Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bug in Microsoft Project 2010 – Resource Usage

 

In Microsoft Project 2010, you can create a custom calendar to set your day as something different than the default 8 hours per day.  In this example, I changed the working time to 7.5 hours per day.

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So far, no problem.  However, look what happens when you view the Resource Usage Tab for the same task:

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That’s not what I want - I said 7.5 hours per day is the working time!   It should be 7.5 hours per day, not 8 hours for the first 4 days and 5.5 hours for the fifth day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

IT Manager Survey Results So Far…

About 2 months ago, I started a survey on IT Management.  The following are the results so far after about 40 responses.  If you would like to participate in the survey, please feel free to do so by following this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ITManagerSurveyWeb.

Here are the highlights so far…

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Monday, September 20, 2010

The US Customs Rules have not Kept Up with the Realities of Global Knowledge Work

As a global consultant, I travel from time to time to the United States.  When you go through customs, you are questioned to ensure that you are not “working” full-time in the United States without a green card or visa.   

The basic rules for "working" in the United States when you interact with airport customs seem to be as follows:

  • You are not allowed to be a "worker" without a visa or a green card
  • To get either a visa or green card you have to be employable in the US for an extended period of time, e.g. permanently in the case of the green card and at least a year in the case of a visa
  • Getting a NAFTA visa is based on a list of in demand occupations such as teacher, computer programmer or occupational therapist
  • If you do the work in another country they will let you visit your customer in the united states on occasion.  There is no specific rule that is spelled out but in my experience if you go down for a couple days in a month you are ok but if you are going down too often or stay too long the customs officer will start suspecting you are doing "work" in the United States.
  • You are allowed to go into the United States on business if you state that you are in “Sales”, e.g. to close a deal. 

So those are the basic rules, formulated decades ago before the Internet era.  The rules clearly show a very mid 20th century view of "work":

  • "Work" equals hours put in against a job requiring a very specific boxed in role.  The worst thing to tell a customs officer is that you are a "business analyst", "trainer", "strategist", or "consultant".   "Work" equals a job that an average customs officer had heard of, e.g. farmer or secretary.  Try explaining what you do as an "Information architect" and you will be met with suspicion.
  • "Goods" equals tangible imports like lumber, cars, etc.  What if your "good" is a company's online strategy that they just paid you 150k to develop?    What if your “good” is something that you can store on a USB key in your pocket? 
  • "Labor market" is based on the notion that you have to be in the country in order to work.  It misses the point that I can do millions of dollars of knowledge work without any concept of borders. 
  • “Work” means working on premises.  I can work just fine for a US company as long as I work for a Canadian company and ship goods into the United States.  However, if I want to spend 2 weeks deploying the “product” on site, then I’m going to get questioned.

If the goal is to prevent labor from competing with local “workers”, these types of restrictions don’t really provide much support in the digital global knowledge working realm.  Really, the rules basically are a restriction on face to face meetings but place no restriction on me being able to compete first hand with local resources from remote access points.  Instead, they just put a barrier to innovation and physical collaboration as a complement to existing means of digital collaboration.  It means that American companies with offices in other countries (Canada being a great example) need to obtain visas for employees who are jumping across the border for short term stays.

Surely, in the 21st century, we should update this approach and recognize that INCREASING global knowledge workers ability to collaborate across borders is essential to higher productivity, better solutions, and a better economy.   

Given that reality, I would propose a very easy to obtain, very low restriction visa that would enable short term deployments (say 2-4 weeks) across the border.   The governments on both sides could charge a fee and use a Nexus type approach to clearing consultants for the usual security risks.  Once they have the pass, they could go down at any time to deploy solutions, meet with customers, and collaborate with stakeholders with the assumption that 80% of the work would still be done outside the country but that at crucial times there is a requirement for global knowledge workers to collaborate together.  If the United States wants to be the centre of global innovation, it should enable these global workers to actively choose the US as their physical meeting hub for planning sessions, deployments to data centers, training, and collaboration sessions.  This would create a high degree of network effect that would put it at a significant advantage over more restrictive countries such as China, Russia, Middle Eastern countries, etc. 

Zachman Framework Certification No Longer Valid?!

Gartner is reporting that after almost 30 years of being the de facto Enterprise Architecture framework for government, aerospace, and other large scale enterprises the Zachman Framework has collapsed as John Zachman is retiring.

At first glance, it appears that John A Zachman is closing up shop and about to retire, having severed his business partnerships, and appearances are that his son, John P Zachman, will take over the IP trademarks and, as alleged by a former business partner Stan Locke, seek to place the Zachman IP within a COTS package.

A second, and more penetrating glance, into the actual lawsuit itself reveals alleged deceptive practices by the defendant, Stan Locke, and claims of serious and reprehensible actions that are alleged to damage the brand of Zachman.

The capitulation by the defendant in a surprising lawsuit, Stan Locke, will not resolve the concerns or Zachman brand ownership concerns as the damage has already occurred.  This, in turn, raises questions about how the Zachman brand will  regain control after relinquishing that control for so long.

What does this mean for Enterprise Architects that have spent their time, energy and significant financial resources getting certified and becoming practitioners in the EA field?  Based on the current state, it is not clear how this will be sorted out.

