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29 November 2019

The Project Foundry Top 10 Cyber Concerns for 2020

Our Senior Solutions Consultant Mark Carragher takes a look at the Top 10 Cyber Threats & Concerns for the coming year.


Shadow IT is software used within an organisation, but not supported by the company’s central IT system. This has inefficiencies and may be vulnerable to hackers. Organisations need to be aware of the security threat that shadow IT brings.



There is a large security risk in use of single-factor passwords as it gives intruders easy access to data. In 2020, organisations need to be more serious with the passwords by starting to use multi-factor authentication.



Cloud storage is vulnerable to cyber abuse. With inadequate authentication and registration processes, the cloud will be susceptible to spam emails, criminals, and other malicious attacks. An adequate way of monitoring credit card transactions is also needed.



As cloud data storage is becoming more popular than ever, many organisations are transferring their data to the cloud. This isn’t as safe as it sounds, and organisations need to be picky when it comes to choosing a cloud provider.



Ex-staff are a major threat to cybersecurity, while users in organisations are also a weak link. Thus, organisations need to remedy this problem by educating the staff on cyber, monitoring their activities, and testing.



A cloud service provider’s interface is shared among different users. Thus, the security lies primarily in the hands of the service providers, as breaches could happen starting from the authentication to encryption process.



Malware attacks can be caused by various reasons, including removable media, file sharing, bundled free software, and the lack of internet security software. To overcome them, organisations need to prepare a strict security mechanism and compliance.



Organisations need to ensure that the available API security is tight to avoid loss of data as it may lead to serious implications on the business. Such a breach can drain the organisation’s finances and cause a loss of customers.



As the Internet of Things takes over, more weak points are created in the computer systems. Besides administer restrictions towards sharing, organisations also need to ensure that no unauthorised activity takes place.



Most devices are connected to the Internet nowadays. As much as the Internet of Things has become useful, its deployment has also brought many concerns, especially in security domain due to inadequate security measures.

19 September 2019

VMWorld 2019 – It’s All About Cloud

So, it’s done and dusted for another year, VMworld 2019.

And it’s all about Hybrid Cloud!

From my experience to date this has probably been the most feature packed event yet. Vmware and most vendors I spoke with are focused on one thing, and that is: hybrid multi-cloud management. VMware are ahead of the curve in offering a multi stack solution to all elements of cloud management and operations. Just check out their new offerings which I have highlighted further below.

However, this doesn’t mean I am a fanboy of VMware – yes, I like their products, and use various elements of their products on an almost daily basis, but let’s take Nero Burning Software (showing my age) for a comparison. Nero was great at one thing, – CD/DVD copying and burning, just like VMware was great at virtualisation and ‘private cloud’. But like Nero, they have started to diversify their product portfolio to the point you need a matrix to help find a product they offer that fits your needs. While in this case that’s ok, because unlike Nero who diluted their main product with bloatware, the cloud has changed this, and it evolves at such a rapid rate, the only way to stay relevant, or ahead of the curve is to continually adapt and release new solutions and services, and that’s something they are doing, aggressively.

I know this is heavy reading – but bear with me, and read between the lines.

Here are some of the product announcements alone:

  • VMware Cloud on Dell EMC: VMware claims its VMware Cloud on Dell EMC provides simple, more secure and scalable infrastructure delivered as-a-service to customers’ on-premises data centre and edge locations. This co-engineered offering from VMware and Dell Technologies is now available in the U.S. VMware Cloud on Dell EMC is core to the Dell Technologies Cloud Data Centre-as-a-Service solution. VMware Cloud on Dell EMC consists of VMware’s high-performance compute, storage and networking software powered by VMware vSphere, vSAN and NSX tightly integrated with Dell EMC VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure, and delivered as a service. The cloud service is fully managed by VMware and combines public cloud simplicity, agility and economics with the security, control and performance of on-premises infrastructure.


