stress of your team members.

It’s possible that you could manage your and your team’s stress more effectively through your PM process or tool. To see if your current system is working for you, take the Project Management Health Diagnostic. It’s a 9-question multiple-choice quiz that will show you how to get on a good track!

Let’s Go

How to Get a Project Decision From Your Boss

Here’s something that doesn’t appear as a task or risk item on project plans: the decision-making process.

But think about it. Sometimes one of the biggest pain points is getting a decision from your boss or manager that moves the project forward. When you don’t get management approval, the time lag can derail a project from the beginning, especially when a decision is around budget approval, scope change, pricing decision and other critical decisions.

decision making

It’s a frustrating situation. Especially when you’re the project lead who’s been entrusted with responsibilities and delivery guidelines. As you sit at your desk wondering when on earth you’ll hear something definitive about the issues you need to move forward on, it’s easy to think you’re being given the passive silent treatment. If this is an important project—what’s the hold up? What’s going on?

There are some valid reasons why management decisions aren’t made in good time, and I’m going to talk about them here. A few times during my IT career, I’ve had a chance to peek behind the management curtain to learn why decisions haven’t been made. They include:

  • Fear of being wrong in risk-averse organizational cultures
  • Political turf wars among management
  • Fear of the CFO, or a potential budget chaos behind the scenes
  • Outdated (or nonexistent) technical skills in the management suite
  • Retirement in Place (RIP) where the manager is biding time to retirement (more common in government settings)

If you’re in a frustrated position of waiting for a decision, here’s my advice:

Learn the typical blockers to management decisions in your organization, and then learn how other project managers have worked around blockers in the past.

Here are 6 tips and considerations that will help you get a decision from your manager:

1.  Know your manager’s personality and working style

It’s easier to get a project decision from your manager when you know your manager’s personality and working style. For instance, I’ve had managers who were collaborative and wanted full consultation on the decision to be made. Then again I’ve had others who wanted to know what their options are for the decision.

Occasionally, I’ve come across some outlier managers who wanted project managers and teams to ply ahead on a project, make decisions as a team, and ask management for forgiveness later. Then again, there was the manager who wanted a formally documented business case before he made a decision.

It’s about knowing management style, not whether you consider it right or wrong and adapting how you ask for a decision.

2.  Equip your manager to make the decision

Once you have a handle on your manager’s personality and working style, you have to arm them to make a decision. Some people call this part of managing up. To me, it’s a communications exercise where you as a project manager need to have a decision made to advance your project.

Here are some methods for communicating with your manager to get a decision:

  • Provide your manager with 2-3 options about the decision, with explanations for each option.
  • Detail the pros and cons of the decision as they affect the customer, the project and your manager.
  • If a decision doesn’t go the way you want and has a business impact, then make sure the management decision-maker is aware of this, especially if it hurts their financial numbers.

3.  Give the decision a deadline a deadline

Managers can be busy people (or at least pretend to be), which makes it ever more important to attach a deadline with your decision request. I advise communicating the deadline as a potential block to progress:

I need a decision about X, before my team can do Y.

Busy people usually respond to deadlines better. The other benefit here is that a deadline gives you a milestone on which to follow-up. Remember: A request for a decision without a deadline is easier to ignore for a busy person versus a decision with a deadline. Your boss will respect you for it, too.

4.  Use the law of 3 for follow-up

One of the more interesting cultural issues I’ve seen as a contractor is the art of follow-up with management across organizational cultures. You can potentially prolong a decision if you follow up too soon or too often with a busy manager. My best advice is to know the culture of your organization when it comes to following up on a decision. If you haven’t worked with the manager much, you can even go ahead and ask about the best away to follow up on getting the answers you need.

It’s important to be respectful of the manager’s time. For instance, some managers don’t like to be hit up as soon as they get in the door in the morning. You also have to make your follow-ups actionable on part of the manager. In the Agile world, or on fast-moving projects, a slow or no decision can block project progress; so, referring to a “block” is language to stress during your follow ups. If you go in for a third follow-up with still no answer, then I would ask the manager if they require any additional information from you about your project to make the decision.

