Posts Tagged 'Projects'

December 22, 2011

Serving and Supporting - Outside the Data Center

On Tuesday, Summer posted "Giving: Better Than Receiving," a blog about all of the organizations SoftLayer has supported in 2011, and I'm one of the lucky SLayers on the new Charity Committee. We recently began this initiative to oversee charitable donations at SoftLayer and (more importantly) to encourage all employees to step-up and make a DIFFERENCE. Whether by volunteering or financially supporting a local charity, the idea is that we all participate in our community and try and help in some way.

One of the best examples of an organization that does amazing things for communities and people who deserve a little extra love is the TV show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." I've always loved the show, and I'm only quasi-embarrassed that I've shed a tear or two when the crowd shouts, "Move that bus!" and the homeowners see their brand new home. If you aren't familiar with the show, the EM:HE team finds deserving families who, for one reason or another, need a new home, and over the course of one week, the EM:HE crew and a slew of local volunteers set to work to rebuild or remodel the home.

You can imagine the amount of supplies, coordination and man-hours that go into building a new home or completely remodeling it in just one week. That's where the community and local businesses get involved: Supplies are donated by companies, and the work force is made up of show employees, people from the sponsoring companies, and an average of 2,500 volunteers every episode.

With that generous involvement, the challenge becomes coordinating the massive amount of work, people and projects to get everything done in a short period of time. That's where the Internet comes in. How can the show maintain an online presence for vendors, sponsors and fans of the show? Each of them plays an important part in the show's success, so they need to be kept "in the know" with the most up-to-date information. And that's where we come in.

This philanthropic show definitely meets the requirements of SoftLayer's Charity Committee, and when the show was nominated as a prospective organization to support, we immediately set plans in motion to figure out how we could help support the show and the deserving families getting new homes.

We've donated $25,000 in free hosting services this season to support the show's online presence. We'll be providing a place for vendors who donate to gain some visibility and a place for fans to watch videos and keep up with the show ... And that's no small task: The site receives about 6.8 million monthly impressions.

As Summer mentioned in her post, this is just one of the many ways we're reaching out to support organizations that are doing great work. Let us know what charities matter the most to you, and we'll get them on our radar. We're always looking for ways to get involved, and the first step is learning about who's doing this kind of amazing work for such a great cause.

-@skinman454

May 11, 2011

Acunote: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Gleb Arshinov of Acunote, a SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partner specializing in online project management and Scrum software.

Company Website: http://www.acunote.com
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/acunote

Implementing Project Management in Your Business

Project management has a bit of a stigma for being a little boring. In its simplest form, project management involves monitoring and reporting progress on a given initiative, and while it sounds simple, it's often an afterthought ... if it's ever a thought at all. Acunote is in the business of making project management easy and accessible for businesses of all sizes.

I've been in and around project management for years now, and while I could talk your ear off about Acunote, I'd rather share a few "Best Practices" for incorporating project management in your business. As you begin to understand how project management principles can be incorporated into your day-to-day activities, you'll be in a better position to understand the value proposition of tools like Acunote.

Track Planning, Not Just Execution
One of the biggest mistakes many companies make as they begin to incorporate project management is the tendency to track the progress on the execution of a project. While that aspect of the project is certainly the most visible, by monitoring the behind-the-scenes planning, you have a fuller view of where the project came from, where it is now and where it is expected to go in the future. It's difficult to estimate how long projects will take, and a lot of that difficulty comes from insufficient planning. By planning what will need to be done in what order, a bigger project becomes a series of smaller progress steps with planning and execution happening in tandem.

For many projects, especially for developers, it's actually impossible to predict most of what needs to get done upfront. That doesn't mean that there isn't a predictable aspect to a given project, though. Good processes and tools can capture how much of the work was planned upfront, how much was discovered during the project, and how the project evolved as a result. In addition to giving you direction as a project moves forward, documenting the planning and execution of a given project will also give you watermarks for how far the project has come (and why).

Use Tools and Resources Wisely
It's important to note that complexity of coordinating everything in a company increases exponentially as the company grows. With fewer than ten employees working on a project in a single department, you can probably get by without being very intentional in project management, but as you start adding users and departments that don't necessarily work together regularly, project management becomes more crucial to keep everyone on the same page.

The most effective project management tools are simple to implement and easy to use ... If a project management tool is a hassle to use, no one's going to use it. It should be sort of a "home base" for individual contributors to do their work efficiently. The more streamlined project management becomes in your operating practices, the more data it can generate and the more you (and your organization's management team) can learn from it.

Make Your Distributed Team Thrive
More and more, companies are allowing employees to work remotely, and while that changes some of the operations dynamics, it doesn't have to affect productivity. The best thing you can do to manage a thriving distributed team is to host daily status meetings to keep everyone on the same page. The more you communicate, the quicker you can adjust your plans if things move off-track, and with daily meetings, someone can only be a day behind their expectations before the project's status is reevaluated. With many of the collaboration tools available, these daily meetings can be accompanied by daily progress reports and real-time updates.

Acunote is designed to serve as a simple support structure and a vehicle to help you track and meet your goals, whether they be in development, accounting or marketing. We're always happy to help companies understand how project management can make their lives easier, so if you have any questions about what Acunote does or how it can be incorporated into your business, let us know: support@acunote.com

-Gleb Arshinov, Acunote

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
November 19, 2007

A Feature Too Far

I just finished the best Software Project Management book I have ever read. It covered proper planning, requirements gathering, resource management, inter-organizational communication, and even discussed the immeasurable factor of individual effort. The book's title is 'A Bridge too Far' by Cornelius Ryan. The book is actually a historical account of "Operation Market-Garden" which was an attack by the Allied forces against Nazi Germany in World War II.

First let me say that I am not comparing Software Development to War. I do appreciate the difference between losing one's job and losing one's life. But as I was reading the book, the parallels between the job of a project manager preparing for, managing, and executing a large project are not unlike that of the job of a General's planning staff preparing for a major offensive.

Operation Market-Garden was a combined ground and paratrooper attack into The Netherlands by the Allies a few months after the invasion of Normandy. Things seemed to be going well for the Allies in the months after D-Day and the Allied Generals became confident that they could launch a lightening strike that would end the war sooner rather than later. The operation seemed simple, Airborne paratroopers would be dropped deep in Nazi territory and would capture key bridges along a route into The Netherlands. A ground offensive would quickly follow using the bridges that were captured by the paratroopers to get almost all the way to Germany's borders. The short version of the story is that the ground offensive never caught up to the paratroopers and the offensive didn't succeed.

Reading the historical account, with the benefit of hindsight, it became obvious that the Allied Generals underestimated the difficulty of the task. The offensive scope was too big for the resources on hand and perfect execution of all the individual engagements was required. The schedule the Generals developed was impossible to keep and schedule slips meant death for many of the soldiers. Communications between elements of the units involved was critical but did not occur. However, because of heroic actions of some individuals and personal sacrifice of many, the offensive almost succeeded.

In the early stages of a project, setting realistic goals, and not putting on blinders as to the quantity and quality of your resources are key to a projects success. Going on the assumptions that the 'development weather' will always be perfect, communications will always work, and that all tasks will be completed on schedule is a recipe for disaster. And you can't always plan on individual heroics to save a project.

I usually try to inject some levity into my posts, but not this one. 17,000 Allied soldiers, 13,000 German soldiers, and 10,000 civilians were killed, missing, or wounded as a result of this failed offensive.

-@nday91

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