10 July 2009

New Blog

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20 April 2009

Focused Fear

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Senior Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

I've written on our other blogs in the past about some of our more momentous airline incidents, well this story stuck me as very compelling :


A gentlemen who had some flight experience with single engine propeller planes was on a flight, and by sheer luck, noticed the pilot become unresponsive behind the wheel of a 10,000lb turbo propeller airplane :

"The only thing I knew how to do up there was talk on the radio," White told WINK. "I've only been up there (in the cockpit) one other time. I made it a point to ask the pilot -- not Joe, but another one -- 'How do I talk on the radio?' and they showed me what button to push."

While he spoke to the air controllers, they actually called someone who knew how to operate the airplane and were able to walk him through landing safely.

So why do I mention this article? I think a few points are very important.

1 - Being aware and curious of our surroundings, even though it may not be "your job" ; never stop asking those around you questions. Someday those little tid-bits of information will come in handy

2 - Trusting those with knowledge to guide you safely in an emergency; it's sometimes quite apparent when we are out of our realm, know that moment and embrace the fact that by trusting those around us, we can make it back to solid ground in one piece

3 - In those moments of peril, be personally or with a project, focus that fear. Sometimes it's the fear of failure, the fear of budget overuns, or the fear of personal impact; Focused Fear is an asset. Embrace it.

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

30 March 2009

Shuttle Launch Perspective

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Senior Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

In Project Management, perspective is everything.

When an event occurs, on the surface it may appear to be a "deal breaker" or something that will drastically change the quality of the product to be delivered.

It's at times like that, an overall perspective can turn that issue into an advantage.

Speaking of perspective, these folks decided they weren't content watching the space shuttle launch from the ground, so what does one do in this situation?

Jump out of an airplane and video tape it.

Never forget to look for other people's perspective too, sometimes it takes a truly radical independent consultant to help develop a fresh perspective!

Like Veris.

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

16 February 2009

New Obama Pick

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Senior Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

Hard to believe we are almost through February already!

Today it was announced that Obama picked Google Vet Katie Jacobs to head up the "Citizens Participation" post.


I think we have the opportunity to do a lot of things right with this situation.

It also reminds me how important requirements gathering is for any project, how else will we know we've achieved the desired outcome?

Along that same line, there were several articles on how Google kills projects, also a topic from previous Blog posts found HERE

The article talks a little about the projects that Google is working on, but also how previous incarnations were killed due to lack of interest, or not living up to expectations. LINK

My favorite quote was : “Perfection closes off the process,” Mr. Jarvis said. “It makes you deaf. Google purposefully puts out imperfect and unfinished products and says: ‘Help us finish them. What do you think of them?’ ”

Like it or not, that's Project Management in a nut-shell, sure we talk about the triple constraint of "Time, Cost, Quality" ; but we all know in the real world it's about getting the product or project out the door so we can find the flaws and fix them, some flaws will never be discovered "in the lab."

Comment below or visit us on LinkedIn
you can also find me directly for feedback at : http://www.linkedin.com/in/neall

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

16 January 2009

IT Governance: Bridging the gap between Gatekeeper & Innovator

Maryanne Pilson
Veris Associates, Inc.

Today the race for Sarbanes Oxley compliance has all but reached the final lap. So does your organization continue to sponsor IT governance initiatives or has sponsorship hit the proverbial “wall” in the final lap?

One way to ensure funding for your next IT governance initiative is simply leveraging all IT governance components as intended. In doing so, IT governance becomes more than an operational expense; it becomes an asset. Over time your IT governance program is strategic to the future of your organization.

There are two distinct IT governance roles, both equally important, but not always apparent during the early phases of implementation.

For the sake of this article, I will give each role an assumed alias (Table 1) and will refer to each by alias through the remainder of the article.

Table 1


IT Governance Role



(a.k.a. IT expense)


IT governance practices aim at ensuring that expectations for IT are met, IT's performance is measured, its resources are managed and its risks are mitigated.



(a.k.a. IT asset)


To enable the enterprise by exploiting opportunities and maximizing benefits.”

