Project Management Methodology

Projects are like a box of chocolates

How many of us remember the famous quote from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”? Being assigned a project is a little like that box of chocolates – you never know what you are getting until you take that first bite. A project is like taking that first bite of chocolate – unique, but having enough similarities to fit inside the chocolate box.

  • How do you determine the best methodology when you start a project?
  • Do you have a PMO that dictates the methodology?
  • Are you in a company that has adopted Agile as its methodology?
  • Are you using Waterfall?
  • Or, as the project manager, do you have the authority to determine the best methodology for the project based on its assigned team, scope, timeline and cost?

Like that box of chocolates, each project might be unique, but it still needs to work within an agreed upon methodology that is flexible enough to support small to large, complex projects. If the methodology cannot handle the flexibility, it needs to be re-evaluated to support all project types within the organization.

Create a project methodology that supports all project types by defining the critical project artifacts for each project type (e.g., small, medium, large). At the end of the project, perform an analysis of the project and determine what worked \ did not work, and adjust the project artifacts to suit the project.

How?

  1. Determine the methodology framework – Agile, Waterfall, WaterScrumFall (blend of Agile & Waterfall).
  2. Define what artifacts are needed for each project type – then map the processes using a tool such as Visio and share the process with others.
  3. Projects are more than producing documentation because that is what the PMO dictates – involve and evolve your PMO to a strategic partner.
  4. Provide feedback to continuously improve the process.

Projects are like those chocolates. We can savor each project’s unique flavor and make each a success if we follow a standardized approach that can also flex to support the uniqueness of each project. The approach should be like the chocolate box, able to accommodate each unique shape within a larger, coherent framework. Our job is to understand the uniqueness of the chocolate while appreciate the box in which it sits.

Voice of the Customer

Voice of the Customer – Customer Segmentation

When it comes to predicting customer behavior, historical sales data may contain critical clues. Who are repeat customers for a product or service? Have all segments of the target customers been identified? Segmentation is used to divide customers into groups based on their demographics, attitudes, or buying behaviors and target the specific groups with a message that will best resonate with them. The more you know about a customer, the easier it is to predict their behavior.

During this season of prediction making, you may want to consider playing the popular German game of Bleigießen “lead pouring,” in which your future is foretold through lead shapes. A spoon with a small amount of lead is held over a flame until the lead melts. The melted lead is then quickly poured into a bowl of water. Upon contact with water, the lead solidifies and forms a unique shape. The shape of the cooled lead is then compared to a list of meanings.

You might not have any control over shape formation (i.e. fish “Fisch” = luck “Glück” vs. cross “Kreuz” = death “Tod”), or what personal changes will manifest in 2015, but one area in which you may have some control is in increasing your company’s profitability. By implementing Customer Segmentation, a Voice of the Customer tool within Six Sigma methodology, you’re able to zero in on target customers who create the highest value and ultimately increase your profitability and bottom line.

What Does it Do?

Customer Segmentation identifies and focuses on subgroups of customers who create the highest value and prioritizes efforts to allocate appropriate marketing resources. Companies oftentimes neglect or miss opportunities because they treat all customers as bringing equal value or fail to understand the economic, descriptive, and attitudinal criteria of their core business.

Segmentation criteria can include:

  • Economic (revenue, frequency of purchase, loyalty, company size, etc.)
  • Descriptive (geographic location, demographics, industry)
  • Attitudinal (price, service, value)

The following Bleigießen examples exhibit segmentation criteria:

Customer segmentationShape 1. Ring “Ringe” = Marriage “Hochzeit”

Customers can be segmented demographically by marriage status (single, married, divorced). Married couples often have distinctly different purchasing behaviors compared to single consumers. This can relate to purchases such as cars, financial products, or holiday entertainment. For example, travel agencies would not offer similar holiday packages for bachelors and married couples.

customer segmentationShape 2. Mouse “Maus” = to be thrifty / economical “sparsam sein”

Customers can be segmented by purchasing power or behavior. These customers could be segmented demographically through social class (lower, middle, upper). Social class is a term linked to education, tradition, income (low, medium, high) and parenting. Alternatively, customers could be segmented attitudinally through values or lifestyle (conservative, economical, trendy). If your target customer is upper class, marketing via coupons will be a waste of time for a group indifferent to saving a few dollars.

customer segmentationShape 3. Bell “Glocke” / Egg “Ei” = Birth announcement “Ankündigung einer Geburt”

Customers can be segmented demographically through family size (couple only, small family, large family) and family lifecycle (young married no kids, married young kids). Customers can also be segmented attitudinally through needs or motivations (convenience, value, safety). If you’re considering entering new markets/regions and your target customers are children, you may want to avoid certain European countries, such as Spain, where there are 1.4 children per female.

