Tag Archive for Planning

On the First Day: The Importance of Planning

God knew nothing

I’m taking an IT course at BCIT loftily entitled, “Business Analysis and Systems Design”. It’s about project management for large enterprise systems, and with data coming in that such projects have a terrible track record—about 75 per cent fail or go way over budget—there’s a need to refine the planning process and train people better.

Some have postulated that the universe is really just a vast software system, but that idea always infers that it’s a successful system. What if God knew nothing of project management? What if He just jumped in and started making the cosmos with no clear plan of where he was going?

Here’s one scenario:

God Goofs OffOn the first day, God rested. He figured He had a whole week to create the cosmos so “hey, like what’s the rush?”

On the second day, God got up, made a cup of coffee, and checked His email. He had over 7 million messages.

Most were spam.

On the third day, God logged into Facebook and updated His status—28,000 times.

Then He tweeted about it.

On the fourth day, God realized that He had better start to seriously do something about creating the cosmos, so after lunch He created the night and the day. But then He realized that it might be too dark at night (even with the moon, which he hadn’t created yet), and people would get lost or fall down in the dark and would probably curse His name, so He revised His decision about creating the day and the night deciding that it might be a bit rash without considering all the repercussions of this cosmos building stuff before jumping in.

He resolved to sleep on it and start fresh the next day.

On the fifth day, God got an idea. He decided that He’d create the waters and the firmament. “Oh my God”, said God, “That would be so cool”.

But then He thought, “What’s the point of water and firmament (does anybody even know what the heck “firmament” is anyway?) with nothing to swim in it or fly through it? Instead, He thought it would be super fantastic to create all the birds, bats, insects and other flying things as well as all the fishes that swim in the sea.

He stayed up really late creating all that cool stuff.

The sixth day wasn’t a good day for God. On the sixth day, God woke to find that, without the water and the firmament, all the birds of the air and fishes of the sea had died horrible deaths. It was pretty depressing (and it smelt bad too).

God wasted most of the sixth day cleaning up from the fifth.

On the seventh day, God woke up in a cold sweat well before His alarm clock rang. It was dark and cold and He realized He’d done nothing useful to create the cosmos. He told Himself that He’d certainly tried—”but life can be so unfair, you know”—and now He didn’t have a prayer of getting the cosmos ready in time. What He needed was a miracle.

And just as he was about to curse His fate for the third time, God noticed a handbill from Wal-Mart and it was offering a ready-made cosmos for sale. At these double discounted prices, God knew this would cover His Ass perfectly. Sure it was cheap and made mostly of plastic and particleboard (probably in some country with dubious labour practices and no environmental regulations), but with all the plug n’ play features, it would do just fine as a last-minute solution.

God thought, “Hell, why not?”

wal-mart-smileyOn the eighth day as God checked out of Wal-Mart, He then noticed that, where His original idea for the cosmos stressed cooperation, this pre-fab version was built on the Darwin model of competition­–survival of the fittest. “Oh well”, thought God, “It didn’t matter really.” He was out of time and short on good excuses.

“Besides”, God said to Himself as He left the parking lot,
“No one would even know the difference.”

Readiness

tarogato-Jason-HallJason_Hall_clarinetsLast week was my birthday and, in the spirit of simplicity, I sent out a single invite through Facebook to my nearest and dearest friends to drop by my place for drinks.

Several drinks into the evening, somebody said “Play us something on the tarógató” and the crowd chanted “Jason, Jason, Jason”. Last year, I had a tarógató hand made for me in Budapest. A tarógató is a Hungarian form of clarinet with a melancholy sound somewhere between an English horn and a soprano saxophone (nothing like a clarinet).

My background is classical music (although I’ve been exploring improvised types such as jazz, blues, and Balkan music in the last few years), so playing spontaneously isn’t something I’m accustomed to. Nonetheless, I had several little ditties to play along with  stories of their origins:

  • “Kuruc dalok”, a Hungarian recruiting song used to entice young men off to war.
  • “Margot Labourez La Vigne”, a humorous medieval French song that admonishes Margot to keep working the vines and to stop flirting with local soldiers.
  • An old dance written by none other than King Henry VIII

It’s music performance the way I like it best—warm, intimate, and in the company of friends. There was much cat calling and hilarity too, especially around how Henry VIII could find time to write music whilst chopping off the heads of his wives. “He didn’t chop their heads off himself—someone else did that. That’s how he had time to write music”, one of my friends said.

I was happy that I had a few tunes that I could play (and stories about them) on a moment’s notice. Later, I got thinking about how great it would be to have other “party pieces” ready that describe who I am and what I do. If anyone asks me about what I do as a marketing/technical writer, I should have a story to tell him or her.

Last year, I wrote a winning award application for Webtech Wireless. The fallout from that was a stream of related documents and the CEO saying, “Now, we can now call ourselves an award-winning software company”.

Now, I have a handy one-pager to share about how I helped Webtech Wireless win its first-ever technology award.