In the early stages of implementation, it is easy to limit yourself as the Gatekeeper, focusing on identifying and mitigating risks. However, if you want to drive IT governance to new levels and continue making contributions - you must evolve!

As business needs are constantly changing, IT governance can lead the way as Innovator. IT governance controls and procedures need to be periodically reviewed to ensure they are still fit for purpose. You should have no problem obtaining IT governance sponsorship if you (the Innovator) take advantage of everyday opportunities to maximize benefits. An Innovator understands the benefit of being first in bringing new ideas and technologies into the organization and the Gatekeeper knows the consequences of implementing poor processes. By recognizing and promoting opportunities for improvement, the “Gatekeeper” transition to “Innovator” becomes effortless.

Listed below are common IT governance activities. We have traditional on the left and forward-looking on the right.

On the other hand, as we bridge the gap from Gatekeeper to Innovator, defining procedures is very much the same as developing solutions.



Define procedures


Develop solutions

Let’s look at an example figure 1, to help make the connection. This example is a proposed proof of concept (POC) for developing a new solution for recently defined procedures. The solution uses the concept of “reuse” by customizing an off-the-shelf web application. The objective is to improve productivity after it was decreased by Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) implementation. SOX resulted in too much time being spent on administrative tasks to create new user accounts, which took time away from core responsibilities.

Figure 1

In the example above, the current process objective was to ensure compliance with Sarbanes Oxley regulatory requirements for requesting new financial user accounts. The current process (defined and implemented by the Gatekeeper) met all requirements; however, it had a negative impact to productivity. Obviously, productivity was overlooked during the requirement phase. Manual processes are time consuming and without additional staff, your service levels will likely take a hit.

In this case, the pain was short lived. It was quickly recognized we had an opportunity to implement a process improvement/solution. In the example above, the new process would automate the user account request with minimal development effort, thus improving productivity by eliminating Helpdesk tickets and manual processing. Finally, the new process would be accomplished without compromising SOX compliance status and accessible via the web 24X7.

Later the following additional benefits were identified as result of the new process.

· Reduce end to end turn-around time by 30%

· Reduce the number of errors caused by missing or incorrect data given to the Helpdesk by 10%

· Reduce amount of manual effort spent on SOX quarterly reviews by 40%

As Gatekeeper and Innovator, you also motivate others to exploit opportunities and maximize benefits. If not, perhaps it is the next “gap” worthy of remediation!

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

07 October 2008

Building the IT Process Framework – Part 3 – Blending Culture Before It Curdles

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Project Management Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.


As the Fall season approaches, we are all reminded of the never-ending changes that life brings. The cycle of life if you will. It also reminds me of the ways we adapt to change and embrace it in our daily lives.

The last few sessions we reviewed some
PMO Pitfalls and Process Framework Highlights. In this article we will be discussing key strategies to introduce IT Service Management (ITSM) into your culture, and to ensure continual commitment and momentum.

As with change in any culture, it often is met with resistance. In my opinion, there are a number of ways to re-direct and harness that energy:

  • Leading by Example
  • Mentoring / Consultative Actions
  • Employing Top-Down Leadership

For those un-familiar with the term “curdle,”curd is a dairy product obtained by coagulating or curdling milk with an edible acidic substance, such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then draining off the “whey,” or liquid portion. It is essentially cottage cheese or paneer; an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese. Milk that has been left to sour (raw milk alone or pasteurized milk with added lactic acid bacteria) will also naturally produce curds, and sour milk cheese is produced this way.

This brings the question:

Q: Is “Curdling your culture” a bad thing? It does, in fact, yield a useful product.

A: I think in some examples, there comes a tipping point, where a cultural decomposition is necessary; as it is said in our Declaration of Independence “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Call me a patriot, but there comes a time when the “long train of abuses and usurpations” of a company’s right to a good process requires throwing off the old, and establishing new guards for their future security.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but to obtain curd, you must practice patience and deliberate precision in its preparation. This is no going back after you’ve made the curd, so before you go down that road ensure you’ve exhausted all other alternatives.