How to Do It:

  • Identify the product or service being analyzed
  • Brainstorm to identify customers
  • Identify segmentation characteristics
  • Develop profiles of the segments
  • When gathering information, include members from each segment
  • Document results
Product/Services (Output) Customers Potential Segments
BleigließenGame  US Customers West Coast
East Coast
European Customers Western Europe
Eastern Europe

 Benefits of Tool:

  • Understanding customer segments and segment behavior can help tailor marketing and sales strategies
  • Reach profitability goals by demoting customers who don’t generate value
  • Formalizing segment profiles provides a common language

For related blogs that cover additional VOC tools:

Google search

Google to penalize non mobile sites

Google has just announced that starting April 21st, websites that are not mobile friendly will be penalized in mobile search results. Seems like a no-brainer, if you are using your phone to do a search, it is easier to view information and take action if the site you go to is mobile friendly.

With more than 25% of searches now being done on mobile devices (BIA/Kelsey (April 2014)), companies that have not yet created a mobile or responsive site can expect a traffic hit in the next few months.

In addition to better search placement, mobile, responsive and adaptive sites also lead to higher call percentage and from several implementations we’ve seen, a huge improvement in abandonment rates. It seems users on mobile devices that get to a site that is not mobile friendly would just rather go somewhere else.

In the blog post, Google also provides some guidelines and testing tools to check your site compliance.

Tip: not highly publicized, but Chrome browser includes a great mobile testing tool. In the Menu under “More Tools” there is an option for Developer Tools. These allow for selection of device for output and changing the HTTP header data to test using different devices.

Patient Panel Analytics

In a recent interview with a provider about how to gain some efficiencies in her practice, I asked how many patients she was caring for with a diagnosis of cancer in the past few years. After a “from the hip” answer, I showed her a report from one of her payers, and she became frustrated that the payer had a better summary of her patients than she could obtain from her own EHR.

Healthcare providers and management need to be empowered with tools to analyze information about their practice in which much effort is spent creating the data.

This podcast will demonstrate our Accountable Care Analytics Application’s ability to define patient panels and provide integrated summaries of patient information from clinical and claims data sources.

Accountable Care Analytics: A data-driven approach to achieving value-based healthcare

Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics application is comprehensive set of data integration and business intelligence capabilities for use by clinical, financial, and care management professionals that empower organizations to improve quality and reduce costs across a spectrum of care delivery settings.  The application streamlines many of the labor-intensive aspects of capturing and reporting quality and financial performance of accountable care, alternative quality contract, and similar risk-based arrangements operating in healthcare today.  It achieves this by enabling healthcare providers to take a data-driven approach to understanding the impact of quality, cost and outcomes on performance across the extended ACO enterprise.

In this podcast, Edgewater provides a high level overview of the Accountable Care Analytics application.

time flying

Avoid these Top Ten Mistakes when Transitioning to the Cloud

Time and again, organizations erode potential benefits of a cloud transition. More thought on the front end can help you achieve a shorter time to value.

  1. Not thinking through your SLA requirements.  Your SLA needs should be part of your RFP or RFI, based on your internal business priorities. Many companies, when taking their first steps into the cloud, accept the SLA’s offered by the vendor in the first contract draft.
  2. Failing to model total cost of cloud and on-premise options:  Apples to apples comparisons are hard to find in the cloud world.
  3. Failing to ask potential vendors (and the references you will be checking) how long it takes to:
    • Get contract redlines turned around
    • Get from a handshake to implementation-boots-on-the-ground
  4. Not thinking through support processes, roles and responsibilities. As more assets are moved into the hands of multiple cloud vendors, it’s important to document crystal clarity of responsibilities, accountabilities, and notification/approval policies. The best way to do this is to construct a RACI matrix.
  5. Under preparation for testing:  Do you have a formal QA methodology? Do you have a body of test scripts prepared for the deployment?  What about performance testing and integration testing?  Don’t let test planning and preparation impose a drag on the implementation timeline. Look before you leap, or you may be disappointed by poor performance or failing interfaces down the road.
  6. Under thinking security: What are the liabilities? Did you stipulate access for annual security testing in the contract?
  7. Rushing forward without an enterprise cloud strategy: Proliferation of departmental cloud applications has taken much of the decision-making out of IT’s hands. A cloud approach that grows up organically can result in compromised information security and lack of critical integration between applications.
  8. Failing to manage end user expectations: Have you documented and communicated the changes adequately?
  9. Overestimating your in-house IT skills:
    • Does your team really have the systems integration knowledge and experience with the cloud to take your critical business apps through the transition?
    • Overestimating your in-house skillset
  10. Underestimating bandwidth requirements: Your “big pipe” locations are one issue, but do you understand how much work really gets done by remote workers? Will they see adequate performance from the cloud? How will additional bandwidth affect your cost model?