  • VMware Cloud on AWS: VMware describes VMware Cloud on AWS is a jointly engineered service that brings VMware’s enterprise-class Software-Defined Data Centre to the AWS Cloud, delivered as an on-demand service with optimised access to AWS services, enabling IT teams to use the best of both worlds. This release focuses on migrating and modernising workloads. New VMware HCX capabilities enable push-button migration and interconnectivity between VMware Cloud on AWS SDDCs running in different AWS Regions and new Elastic vSAN support further improves storage scaling. Once applications are migrated, customers can extend the capabilities of applications through integration of native AWS Services. In the future, through innovative technology, such as Bitfusion and partnerships with industry leaders such as NVIDIA, users will be able to enrich existing applications and power new modern enterprise applications, including AI, machine learning and data analytics workflows, through high-end GPU acceleration services.


  • VMware Tanzu: This new portfolio of products and services is designed to transform the way enterprises build software on Kubernetes. The first offering in the VMware Tanzu portfolio will be VMware Tanzu Mission Control. A tech preview, Tanzu Mission Control, will enable customers to manage their Kubernetes footprint across environments with complete consistency. VMware also announced a tech preview of Project Pacific, which is focused on transforming VMware vSphere into a Kubernetes native platform in a future release. This will enable enterprises to accelerate development and operation of modern apps on vSphere while continuing to take advantage of existing investments in technology, tools and skillsets.


  • Foundation for the Hybrid Cloud: VMware vSphere and vSAN are building blocks of VMware Cloud Foundation—a new-gen solution for hybrid cloud that expands the definition of HCI by unifying the essential cloud infrastructure capabilities of compute, storage, networking and integrated cloud management. VMware recently made available new releases of vSphere and vSAN, which together power the company’s hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions.


Aiming at Consistent Hybrid Cloud Operations

VMware Hybrid Cloud Operations simplify the way customers manage systems and applications through automation, cost management, compliance, resource governance, security and visibility. New advancements in VMware Hybrid Cloud Operations include:


  • Self-Driving Operations: As users deploy applications across hybrid clouds, critical operational tasks such as capacity planning, performance management, troubleshooting and enabling compliance become challenging. VMware vRealize Operations 8.0 is optimised for the new world of hybrid cloud operations. It will deliver new and enhanced capabilities for self-driving hybrid cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) operations as well as multi-cloud monitoring. The latest release will deliver Intent-Driven continuous performance optimisation, more efficient capacity management, intelligent remediation and integrated compliance and configuration. These capabilities will enable customers to manage multiple cloud resources and applications with the same software that they use to manage their datacenter. VMware vRealize Operations Cloud, a SaaS offering, is now in Tech Preview.


  • Hybrid Cloud Automation: VMware vRealize Automation 8.0 will enable IT and DevOps to automate the self-service deployment and day 2 operations of complex applications, VMs and containers on any cloud. The solution will enhance operational agility and developer productivity through a series of new capabilities that will improve ease of use, user experience and multi-cloud readiness, with broad extensibility across VMware Cloud on AWS and all major public clouds, and enhanced ServiceNow, Terraform and Git integrations. The solution will be built upon a container-based microservices architecture that is easier and simpler to install, with improved performance and high availability. These services will also be available as part of VMware vRealize Automation Cloud, previously known as Cloud Automation Services.


  • Complete Cloud Management Platform: VMware vRealize Suite 2019 software will integrate vRealize Automation 8.0 and vRealize Operations 8.0 to deliver advanced closed loop optimisation capabilities that enable continuous performance optimisation, simplify IT operations, and lower IT costs. The addition of VMware vCloud Suite 2019 Platinum in vRealize Suite 2019 will enable IT Operations teams to gain visibility into application context and behavior to accurately identify and eliminate legitimate threats in real time, while continuously hardening and protecting workloads.


  • Hybrid Cloud Cost and Compliance: CloudHealth is a leading multi-cloud management platform for managing cloud costs, enabling governance and enforcing business policy. CloudHealth manages more than $8 billion dollars of public cloud spend at more than 5,000 customers. CloudHealth Hybrid is a new service that will extend the same rich cost optimisation, migration assessment governance and security functionality that CloudHealth delivers to public cloud environments, to VMware hybrid cloud environments. Customers will be able to eliminate wasted cloud spend and provide users with reports on actual cloud spend (showback) through visibility into all cloud costs with cost/usage/performance data. CloudHealth Hybrid will enable organisations to accelerate migrations and optimise cloud infrastructure for each workload based on cost/performance. With the ability to create policies for proper hybrid cloud resource usage, and trigger notifications when policies are violated, customers will gain flexibility with guardrails to better prevent unauthorised services and security vulnerabilities.