Let’s take a step back and look at ways to prevent unplanned curdling in your culture.

Q: How do I instill change in a culture?

A: There are a number of approaches for enacting change.

First, leading by example will show people that you’re serious, and more importantly, successful at what you’re doing. By adopting a “Lead by Example” approach, those key members of your staff will see the vision and direction, and will feel more comfortable walking outside their comfort zones, which is a large part of the battle.

Secondly, by mentoring and taking active consultative actions, you’ll demonstrate you are confident in the direction you are leading, and will also begin to add value at a very tactical level. Maybe it’s helping someone put an action plan or continual improvement plan in place. Or perhaps it’s taking a leadership role in building a communications tour, or helping someone put together a presentation and being his or her sounding board. Either way, it demonstrates that you’re serious, and you don’t mind “getting your hands dirty.”

Lastly, show them the vision. The best way to do that is to have it come from a high visibility and known-quantity leadership individual or body. It is one thing for you to have a vision, and to drive it; it’s another thing entirely if they hear it from an Executive Leadership figure driving the direction of the company. Everyone wants to feel connected to their company, and by knowing that the path you’re paving is the same as Executive Leadership, it will help alleviate fears of being left in the cold.

Q: How do I ensure continual commitment?

A: Engage your experts. Seek out Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), whether consultants or full-time employees. Don’t be afraid to be mentored or to solicit the help of experts. The key is to trust that knowledge and expertise.

Understand this is part of delegating responsibility and letting go of those “pieces,” when things don’t go as “planned” according to your view; give those experts a wide berth. Even if you feel they are truly failing, or not achieving a particular bullet-point on a particular roadmap, you must demonstrate that they are truly empowered.

We learn best by our mistakes. Encouraging those experts to lead, for others to grow wings and fly on their own, will also reverberate in your organization. If others see the first misstep is a “Career Limiting Move” (CLM) for that person’s upward mobility, they will surely avoid every aspect. On the other hand, if they see those “experts” being given the support and latitude to empower experts of their own, those key individuals will seek the same. Those are the “Future Experts” that will help take your wonderful “
Process Garden” and translate it into bountiful profits.

So to answer the question at hand, “How do I ensure continual commitment?” I say, show them continual commitment; not commitment that dries up during a hiring freeze, tough market conditions, or an unpopular presidential candidate. Nay, you must foster the roots of your organization and the roots of your experts, so that they can withstand the fiercest of storms and droughts. Dare I say, they may serve as an oasis for you and yours when the time of need arrives.

Q: How do I keep momentum?

Understand that this is not an easy task; leading change will often challenge you to re-evaluate everything you know about Business, Technology, and Life at large. Keeping momentum is so very important because without it, all your vision, your hard work, and sweet “milk” will succumb to the acid of the old guard. Whether or not you like cottage cheese, it will be the only thing on the table.

Momentum can be felt in several areas.

  • Tactical change: The day-to-day changes; both from what is worked on to how work is done on those things.
  • Strategic change: The horizon will change for those leaders and future experts. They will realize your organization is heading to a new place, and will exhibit renewed fervor.
  • Communal change: The self-imposed status-quo will be lifted and redirected; those around your “area affect” will recognize a change in the tempo and tempest of your organization.

So the important piece to this is recognizing those three areas, and addressing them in a methodical manner. By enacting steady tactical changes -- not too fast, not too slow, and at the right time -- it will be in their faces, undeniable proof that change is happening. For them, not to them.

By enacting Strategic change, they too will recognize the change in the tone at the top. By knowing and seeing how they tie together, it will reinforce changes are necessary and important, and subsequently, they will feel a connection unlike anything they’ve felt before.

Lastly, I feel Communal change is one of the most important and influential aspects. It is palatable at the water cooler and at lunch tables. It’s that sense of belonging to something bigger, and also the sense of being accountable to your peers -- that if you don’t get behind this change, it will let your peers down.

Q: So what does culture change have to do with Curd?

Nothing, and everything.