5.  Centralize project management in the cloud

Things have changed since I learned Microsoft Project. My manager at the time complained that he never understood Project Gantt charts so he never used them in his decision making.

Cloud project management platforms with their customizable views over project scheduling and other information provide upper management with needed views into the status of their organization’s projects.

At its core, project management and decision making are data-driven. So when you centralize project management in the cloud, management gains a view of your schedule, progress, Agile stories, blockers and all project communications. Centralizing your project management in the cloud is another tool for arming your manager to make the needed decisions.

6.  Mind the manager/project team gap

When getting a project decision from your boss, it’s up to you to know how to get a decision for better or worse. This means paying attention and taking the time to learn about your team’s culture, your manager’s way of doing things and the right amount of follow-up needed among other decision-extracting skills. It’s not an easy art to master but the cost of not getting decisions is high as budgets and deadlines slip. When you can get those decisions in good time, your team can do the work it was hired for, and you can deliver what you promised for the customer.

Getting a decision from bosses and stakeholders is an important skill to master—and one of the many intriguing codes to crack that comes with the job. If you want to hone some basic PM habits, download our eBook, 5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager.”

5 Practical Habits for PMs

 

Why Project Managers Need Storytelling Skills

Did you hear the one about why the project manager has to be a good storyteller? Well, let me tell it to you. The art of storytelling is essential to being a good leader. Whether you’re coaching your project team, representing your team and their projects to executive stakeholders, or communicating with external and internal customers you often achieve success through the stories you tell.

storytelling

Here are some reasons why stories matter for leading project teams, and how to develop your skills:

1. Coaching your project team

Stories are part of the culture of project teams. A seasoned project manager can use stories to coach and build morale among team members. There’s also the power of the story as a troubleshooting catalyst to consider.

One effective storyteller mode is drawing on your experience. For example, an experienced IT contractor once told me that you work with the same people every place you go. Their faces change. Their names change, the place changes. But they’re basically the same people. This story taught me to approach people and situations based on my experience of dealing with similar people and situations in the past.

When you can share stories about your experience, and encourage your team members to do so as well, everyone can find a solution in the war stories. It’s not about having a team story hour at each team stand up. It’s about being able to tell the story of a previous project in the following ways:

  • Speak about a similar issue or situation from a similar situation—distilling it down to just the key points.
  • Relate a past situation to the current situation.
  • Map out some solutions based on what worked on past projects, and could be applied again.

2. Pitching new projects

Knowing how to tell an enticing story is especially helpful when you’re pitching new projects. You could be pitching an internal technology initiative or trying to win over a coveted external customer; either way, you need the same skills. The best sales people I know are the best storytellers or performers in their own right, and it’s not something they learned in “sales school.” Rather it’s an innate talent or a skill they worked hard on to master.  The same thing applies to project managers. Story telling is something you can nurture as a project manager, and use to your advantage.

Start by including these elements:

  • Explain your solution in easy-to-comprehend terms.
  • Make an appeal to business people—tell stories about the things that matter to organizations, i.e., “Here’s how this solution makes/saves you money.”
  • Bring your story to life by adding imagery and visual aids to your presentation—pictures, diagrams, videos, popular memes or product mock-ups.

As a project manager, you don’t need to be a sales person when pitching new projects. But if you understand the basic elements of (and power of) storytelling, you stand a better chance of getting your team’s projects approved and moved to the top of the line.

3. Making executive-level presentations

Making that long walk up to the executive suite to deliver a presentation can strike fear into the heart of anyone. Being a good storyteller (or having some trustworthy back-pocket tricks) can be a great equalizer for a project manager making important presentations. Good stories transcend the boring bullet points that populate slide show decks everywhere—and replace them with salient and compelling points that the execs need to know.