As of right now, certification programs have been suspended, John Zachman is exiting the business and the entire framework is now surrounded by legal troubles over who controls the brand, the IP, etc.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Copying Data from Project 2010 to Word is Actually Worse than 2007

In Project 2007, copying data from Project to Word was quite painful, resulting in some funky formatting that was hard coded to whatever colors, fonts, etc. you had in your project file.  In addition, when you copied dates, the default format was 9/8/2010 12:00pm which unless your plan is VERY time sensitive is not typically want you want to show in a word document.

So in Project 2010, the Microsoft team seems to have fixed some things but broken others in an effort to improve these problems in 2007.

So take this dummy project plan I created:

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I want to move this into Word so that I can include it in a Statement of Work, Project Charter, etc.  What I want is this data in a simple table – I don’t need GANTT charts or anything else…just a basic list of tasks and durations.

So now if I copy this into Word, this is what I get:

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Not a bad representation of the plan – certainly better than the output in Project 2007.    However, the biggest challenge here is the indenting – Task 1.1, 1.2, etc. are indented using 4 Spaces instead of a TAB, a proper Word paragraph indent, etc.  If you want to change the size of the indent in word, you’re now stuck with doing a search and replace for 4 spaces and either replacing them or converting them to TABs or Word paragraph indents.

In Excel, there is a further problem – date formatting.  In Excel, the same plan looks like this:

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Again, not bad and certainly an improvement over MS Project 2007.  However, let’s suppose that you want to change the date format to a simple date without the day in it, e.g. 8-Sept-10.    In order to convert the cell into a proper date, you have delete the "Wed " from the dates for each day of the week.  Then you can format your dates anyway you like in Excel.  In addition, you have the same problem with indents as Word – indents are handled with 4 Spaces instead of real indent marks, making them tough to remove.

So from my perspective, while the formatting is prettier when copying data from MS Project 2010, its actually less useful and harder to convert to something I can manually format and change in Word or Excel myself.  This is ultimately what is needed – if you are copying and pasting into another document, you will want to use the parent documents fonts, indenting, date formatting, etc. and not Project’s default settings.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Another Apple IPOD Touch OS - A New Set of Weird Bugs

I have now upgraded my IPOD Touch to IOS 4.0 and already I have experienced some odd bugs:

1. The default Wall Paper is a picture of rain hitting a glass window - not really a bug, but my first instinct was to assume that my IPOD had been dumped in water or had been exposed to humidity and it was warning me!

2. The genius mix (which I have blogged about previously as a major source of bugs) seems to at least work, but the genius database makes some odd choices...it put Glenn Miller into my "Classic Rock" mix and Madonna into my "Indie Rock" mix for example.

3. When you upgrade your OS, it backs up your existing media, wipes your OS and then restores your media through a sync. I had 26 images on my IPOD from my vacation and the restored pictures are there but they are now super pixelated low resolution!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Zachman vs. TOGAF – Enterprise Architecting for Change

In the past several years, I have been working with the Zachman Framework for classifying and organizing architecture artefacts.  Zachman is quite popular as a framework in large enterprises such as governments, big banks, utilities, etc. because it is seen as a comprehensive way to manage the architecture process. 

In the past year or so, I have been switching over to TOGAF which is a competing EA framework.  In comparing the two frameworks, I have found it to be fundamentally more useful in my line of work for a simple reason – TOGAF is a process for managing architecture change, while Zachman is a taxonomy for capturing the current  state of an enterprise (exhaustively seems to be the goal).

Roger Session’s wrote a good article comparing various EA frameworks, and I agree with his conclusion – Zachman is really a taxonomy and TOGAF describes processes.

The TOGAF process is described by the Architecture Development Method (ADM) :

The ADM has some interesting features that make it more relevant to evolving enterprises:

  1. The ADM is fundamentally iterative, both within a single cycle and through repeated iterations of the full cycle. 
  2. TOGAF provides a prescription for storing, classifying and managing architecture artefacts and solution building blocks at various levels of detail and maturity, promoting an incremental approach to enterprise architecture.
  3. Along with the ADM, TOGAF prescribes many tools for capturing requirements, defining/designing architectures and implementing governance practices. 
  4. The process is explicitly business and stakeholder focused – there is a recognition that architecture has to have a business purpose and not just be for its own sake.
  5. TOGAF explicitly allows borrowing from other frameworks, adapting and tailoring the framework to suit the needs of the business, etc.  So if you still want to use your Zachman Grid, you can continue to do so.

Zachman, in contrast, is about capturing state in a structured way.  It provides no guidance on HOW to do architecture design, HOW to introduce change or HOW to improve the architectural maturity of an organization.  It simply provides the model for storing architecture artefacts.

Zachman also has no guidance for incorporating processes into an architecture state – there is no spot in the grid for defining change management processes, operations processes (e.g. ITIL), project management processes, etc.  TOGAF in contrast compliments these processes quite nicely:

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In my work, I am finding TOGAF to be an effective framework for working with stakeholders through strategic planning and architecture work, especially for organizations who are actively transforming themselves.  It allows me to define a process for managing the architecture change in a structured manner through an iterative change cycle.  Stakeholders see a PROCESS that involves them through change and growth in their organization’s maturity.