  • Enterprise Observability: Wavefront by VMware delivers integrated, full-stack enterprise observability from application to infrastructure across any cloud, empowering DevOps, Kubernetes and container operations, and development teams to troubleshoot application workloads and get to root cause faster. With a new enterprise-wide dashboard UX, Wavefront simplifies troubleshooting and reduces incident remediation times through automation triggered by fine-grained alerts. Kubernetes monitoring is enhanced with automatic service discovery for Kubernetes environments, including the discovery of application and infrastructure components allowing the setup of default dashboards. Wavefront can observe and help enable operation of more than 200,000 concurrently running containers. Wavefront is also strengthening applications observability with the addition of trace logs to distributed tracing offering. This provides instant insights into the health and performance of Kubernetes, containerised applications and microservices at scale.


  • VMware Cloud Marketplace, powered by Bitnami: VMware Cloud Marketplace enables customers to discover and deploy validated, third-party solutions for VMware platforms, across public, private and hybrid cloud environments. The marketplace is now available for VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Provider Partners. From the entire catalog – which also includes hundreds of opensource solutions packaged by Bitnami – customers can browse, filter and select the specialised tools that are right for them. For vendors, it offers a way to easily publish solutions for VMware customers globally, and for multiple VMware platforms. Currently, VMware Cloud Marketplace meets a variety of common use-case requirements such as back-up and security, through third-party ISV solutions and popular open-source options.


  • Cloud Migration: VMware HCX is the leading application mobility platform that enables cloud mobility and migration for a variety of on-prem to on-prem, on-prem to cloud, or cloud to on-prem scenarios. Cloud Migration Services, built on VMware HCX, simplifies the complex tasks associated with identifying, planning and migrating workloads to any hybrid cloud. A new Cloud Migration experience is available on VMware Cloud on AWS today through the Cloud Console, and over time other workflows are planned to be available on VMware Cloud on AWS as well as other platforms such as VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts and VMware Cloud on Dell EMC.


  • Disaster Recovery as-a-Service and Data Protection: VMware is partnering with Dell EMC across multiple areas to bring customers greater choice in Disaster Recovery as-a-Service and Data Protection solutions. Initially the companies will collaborate on a new DRaaS solution using AWS S3 for VMware Cloud on AWS. VMware and Dell EMC will also collaborate to enable Dell EMC to offer best in class data protection solutions for VMware workloads running at the edge, core and cloud.


  • Proactive Support: VMware Skyline, developed by VMware Global Services, is a proactive support technology available to customers with an active Production Support or Premier Services contract. Skyline automatically and more securely collects, aggregates and analyses customer-specific product usage data to proactively identify potential issues and improve time-to-resolution. Skyline has added new proactive support enhancements including automated software compatibility checks, automated log bundle upload for Horizon 7.10 and above via Log Assist, and integration with Dell EMC Support Assist, enabling a richer proactive support experience for customers running VMware and Dell. VMware Skyline is included with a user’s Production and Premier Support subscriptions. Premier Support customers will have access to advanced reporting features and remediation support from dedicated support representatives.


And look at some of their acquisitions

Pivotal, digital transformation technology and services provider and sister company under the Dell EMC umbrella, (Aug. 22 for $2.7 billion);

Carbon Black, new-gen security provider (Aug. 22 for $2.1 billion);

Intrinsic, application security startup (Aug. 20, no acquisition price announced);

Veriflow, continuous network verification provider (Aug. 16, no acquisition price announced);

Uhana, application and network optimiser (July 25, no acquisition price announced);

Bitfusion.io, hardware acceleration provider (July 16, no acquisition price announced);

Avi Networks, automation intelligence provider (June 14, no acquisition price announced);

Bitnami, web application optimiser (May 15, no acquisition price announced); and

AetherPal, smart remote control maker (Feb. 5, no acquisition price announced).