4. Creating your project team brand

Organizations have brands. And the teams residing within those organizations have their own brands. Storytelling is key to building your project team brand. In today’s climate of mergers & acquisitions and other uncertainties, it’s all important for project teams to distinguish themselves from other parts of the organization.

I once worked at a large telecom provider that was just starting to have departments pay each other for internal services like programming, web development and technical writing. Often this is called “chargeback” or “internal consulting services” depending on the organization. Some project managers resisted this new model because they it meant they now had to “sing for their supper.” But there was one project manager who thrived in this new environment. That’s because he could tell a compelling story about why his team should take over the web projects. He succeeded by telling stories about his team’s past projects, which included:

  • A story about a technical problem and how they solved it.
  • How his team accomplished projects despite certain types of project challenges.
  • The times they delivered a project successfully.
  • The valuable lessons learned that they could apply to all new projects.

His peers and managers knew all about him and his team, and their projects through these stories. Based on Stephen Carver’s presentation entitled “Successful Project Management Through Storytelling,” this project manager was good at telling a “sticky” story.

What’s your story?

Some people are natural storytellers while others have to work at it. If story telling doesn’t come naturally, here are some tips to get you going:

  • Speak from experience.
  • Practice your stories and solicit feedback from a trusted advisor, mentor, team member, manager, friend, etc., before you tell it to customers and executives.
  • Use your retrospectives and post mortems as source materials for your stories.
  • Stay well informed. Read industry blogs, business books and talk to others in your industry.

Telling an effective story can come from outside your experience. If you don’t have the experience, find a similar one from reading business books or industry blog posts and you’re your story with “I read how one of our competitors solved a similar problem.”

The good news here is this: Everyone loves a story. Just find a way to tell yours.

If you’re looking for tips, skill sets and best practices to do your job more effectively, we have a handbook with your name on it. To increase your bandwidth of knowledge, download The Ultimate Project Management Guide.

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7 Project Management Trends for 2016

As we close out 2015, it’s time to look at some project management trends we can expect to see in 2016. Market forces continue to influence how businesses manage their projects. To prepare for what’s ahead, here are seven project management industry trends to watch for in 2016.

2016 Project Management Trends
1. Project managers and their teams become thought leaders

While not everybody is a writer or speaker, 2016 is going to see further growth in the importance of content marketing and thought leadership content for businesses. Project managers and their teams are increasingly asked to become subject matter experts for corporate blog posts, eBooks, webinars, and other content promoting their organization’s expertise.

While 2016 doesn’t mean that every project manager is going to become a technology journalist, it does mean that project managers are going to have to get better at capturing their team’s story, the project’s story (think case study), and the technology stack during the project life cycle. The better story is going to be told by organizations that include thought leadership during the project life cycle; not as an all hands on deck when the project is nearing completion—and the technical staff is more focused on shipping the product.

2. Project management joins the sales cycle

Cloud-based project management platforms and application programming interfaces (APIs) give businesses the tools to kick off projects much earlier in the sales cycle than ever before. You can expect early adopters, especially in the professional services sector to integrate their project management platform with their company’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This new integration is going to put project managers earlier in the sales cycle than ever before.

For example, project managers could be called upon to budget resources and balance schedules before a deal is even signed—making a potential schedule and budget another sales tool.

So the project manager is going to need to become more knowledgeable about the data their back-end systems generate, and even how to effectively support a sales cycle if needed.

3. DevOps makes for a new breed of project manager

Historically, there has always been a line drawn between development and operations. But this is changing. As DevOps gains in popularity in 2016, it will have a profound impact on project management. While some opinions say that project management can’t scale, I’m not sure that I see the project manager role going away. Rather, I see the project manager in a DevOps environment growing into more of a broker role, This is because automation and cloud platforms are streamlining traditional project manager tasks, including schedule updates, status communication, task management, resource management and schedule management.

The project manager still needs to step in and resolve internal and external issues and conflicts and manage change for their team.