 

Barry Cogswell, Artist & Sculptor

I also want to thank you for helping to make the process so easy and pleasant. It was great working with you. From the beginning you had a very clear idea of how the site might be designed, but you were also more than willing to listen to my own ideas and suggestions. Throughout I found the complete process, from starting with my initial request to taking delivery of your excellent final design a very positive and enjoyable experience. I assure you I will not hesitate to recommend you to acquaintances and friends who may need the help of a web-site designer.

Thank you again.

Gary Wagner, PMP, Product Manager

During our working together, Jason confidently led the development and execution to plan, of the end user and internal communications that accompanied regular product software releases.

Jason took strong ownership of the content, direction, and consistency of these communications and delivered consistently to previously agreed-to scope on time, and on more than one occasion, earlier than expected.

A self starter and engaging collaborator, Jason demonstrated the ability to maintain focus on his and his team’s set of deliverables whilst being aware of overarching project milestones during it’s lifecycle.

I would welcome the opportunity to engage Jason again on any future project which would benefit from his creative skill.
March 31, 2010

Barry Cogswell, Artist & Sculptor

I also want to thank you for helping to make the process so easy and pleasant. It was great working with you. From the beginning you had a very clear idea of how the site might be designed, but you were also more than willing to listen to my own ideas and suggestions. Throughout I found the complete process, from starting with my initial request to taking delivery of your excellent final design a very positive and enjoyable experience. I assure you I will not hesitate to recommend you to acquaintances and friends who may need the help of a web-site designer.

Thank you again.

Perfect Contract

The Perfect Contract

I was contracted to provide technical help, which I would describe as The Perfect Contract. What was perfect about this contract was how much I was able provide because it mirrored my diverse range of skills and abilities. So much so, in fact, that the description of what I did reads almost like my résumé. This contract was a quick turn around – I was called on Thursday and had the majority of work completed by the following Wednesday.

Needs Assessment – 6 hours

The client was in the midst of an office-wide migration from Macintosh computers to Windows PC computers to be compliant with head office. I spoke with their IT Administrator to determine what operating systems were involved and what she thought the key issues were.

I discovered that some Users would migrate directly to PC computers and other would be on their old Apple Macintosh computers running Windows in a Citrix shell for several weeks. My training and materials needed to reflect that.

I explored their system making notes. I needed to know their systems well enough to anticipate a broad range of questions pertaining to both Apple Macintosh and Windows PC operating systems as well as the Citrix Shell. I concluded that I would be giving a lecture type demonstration to all staff using screen projections and handouts.

Create End-User Guide – 11 hours

At home, I created a complementary End-User Migration Guide aimed at both the full PC Users as well as the Mac Users now operating Windows in the Citrix Shell.

Topics covered included Understanding Windows 2000 Server, Using Word and Excel in Windows, Introduction to Outlook, Good PC keyboard shortcuts for Mac Users and how to navigate between the two environments.

Deliver Presentation – 1.5 hours

On Monday, I delivered a presentation to all available staff in their boardroom. I handed out my Guide and used a projector to demonstrate how their new computer environment would operate.

Following the demonstration I answered questions ranging from how to access old programs and files to security concerns in Windows 2000.

Provide Desk-side Support – 14 hours

After the presentation, I visited each staff member in person to help with specific questions or concerns. As with many offices, there was a broad range of skills to accommodate. Some Users had come from Windows backgrounds in other companies and were pleased to return to a Windows environment. Others had only ever known a Mac environment and verged on terror at the prospect of starting all over again with a new and unfamiliar operating system.

I took time to assess their individual needs so that I could provide service to even those who initially thought they didn’t require any support. For example, I showed some Users how to create mail rules to organize their email in Outlook, how to assign their favourite keyboard shortcuts to toolbars in Word and how to navigate and manage files in Windows.

I returned over several days to provide desk side support and re-iterate the initial presentation to those how had not been to the original presentation.

Design Corporate Logo 3.5 hours

An interesting spin-off of this contract was that the IT Administrator discovered that their corporate logo did not port over well from Macintosh to Windows and asked if I could redesign it.

My solution was to recreate their old logo using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and create both Web and print versions to suit all their needs. After one revision, they were pleased with what I created and the new logo now adorns their corporate letterhead and Website.

Conclusion

Although I have taken on more technically challenging contracts than this one, rarely have I been able to roll so many skills into one short contract. I welcome all other creative and diverse opportunities where my skills and abilities can be as well utilized.

And here’s what the client had to say

Thank you for providing [us] with Jason Hall’s services during their migration; the project is officially over. During the sign-off interview, [our IT Manager] said she was extremely satisfied with the work Jason did. (Despite me giving you such short notice!) [She] was particularly impressed with Jason’s ability to quickly resolve their logo migration issue. This would have been a huge problem for them to resolve but Jason did it within a day.

Thanks again for pulling the rabbit out of the hat. I look forward to working with you again.

Kiss Method could really help now

Once again, I’ve been too ambitious and have nearly shot myself in the foot on this site. I’m pulling back to a simple WordPress site until I’m satisfied (and later perhaps bored) with it. Trying to set up a WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal would be super fantastic, but that’s the whole problem. I need less super fantastic and more simple.
More to come…very soon.