And so you can see the trend; it really is all about hybrid cloud and multi cloud management. It is what they see as the future, and I agree. Each vendor has their own tools, and there are some solutions out there that work, such as Terraform – although in a limited way and for certain cloud solutions. But this is the gap that VMware seem eager to address, they want to be everything to everyone, and while that is great it is also risky. My hope for them after my trip to VMWorld is that it will it pay off, and if anyone can manage this I do think it could be them. And with that, we (the industry) need these solutions, and fast.

In short: VMware wants to be the full-service shop for anything to do with enterprise hybrid-cloud infrastructure—and on any cloud you can name. To do this, it’s incorporating its own versions of new-gen IT that include containers, microservices, Kubernetes orchestration and some new home-grown and acquired platforms to manage the job.


But this isn’t what VMworld is about, it’s not just about products or vendor promotions, although that’s all you may see, but looking beyond this, you start to see the trends that are developing, the direction the industry is going, and the next “big thing”. This for me is why it’s a unique event. Being able to get a glimpse into that ever-developing future that always makes it worth the trip.

As always feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.

Mark Carragher, Senior Solutions Consultant

9 March 2018

Women Leading Progress – What it takes to be Inclusive

Former Emmy-winning CNN Anchor, Gina London in conversation with Regina Doherty TD - Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Geraldine Roche - Director The Project Foundry, Roseann Heavey - President Network Ireland and Helen O'Dea - Interim IT Executive KBC.

An International Women’s Day Event, hosted by The Project Foundry

For the second consecutive year The Project Foundry hosted an International Women’s Day event; this year offering fresh insights on ‘Women Leading Progress – What it takes to be inclusive’. The event was held on Thursday 8th March in The Ballsbridge Hotel.

International Communications Strategist and Former Emmy-winning CNN Anchor, Gina London, hosted a conversation with Regina Doherty TD – Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Helen O’Dea – IT Executive, Roseann Heavey – President of Network Ireland and Geraldine Roche – Director at The Project Foundry.

Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection with Declan Ryan, Managing Director at The Project Foundry

Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection with Declan Ryan, Managing Director at The Project Foundry

Helen O’Dea began by speaking speaking about prevailing gender inequalities in the workplace. Helen acknowledged that we’re beginning to see more women promoted to senior positions but there is still significant work to be done. “If you want a different perspective, you really need a balance” she said.

If you want a different perspective, you really need a balance

Helen also called for the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting, as has been introduced in the UK for companies with over 250 employees.

Minister Regina Doherty spoke of the need to break the confidence barrier that affects young women and the differences she sees in her own children. From an early age girls must be empowered to believe they can achieve what they want to – something boys seem born with.

Minister Doherty said this same confidence is what will be required to bring more women into the political arena.
“I sit around a table and there’s only 3 women out of 20- the only way to change that is giving women the confidence to get into politics.”

I sit around a table and there’s only 3 women out of 20- the only way to change that is giving women the confidence to get into politics.

Roseann Heavey spoke of the important role mentoring can play in instilling confidence and described the influence mentors have had on her career and personal development. Roseann now mentors a group of employees in her company and encourages other organisations to make use of the practice.

When asked about concerns for the future, Geraldine Roche, Director at The Project Foundry, raised concerns about ageism in employment and the serious issue of pension gap facing women who have taken time out to raise family.

The day closed with the panel speaking about the importance of using and strengthening our networks. We can be influencers and should acknowledge the influence of those around us!



10 May 2017

Zen and the art of Project Management

Zen, as a practice, emphasises rigorous self-control, insight into the self and environment around you, and the personal expression of insight, especially for the benefit of others. Zen is not a goal, but a way to experience the journey.

So how do you run a project with a Zen-like comfort and assurance in both the process, and the outcome?