4. Project managers become entrepreneurs

Not billing to a customer project is never a good thing regardless of the economy. In today’s climate of mergers and acquisitions, tight budgets and contract work, project managers need to be as entrepreneurial and hungry as a Shark Tank contestant.

Externally facing, the project manager becomes more entrepreneurial the more they participate in the sales cycle. While project managers in professional services organizations may already be part of the sales cycle there’s always room to improve in the joint sales call. This occurs when a company salesperson brings along a project manager to a sales call to answer technical and process related questions for a potential customer.

As internal forces press down on an organization, it’s up to the project manager to always be selling their team and its latest projects to executives. For example, when a company is going through a merger or acquisition, the entrepreneurial project manager is going to want to sell their team as indispensable to the newly combined company. Tactics include being on the right high-profile projects and communicating to decision makers how their team benefits the organization’s bottom line and intellectual property portfolio.

5. More organizations rethink and rebrand change management

Long ago change management became too complex of a task. More companies are going to modify their change management strategies to become more focused on their end user communities.  It’s up to project managers to help with that rebrand of change management by distilling an existing change management methodology to its most important elements. Then, PMs will have to work with other stakeholders to craft a new change management process that’s more agile and better-suited for their end user community.

6. IoT has a profound impact on project management

The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to have a profound impact over project management. Tim Clark captures some best practices about how to start an IoT project team, but that’s only the beginning for some project managers ramping up for IoT-based projects.

Depending on your industry, when customers start requesting IoT, you could see an uptick in cybersecurity requirements, new development tools for your team to learn, new software and hardware testing techniques, and deploying new tools like beacons and specialized handheld devices like barcode readers.

7. Mobile first projects change the scope of projects

Mobile devices aren’t going away in the enterprise. Nearly two-thirds of companies surveyed in the VMware State of Business Mobility Report 2015 report that they are actively re-engineering or have plans to re-engineer a core business process to achieve business mobility. Those numbers translate into more than three-quarters of all of the companies surveyed undergoing a major strategic mobile shift in the upcoming months. Project managers will be the ones leading this strategic mobile shift that will have a ripple effect on all phases of the project lifecycle from development through deployment.

Happy 2016 project managers!

These trends will join with the continuing push to Agile development making 2016 another interesting year for project managers.

If your team or organization is ready to try an Agile way of managing work, we can give you a preview. To learn a bit of Agile history and how it works for different businesses, download our eBook, “Agile for Everyone.”

agile for everyone

 

7 Ways to Sell Agile to Project Stakeholders

Whether you’re making the move to Agile project management in your development group or creating an Agile process for your in-house project management methodology, chances are you’re going to have to sell this change to executives in your organization. And, they’re going to be business people too. This means you have to have a really strong business case, no matter how logical and even obvious switching to an Agile system might be.

agile project managment

Here are some tips for selling Agile project management methodology to stakeholders:

1.  Align Agile project management with your organization’s strategy

In certain cases, it’s possible to cling to legacy or home-rolled project management practices even when development teams have moved into some form of Agile development. Here are a few tips for project managers who face executives clinging to legacy project management practices:

  • Don’t force Agile project management into the organization because chances are you’ll lose.
  • Look for ways to blend Agile and traditional project management because sometimes moves have to happen partially—or they might not happen at all.
  • Speak to the business before you speak to the methodology. Show executives where and how Agile will save the company money or enable them to pursue more business.
2.  Raise the level of the Agile conversation within your organization

While there are Agile evangelists and pundits who encourage project managers and teams to take the hard-sell route, I’m a proponent of raising the level of an Agile conversation more subtly. Here are some tips to get an Agile conversation going, even if in the background:

  • Apply Agile changes to your team and speak to these changes in status reports and during project reviews.
  • Capture metric improvements as part of standard reporting. Another option is to document the improvements as a page on your internal wiki.
  • Attend Agile events in your local area for networking and learning purposes (extra points if you bring your direct manager along).
  • Suggest Agile project management as a topic for internal brown bag lunches or “corporate universities.”