Curd is a by-product of milk standing still and spoiling, the milk would be wasted, so the cycle of life takes over; it makes something useful from something useless; in this case, perhaps an IT department, in a town not too far from your own. In a business sense, when an organization stagnates, and spoils, there rises to the surface these “clumps,” which when strained and repurposed, makes a wonderful new product.

However, if it’s unintentional, it’s disastrous.

So my advice is this: When you’re blending change into your culture, don’t put your precious resources in the position to spoil. Frequent communication checkpoints with your Subject Matter Experts will keep you in tune with the process. Also, ensure proper precautions are in place to let you know when you’re reaching a resource’s “expiration date.” Lastly, if your intent is to let it curdle, make sure you have good recipes for that curd, and of course; make sure the executive branch likes cottage cheese.

To Recap:

  • Curd isn’t a bad thing, but it’s an acquired taste, and requires some careful planning;
  • Change keeps your culture from spoiling, tune for desired results;
  • Communication keeps you in tune with the process, regardless of the desired end product;
  • Continue to lead by example, and to build executive leadership’s buy-in; and,
  • Commitment and Momentum will keep you on track.

Thanks for your time; I look forward to your feedback at nealleininger@verisassociates.com, or in our blog’s comment section at http://veris-pm.blogspot.com/

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

02 September 2008

Building the IT Process Framework – Part 2 – Translating Alphabet Soup into Satisfying Results

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Project Management Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

PrintListen Now

In Part 1 of "Building the IT Process Framework," we covered some of the common PMO Pitfalls, and a few suggestions on how to improve “Everyone’s PMO.”

In this article we’ll discuss some common “Alphabet Soup” methodologies seen in Project Management Offices (PMO) today; how to best leverage their advantages, and explore some of their weaknesses. This article provides information about:

· Six Sigma

Vegetable Soup?

As I was planning my garden this year, I was contemplating some of the “Companion Plants” to compliment my tomatoes and peppers.

For those un-familiar with the term, Companion Plants are combinations of different vegetable, herbs, and spices. They benefit from each other’s flavors, but also provide other benefits of their natural characteristics, such as:

· Attracting Butterflies and Bees for pollination
· Repelling pests and other detrimental insects
· Enhancing the flavor and aroma of surrounding vegetation
· Providing nutritional and structural support.

I use this analogy to illustrate an approach that I’ve used numerous times with PMO implementations, as well as multiple process improvement efforts. By combining different methodologies, the overall process becomes stronger and more vibrant than any single framework could ever possibly attain.

For those unfamiliar with the alphabet soup of IT acronyms, I’ve summarized a few of the methodologies which have strategic relevance in today’s information technology industry.

ITIL – Information Technology Infrastructure Library

A framework which defines how IT delivers services to the business. It is often the basis on which the organization begins to define IT’s role to the business as a set of services delivered to customers (the end users). ITIL’s strength identifies “what” should be delivered, but it is not prescriptive about “how” it should be delivered. Often cited as a deficiency, ITIL best delivers a customized solution based on the business’ initiatives. There are no “out of the box” process improvement frameworks that effectively deliver services congruent to the business. By defining the “what,” companies can align their solution to business needs. Technology is fitted to the business, not the other way around.

SDLC – Software (or Systems) Development Life Cycle

A framework designed for managing the development and deployment of applications or systems, typically using a Waterfall, Spiral, Rapid Deployment or “Tinker Till It Works” methodology. As disparate programming languages and the methods in which they were developed matured, this methodology adapted accordingly.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma, originating from the manufacturing industry, focuses on removing defects or errors in manufacturing or business processes using the DMAIC methodology cycle - Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

COBIT - Control Objectives for Information and related Technology

COBIT, a control framework, concentrates on definition, implementation, auditing, measurement, and improvements of controls across a specific process. As you can tell, it is very pertinent to the auditing and compliance world. In fact, auditors created it to place measureable controls on processes. A control measures the performance of a process or method against its defined objective or goal. For many, it means, “It makes sure your garbage is certified garbage, it doesn’t necessarily mean your garbage is good.”

Q: So what makes the best methodology?

Good question, however the answer requires some due diligence, research and dare I say, soul searching.