We suggest you call The Project Foundry, now!

zen frogWe take all of the stress and uncertainty out of managing projects, from the most complex enterprise-level portfolios, to the most straightforward business projects. We have the expertise, experience and the right people to deliver top-class results every time. Managing projects is what we do and what we know. We repeatedly and consistently deliver outstanding results, and in only two years, we have already amassed an enviable roster of satisfied clients, such as Applegreen, Tesco Mobile, Corvil, Dixon’s Carphone, Virgin Media, Datalex, SMBC, Goshawk Aircraft Leasing, and Bank of Ireland, to name just a few.

Our promise to you is the guarantee of project success. And that isn’t an idle catch-phrase. When you engage a project manager from The Project Foundry, you don’t get a single resource, who also becomes a single point-of-failure. You gain the insight and deep knowledge of our extensive team of hugely experienced project and programme managers, who are ready to help in any situation. They have seen it before, and no situation is new for them.

What we excel at is the maintenance of a bird’s eye view of the project landscape, never getting bogged down in the weeds. And when an issue arises, one of our team is guaranteed to have dealt with it before, immediately taking the worry and uncertainty out of your hands, and ensuring the quickest and most efficient route past even the most awkward project road-blocks.

The Project Foundry stands for quality, and integrity in the execution of projects, every time. We only hire the most qualified and competent project resources in Ireland, and we provide flexible and pragmatic solutions for every business we engage with. Do you want to sleep well at night, feel better about yourself and your business, and ensure that your projects are delivered on-time, on-budget, and executed in the most professional manner possible?

You need The Project Foundry.



2 May 2017

Yes to saying No

Often, ‘yes’ is the easiest word in the world to say. Saying ‘no’ takes resilience and strength of character, but it should be in the top drawer of any project manager’s toolkit, and you should never feel bad about saying it!

just-say-no‘Strength of character’- It’s an overused phrase, but for a project manager to succeed, it’s an absolute must. This article serves to remind you of those situations where project managers have struggled to say no, to the detriment of themselves and their projects.

Most projects are genuinely valuable, and begin with the best of intentions. In fact, most projects will provide long-term value if they are properly chosen, and executed correctly. However, project managers must use their knowledge and experience to flag red lights early in a project, when they first see them. Sometimes this will mean pulling the plug altogether. It’s a tough call to make, but which is worse: saying ‘no’ and forfeiting a contract, or failing so badly that your long-term reputation is damaged?

It is always easy to say ‘yes’ to a project that seems straightforward, easy to complete and resource-light. However, beware the poisoned apple! These ‘’no-brainer’ projects often end up running way over time and cost, simply because they look easy, and get the least attention. Complacency is a huge danger. It is always better to complete one project successfully, than struggle to finish two projects late and over-budget.

Projects that seem quick and easy on the surface are most often the ones that are the exact opposite.

Projects that seem quick and easy on the surface are most often the ones that are the exact opposite. When it comes to execution, too often you will under-estimate the time and resources needed. Project work almost inevitably leads to more project work, and it’s too late to say ‘no’ when the scope has crept to a dangerous point. Evaluate every project with an independent eye, and as an independent entity. Say no, and keep your blood pressure low!

Projects also tend to have a certain air of inertia surrounding them, where they take up more and more time, but less and less is really being achieved. Often, projects managers allow themselves to get wrapped up in particularly non-constructive work-flows. It takes enormous strength of character to stick your head above the parapet, and stop the inertia there. This is particularly hard when a project is a key part of an overall programme, and particularly in a bigger project which is growing and growing, but it is always better to be brave than meek.

When we surveyed a group of project managers recently, most initially said they were always (or nearly always) able to see the ‘big picture’ on a project, and avoid getting stuck in the weeds. However, this confidence was not borne out with greater inspection of the facts. Project managers are too often inherently obsessed with inputs and outputs, correct methodologies and the pursuit of efficiency, and unable to see how all of the above fit into the overall grand plan. Sometimes, it can be hard for them to see the wood for the Gantt chart.

Saying ‘no’ at a time where it might cause problems is a brave thing to do, but with hindsight, it can often save huge project lag, avoid a squeeze on resources, and save damage to the reputation of the project manager in the long-term.