Raising the level of an Agile discussion from the ground up is a subtle way to get Agile project management under the nose of executive stakeholders without seeming too pushy.

3.  Propose new metrics for progress and status (with exec input)

Metrics around the success and progress of a software development project are many and varied. One way to sell an Agile system is to offer executives a stake in proposing new metrics and tools for measuring and reporting the development projects under their watch. Here are some tips on proposing new metrics:

  • Look for reporting gaps and problems including:
    • An internal report that’s rarely consulted by project managers or a legacy of a departed executive that needs revision or replacement
    • Frequently asked executive questions about the project team performance
  • Take an Agile approach to creating reports and metrics by giving executives the tools and resources to create meaningful metrics iteratively.
4.  Find a champion among the executive stakeholders

No fundamental move as strategic as moving to Agile project management is going to happen unless you have a champion among your executive stakeholders. Here’s a strategy to consider:

Consider separating your CFO from the rest of the CxO herd, and focus on turning the CFO into your champion. The CFO is going to ask “When is it going to be done? How much will it cost?” If you can speak to the economics of the move and how it will make the company money or save it money then your CFO can be a ready and powerful ally who can “cut checks.”

5.  Focus on project delivery improvement

“I’m ecstatic about how our development teams are delivering to our customers. We don’t need to make any changes!,” said no corporate executive ever. The promise of project delivery improvements is another strong selling point for Agile project management.

In How to Sell Project Management to Senior Executives Who Don’t Want It, Pcubed’s Adam Balfour  advises that you find the project manager who’s leading the team that’s stretched to its limits. In the absence of that person (or if they’re too busy to speak with you), look for the sales person who is promising (or wants to promise) a feature that they can’t deliver. Both of these people have the COO’s attention because they have a problem that requires immediate attention. COO attention = budget.

6.  Tell them all the “cool kids” are doing Agile

Just like in high school, corporate executives can be susceptible to doing what everybody else is doing. Seriously though, no executive in their right mind wants to be left behind if their industry is changing. It’s not good for business. Here are some tips to get the word out that the business influencers are going Agile:

  • Send them links to articles and blog posts that mention your competitors’ move to Agile.
  • Share Request for Proposals (RFPs) mentioning Agile project management requirements.
  • Show industry/business sector adoption of Agile that can change the competitive landscape for your company. For example, the United States federal government adopting Agile has meant a rise in job openings requiring Agile project management expertise.
  • Surface customer inquiries about your organization’s project management methodology related to how “Agile you are” or how you support transparency and collaboration in your development cycle.

Making a change to meet customer requirements is hard for an executive to deny.

7.  Choose a pilot Agile project

If you’re facing pushback from an executive stakeholder, it might be time to double down and get their consent for a pilot project where you can apply Agile project management practices.

Here are some tips for choosing an Agile pilot project:

  • Pick a small project.
  • Stack the team with people who thrive on ambiguity and change.
  • Give your stakeholders transparency into the process by inviting them to sit in on scrums or letting them monitor work progress.
Bring it all together to close the Agile project management deal

Selling an Agile project management process to executive stakeholders doesn’t require the personality of a sales person. What it does require is that you can speak in definitive terms and dollars and cents about how Agile project management will improve the bottom line for the company. The rest of the benefits will fall into place from there.

 

Agile isn’t just for development and technical teams anymore. Organizations are starting to pick up on the fact that Agile principles benefit all types of businesses and help them achieve their goals faster and more effectively. To see how Agile might work for your team download our eBook, “Agile for Everyone.”

agile for everyone

The DocOps Trend: Applying Agile and DevOps to Technical Documentation

The advances and benefits in Agile programming and Agile project management are making headlines and grabbling a lot of attention these days. But what about technical documentation? While one of the principles of the Agile Manifesto is “working software over comprehensive documentation” you can’t escape the need for customer-facing documentation.

docops

In response to all this, there’s a movement called DocOps (Documentation/Operations) that takes on the challenge of applying Agile and DevOps principles to developing and managing technical documentation. As it turns out, varying definitions of Agile technical writing predate the DocOps concept.