A: No super seedlings here. The methodology of choice varies with the maturity of the organization, the level of IT governance, the integration of matrix organizations, the complexity of the IT solutions deployed, and the Regulatory restrictions of the business – Just as the soil pH balance and water sources must be carefully accounted for in planning a garden, all of these aspects will help you determine the appropriate size and complexity of your “Process Garden.”

Here is what I’ve learned:

ITIL is a process oriented framework. Seriously consider it if you’re deploying SDLC or Six Sigma methodology. Both require massive amounts of data. Without a firm process framework, you will quickly outpace your staff’s availability and willingness to change. The scalable ITIL process framework allows you to tackle the age old question of “How do I eat an elephant;” and the answer is “One bite at a time.” Its scalability makes it a perfect choice for organizations that are planting their first “Process Garden.”

Q: Which comes first, the process or the controls?

A: Should I plant the garden, then put up the fence, or vice versa? As silly as these questions appear at first glance, it’s a discussion that warrants attention. Controls are typically seen as detrimental knee jerk managerial decisions. They seem to only benefit the receiving end of the control, and not the user. At first glance, that is.

By utilizing a process-based approach, we can see the critical path, and thereby determine the best place to “put up fences.” Without a comprehensive process plan framework, we have increasing difficulty illustrating the overall picture to our neighbors, not to mention the tangible benefits of putting controls in place.

Process engineering can leverage any methodology you throw at it, whether it’s SDLC, Six Sigma, or COBIT for that matter. So long as the process comes first, you will always win.

Control methodologies, like COBIT, use metrics and measurements to ensure control. Without a process methodology first, where these data points are identified as viable, and then collected and evaluated, the control points are empty. You may build the perfect fence, but to the determiment of your garden’s health and prosperity.

Q: How does a methodology differ from a framework?

A: Quite simply, a methodology systematically approaches the measurement of quality against a framework. A framework provides governance and overall accountability to a process. Without a framework, measurements typically fall out of focus and lose their context. Without a methodology, a framework is simply a picture on the wall, without the context of “how does this help me?” A framework keeps you on track, and helps explain why you are tilling the ground and researching fertilizer, instead of just throwing seeds on the grass; and hoping for the best.

Q: Which combination do you prefer?

A: As my career has evolved, I’ve found a correlation between the number of methodologies available and my propensity to utilize less of the “whole” and more of the “pieces.” I think that without a PMO, process improvement frameworks become almost useless. Without project prioritizations and clear connections between the business and IT, executive support withers faster than a garden fed by saltwater. Define your “water supply” and irrigate accordingly.

Secondly, depending on the maturity of the PMO, some methodologies must first be introduced to facilitate that preliminary PMO framework, such as SDLC or Project Management. These methodologies typically help the PMO, and IT as a whole, simply because they help everyone “DO” a lot better.

Thirdly, at a critical threshold, as the PMO’s portfolio has started to take root and the framework you have chosen has reached it’s breaking point; it is best to re-invest through an overall process improvement framework such as ITIL. It helps build the continual improvement plan across all disciplines, regardless of the methodology. It’s best to realize the weakness of the organization and the frameworks or methodologies early. Without organizational self-awareness, the propensity for day-to-day interruptions will turn a tool into a self-destructive force of its own.

Lastly, a governance model is an important piece to the puzzle. Without a fence, varmints and well wishers alike, will trample your garden.

So to recap:

· Keep it simplePick framework and methodology “companions” that compliment your organization
· Be self-awareUtilize a process based approach, so your controls don’t starve or saturate your organization
· Just start doing it, within your meansCareful planning will foster a bountiful harvest of efficiencies and profits
· Don’t forget to re-evaluate your executive “water sources” and lessons learned after the first “harvest.” What may work one season, could ruin your “soil” the next.

I look forward to hearing about how these strategies affected your organizations, please give me feedback by way of the comments section on this blog.

In the next article of this series, we will address how to blend methodologies, and more importantly, how to do it without being tarred-and-feathered. Until next time, choose your companion plants carefully!

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.