12 April 2017

X-Factor to Success? Emotional Intelligence

Understanding your emotional intelligence and being able to read others is the x-factor to success.

But what if you didn’t even know it exists? Up until last year I would be lying if I said otherwise. A successful project manager, I was busily working away with my PMP in one hand and my copy of Microsoft Project in the other. Projects were on time and within budget and the people did not seem to be the problem.
Or were they? Or was I?

Emotional IntelligenceI had a friend return from the U.S and mention his level of EI. I thought he had applied to Enterprise Ireland and my first question was “How much did you get?”! I soon realised the error of my ways and did my homework.
Essentially, emotional intelligence (EI) is about knowing oneself and possessing good social skills. But what exactly are these skills and pre-requisites for a high EI? Some people are lucky enough to be born with them, gifted in true ‘sleeping-beauty’ style, enveloped by their family’s support and structure.

You know the type. You step inside their lives and instantly feel at ease. They are the Jedis, leaders; in control of themselves and others around them. They get stuff done or even better, empower others to do it and they don’t even want the credit.
But those blessed with emotional intelligence go beyond good manners and extend to kind words, thoughtful gestures and heart-felt enquiries. They possess that ‘likability’ factor and breed success wherever they go.

Daniel Goleman wrote a book in 1995 which broke new ground, from psychologists to businesses, everyone listened and realised there was something to it. High in demand and now held with a higher regard than IQ, Emotional Intelligence is not just expected but evaluated, searched for and cultivated in employees, potential partners and offspring.

But what’s most intriguing about this intelligence is that it’s free to all. Readily accessible, within one’s reach and of real value to each and every one of us. There is no need for extra grinds, private tuition fees, high points or any of the above to secure high attainment rates. It’s not who you know but what you know about yourself and others.

All the same it was a highly-paid consultant who introduced me to the themes and concepts. Or at least they charged a half-day rate and recommended the reading list, and I have taken it from there. But this possibly just confirms how important and beneficial it is to businesses and society at large. Schools are beginning to recognise its value and trying to raise awareness and status within education policy and through teaching methodologies.

EI is broken into many areas but the ones which spoke directly to me were

  • Self-awareness or managing our emotions;
  • Our regard for and awareness of others;
  • Motivating oneself;
  • Emotional resiliance;
  • Handling relationships.

Ultimately, emotional intelligence is about self-regard for oneself and others. How well you treat yourself and others is paramount. It is not a once-off, self-indulgent, exhibitionist display of one’s better self. Instead, it is a slow, steady, silent and consistent pattern of equality in terms of the respect, treatment, time and attention given to oneself and others which defines this virtue.

These are basic human qualities held in high esteem but sometimes forgotten and taken for granted, emotional intelligence is not only difficult to attain but also retain. It cannot be checked off a list or crammed into a late-night study session. Moreover, once achieved and recognised, it is through practise and living with ourselves and others that it is found and where it should always remain.

1 April 2017

Waste – How the seven wastes of Lean apply to software development

Waste. It’s always bad, and particularly in business, and even more so in project management. A great deal of project management is geared towards avoiding waste, and this is where ‘Lean’ processes come in.

seven wastes of LEANThe seven wastes of lean are well known, but on paper they appear to apply to manufacturing processes. With a little helpful translation, however, they adapt beautifully to the process of software development, and can be a very useful framework from which to examine the project management of software development, as outlined below:

1)    ‘In-process inventory’ translates to ‘Partially done work’

This is often seen as the most damaging of all wastes, which can de-rail any software project quickly. It includes finished, but un-checked code, undocumented code, untested code, code which is not yet in production, and code which is commented out.

2)    ‘Over-Production’ – translates to ‘Extra Features’

It is a broadly accepted statistic that almost two thirds of the functionality and features in any software application are rarely (or never) used. When you think about this, it means that two thirds of the effort put into building and maintaining software is largely a wasted effort. There are both direct and in-direct wastes here also – the time taken to build the unused software features is a direct waste, but the indirect waste is the maintenance of that code and functionality over time, into the future.