The DocOps movement can be an integral part of managing and delivering successful projects. Your technical documentation efforts don’t stand a chance of hitting deadlines, maintaining quality and technical accuracy if they follow a separate track from your Agile development efforts.

The story behind DocOps

CA Technologies is an early DocOps thought leader and practitioner. Jim Turcotte, a CA Technologies executive, introduced  DocOps to the world in a LinkedIn post last year entitled CA Technologies Enables DocOps. This article gave an overview of how CA Technologies is creating a “content supply chain” to help their technical writers keep pace with Agile development. Turcotte later followed up with another LinkedIn post, DocOps – How CA Technologies Got Started!, in which he gave an overview of the platform and tool choices behind their DocOps-driven technical content publishing operation.

Here are some key principles behind what DocOps does:

  • Creates a continuous technical documentation flow, similar to how continuous integration creates a continuous flow for software developers.
  • Moves all documents into a cloud-based collaborative platform like a wiki, which becomes the primary publishing and delivery platform for user documentation.
  • Aligns common Agile tools with a documentation publishing platform.

Beyond these points, DocOps applies analytics and reporting behind the publishing platform to monitor which content is performing better than others. As project management and enterprises become more data driven, I see this as a strong selling point for DocOps because it enables technical writers to manage content better. They can focus their development efforts on content that readers need versus that which the documentation team perceives as reader needs.

During later media interviews, Turcotte also mentioned that CA’s writers constantly “curate” technical content throughout the product lifecycle. Content produced in a DocOps environment continues to mature. For example, when the support team or a sales engineer finds a documentation error (think a doc “bug”) they work directly with the writers to fix and then republish the documentation.

Agile technical writing best practices

The term Agile technical writing has been around a few years and can mean different things to different people.

Tom Thompson over on TechBeacon wrote about Why Agile Teams Should Care About Documentation. He suggested that the development team has little reason to care about documentation because it’s usually handled in the final phases of the project, along with testing and quality assurance.

He emphasizes that the documentation must be baked into the Agile effort. Making the recommendation actionable requires a technical writer to do the following:

  • Align technical documentation with the business.
  • Work with project managers and other stakeholders to plan documentation in parallel with software development.
  • Participate in scrum sessions representing documentation needs and status.
  • Become as self-sufficient with the technology that the developers are building.

One chip for technical writers to cash in with Agile developers is to find bugs and UI issues in the software. To do this properly, technical writers should have access to the development team’s bug tracking software so they can perform the entry on their own.

Solving PM challenges with DocOps and Agile technical writing

Project managers in Agile environments might need to ensure that documentation stories make it into sprints. This way, developers capture what they built before they move onto the next sprint. While this seems contradictory to the Agile Manifesto, I think there’s room for creativity here, such as:

  • Engineers can capture only the key details, especially when it comes to an API interface.
  • Automated tools for API documentation can be a mixed bag, but worth exploring if you can integrate the automated tool into your build process.
  • Together, the product lead, project manager and technical writer strategize ways that the technical writer can keep pace and even work ahead of the development team.

The potential introduction of analytics and reporting on a backend of a DocOps publishing platform means that the project manager and technical writer will have to manage the analytics, interpret the results, and determine how/when the technical writer improves documentation based on the results.

Technical writing in an Agile world

DocOps and Agile technical writing feel like seeds of a larger and much-needed movement for the Agile community at large. There’s even enough information and inspiration online for an Agile development organization to adopt DocOps and Agile technical writing best practices to fit your organization. Why not give it a try?

If this article got you thinking, and you’d like to learn how Agile works for different teams, download our eBook, “Agile for Everyone.”

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