3)    ‘Extra Processing’ translates to ‘Re-learning’

Continuous learning, or the avoidance of re-learning the same information, is one of the key facets of good project management methodology. Re-learning is particularly wasteful in a software development environment. Failing to learn from mistakes is uniformly costly, and somewhat unforgivable.  Within software development, this includes poor quality and weak planning, switching tasks, bad communications within and without the software development team, and the dangers of undocumented code.

4)    ‘Transportation’ translates to ‘Handoffs’

Instead of the transportation of physical material, in software development this waste is virtual, but equally important to avoid. It can include the transfer of code from one developer to another, the handoff of software from developer to tester, and the movement from development to deployment. Strong, documented communications between all of the above are critical to avoid serious waste in time and resources.

5)    ‘Motion’ translates to ‘Task Switching’

This is where a software development team member transfers from one specific task to another, without completing the first one, thereby interrupting the on-going flow. It also applies to a shared team is working on more than one project at a time, and often occurs when there is a lack of proper coordination between the product owner and the development team.

6)    ‘Waiting’ translates to ‘Delays’

This refers to anything which delays time in the delivery of a component of the software in question. This could be anything from a lack of capable resources, a myriad of items in-progress, external and uncontrollable dependencies, a lack of understanding of what really adds ‘value’, or any number of unwanted and unnecessary processes that should be called out.

7)    ‘Over-Production’ translates to ‘Defects’

In manufacturing, over-production can be a safety net from faulty or unreliable manufacturing processes. In software development, this can be distilled down to software defects. These can have a broad range of causes, but all can be avoided. Defects often arise from a lack of understanding of the story, a lack of efficient engineering processes, missing acceptance criteria, a lack of technical skill among team members, or the late involvement of testers in the process, with inattention to automated testing.

20 March 2017

Victory: Sun Tzu and the art of Project Management

the art of warThe Art of War, a 13-chapter masterwork written in the fifth century BC, is referred to even now, two-and-a-half millennia later, as one of the definitive texts on military tactics and strategy. Some things never change…. Sun Tzu, its author, may not even have existed, or may be a composite of different strategic geniuses, but ‘he’ remains an exalted figure, and reading it today, as a project manager, it’s easy to see why.

You may think that this is a strange book to reference in the pursuit of better project management. But what project manager can honestly say that at times, getting to the goal of a completed project doesn’t sometimes feel like a battle at best, if not at times like a war.

Countless books have been written on the parallels that can be drawn between this work and business management, but none have examined project management specifically. To save you reading 200 pages, we have narrowed the key points down to the six below. Sun Tzu says: read on.


“In war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this…. To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”


How to win over everybody, without even fighting? Happy stakeholders mean a happy project, and in turn make you look better. Equally, leading by force, and alienating people in the process may lead to a positive outcome, but the damage done to yourself and the project in the mean-time is destructive. Leadership takes many forms, but project managers need to focus on the non-hierarchical leadership needed to win people over, without them realising they’ve been led. Let’s distil this down to the timeless adage: ‘more carrot, less stick’.

“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”


Too often, project managers pay too much attention to the project and problems facing them, and too little time taking a long, hard look at themselves. Self-understanding, and an appreciation of their own emotional intelligence (or blind spots therein) are what sets great project managers apart from average ones. If you understand yourself, you understand how people will react to you, and you’re already one step ahead of the game.

“He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”

Stakeholders, anyone? It’s not just about impressing the senior ones. Often, it’s the guys on the front lines who need the most encouragement, and you need them to trust you. Don’t focus on impressing your paymasters. You may not get paid if you alienate the troops!

“To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues. Those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.”

Risk – ignore it at your peril! Know what’s coming down the track and be prepared for every eventuality. If you know intimately every risk you face, then you can deal with them before they arise, or at least be the first to deal with them, before you lose control.

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

Change is difficult, and when tasked with implementing huge change, you must leave just enough room for manoeuvre. When you box people in completely, they are much more likely to take the ‘nuclear’ option, and you are more likely to fail, or at least end up with egg on your face. Change is inevitable, but always give people the room to take the right path by their own volition.

“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders. Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

Leadership – how to run a project when you can’t pull rank over anyone? Understanding, trust and graciousness are the answers. The better you treat people, the better they will treat you, and the more they will want to work with and for you. Never, ever, stop listening. Sometimes, letting people have their say is more valuable to you than talking. You may not agree with them, but once you’ve given them the chance to talk while you listen, your currency rises.

8 March 2017

Uncertainty – why it shouldn’t be a bad word to a project manager

Embracing uncertainty can lead to all kinds of positive changes.

Nothing in life is more reliable than the constant of uncertainty. It’s inevitable.

uncertaintyAnd in managing projects, even the most brilliant project managers struggle with uncertainty. We use milestones to anticipate outcomes, and risk management to prevent disasters, but what about those unseen, unknown issues we can’t manage until they land on our plate?

We need to start to understand the complexity and uncertainty of a project in order to control and manage it.

Project managers have two main functions: managing tasks and managing relationships. However, all the focus is too often placed on the formalised areas of management, planning and task management, and not enough on the softer relationship-management side, and this softer side is generally where the uncertainty lies.

‘Critical path’ is too often our God. But critical path only makes sense in a perfect world, and critical path thinking can make the uncertainties that exist into more of an issue than they need to be. Strictly enforcing the discipline inherent in critical path thinking can all too often lead to issues, which would be less damaging if we instead adapted to a more ‘conditional’ style of management. Different projects call for very different approaches. Uncertainty is all around us, and sometimes the uniqueness of a situation is just that – unique. We need to embrace it, rather than mitigate against it.

Not all methodologies work for all projects, not all tools are universally suited, and individual project characteristics need to be carefully considered. Too often we decide to place an ill-fitting framework on a project, hoping it will order things, and too often this fails – how often do projects overrun, miss budgets, specifications and schedules?

While uncertainty is sometimes a bad word to a project manager, it doesn’t need to be. Embracing the uncertainty can lead to all kinds of positive changes. Sometimes, the best way to run a project is just not the ‘critical path’ way. Deviation from this way of thinking can sometimes reap real rewards. Remember that every situation is unique, every project is unique, and each brings its own particular brand of complexity and uncertainty.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to do things a little differently when planning a project? How about taking the time to determine the uncertainty profile of the project first, before assigning tasks and timelines?

By doing this, we embrace the uncertainty a little bit more. And that isn’t a bad thing. Remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

‘If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour’.

1 March 2017


As project managers, we all know that there is never enough time – but are we right? Is it conceivable that there is usually enough time, but we just don’t manage it well?


“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

We also know that feeling – “I didn’t see the time going”, “I didn’t realise it had got so late”, and “I have so many things to finish before close of business”. At the same time, we all know effective people who get through their work within the normal working day, and still manage to lead a hectic social life as well.

It is time to take control of your own time.

To quote Drucker again: “Know where your time goes”.

Do you know where your time goes?

Do you even know what your time today was spent on?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you should! You owe it to yourself, and as a project manager you owe it to your profession.




For the next 5 working days, keep a record of how you spend your time in 15 minute blocks, throughout your day. Keep it in your phone, or on your laptop, or in a notebook. At the end of the 5 days (and not until the 5 days have elapsed!), analyse your time under the following categories:

  1. Very productive
  2. Marginally productive
  3. Barely worth doing
  4. Waste of time

Having done this, if you find yourself mainly scoring 3s or 4s, then you have a time management issue. If this is so, continue this recording of your time into the future until you have sorted out the problem. If you apply yourself to this exercise, the problem will sort itself.

Do this privately. Don’t let anyone else see the results. That way you can be totally honest with yourself. It is only for your own benefit.

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

As a result of applying this you will:

  • be far more productive
  • be a much more effective Project Manager
  • feel more in control of your life
  • have a better work/life balance
  • be less stressed, less worried
  • be better company socially
  • be a nicer person
  • be more likely to improve your promotion prospects


“Heck, by the time a man scratches his behind, clears his throat, and tells me how smart he is, we’ve already wasted fifteen minutes.” – Lyndon B. Johnson


Article by Peter F. Drucker
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