ACO Disease Specific Analytics

“What can Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics do for me that we cannot already do with our EHR and patient financials reporting?”

To be successful, ACOs and other integrated health systems must bring together both clinical and claims data – and they must make the data available for use by clinical, operational and financial leadership across the entire organization.  The biggest challenge our clients face is an ability to provide management this data now, to drive early operational decisions. This is what Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics can do – provide organization-wide dashboards for decision support in advance of the complex and time consuming integration projects these health systems face.

This podcast shows a quick demonstration of the capabilities our ACA application.

Edgewater Healthcare Analytics

I recently read an article called “The 4 Biggest Obstacles ACOs Face” on Forbes.com that I found really interesting. In it, the author identifies what I think are the primary challenges for Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). But, I would change the order.

ACOs need a management structure in place to make critical operational decisions. But those decisions should be made leveraging enterprise wide data. So, the primary challenge for ACOs — Providing management with accurate, actionable data to make management decisions, before all of the technical integration challenges have been addressed.

To learn more about Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics application, and how it can help you get meaningful data to ACO decision makers, email us.

Edgewater Consulting blog

Technical How-to: Redirecting SSLv3 Users to a POODLE warning page using Apache2 mod_rewrite

The Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption (POODLE) vulnerability has been making headlines since September 2014. There are a few options for mitigating the risk, but our infrastructure team has found that not all organizations are able and willing to implement them. Disabling SSLv3 entirely can cut users off from secure websites they rely on, and Google’s TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV mechanism requires support from the web browser, and has not been implemented server-side by all distributions, especially on older and unsupported versions. Further, TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV does not address the issue of SSLv3 support itself, rather it prevents devices which support TLS from downgrading connections to SSLv3. It does not help in cases where the browser is Internet Explorer Versions 1 through 6 (although Internet Explorer versions 4 through 6 can be configured to enable TLS.)

A more elegant solution is not to block SSLv3, but to instead warn users that their current browser is vulnerable to known attacks and instruct them on how to upgrade. With Apache2 and mod_rewrite, it is possible to redirect SSLv3 connections to such a warning page and advise users of the issue and how to resolve it. Here are the steps to do so:

  1. Prepare or find an explanation page you wish to redirect insecure SSL sessions to and note the URL.
  2. If you run a reverse proxy, load balancer, or other session layer device between your apache server(s) and the Internet, please be aware that those devices may be vulnerable to POODLE even though they support TLS: http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/561828/poodle-flaw-returns-time-hitting-tls-security-protocol/
    To be sure that your entire chain of TLS implementations is secure, temporarily disable SSLv3 in apache2 and head over to SSL Labs to test your site. If your TLS chain is vulnerable you should receive a grade of “F” with a warning (emphasis ours:) “This server is vulnerable to the POODLE attack against TLS servers.” If you receive this warning, you should contact your vendors and request patches.
  3. Make sure that Apache2’s mod_rewrite has been installed on your system. Apache2 runs on a variety of architectures and operating systems, so installing individual Apache2 modules is beyond the scope of this article.
  4. Make sure that Apache2’s mod_rewrite is enabled. To do this, run the following as root/administrator:
    a2enmod rewrite
  5. Add the following lines, without the line numbers, to your Apache2 HTTPS site configurations, changing http://yourwebsite.com/yourexplanationpage.html to the explanation page you wish to redirect users to:
    1. #POODLE REDIRECT CONFIG–
    2. SSLOptions +StdEnvVars
    3. RewriteEngine On
    4. RewriteCond %{ENV:SSL_PROTOCOL} ^SSLv[2-3]$ [NC]
    5. RewriteRule ^.*$                    http://yourwebsite.com/yourexplanationpage.html
    6. #END POODLE REDIRECT CONFIG–
  6. If you have disabled SSLv3 already, undo the configuration disabling it.
  7. Restart Apache2
  8. Now test, test, and then test some more! You can use Firefox and enable/disable SSLv3. To force an SSLv3 connection set both security.tls.version.min & security.tls.version.max to 0. To disable SSLv3 in Firefox set security.tls.version.min to 1 or higher and set security.tls.version.max greater than or equal to security.tls.version.min
blended project management

Have you tried to blend agile methodologies into your traditional waterfall world?

Did you get a tasty stew?

….Or a culinary disaster?

I like to cook, but I’m not exactly a purist.  By that I mean that I almost never follow a recipe exactly.  Instead I treat a recipe as more of a guide.  Sometimes I omit ingredients that my family doesn’t like; other times I add in ingredients to see what the affect will be. I often combine a couple of recipes together, mixing and blending ideas from several sources.  Sometimes the result is a wonderful creation that suits the tastes of my family.  Other times, we take a bite and reach for the pile of take-out menus.

I find myself taking the same approach to development methodologies.  Like most of you, I find traditional, waterfall methodologies to be too rigid, too slow, and too removed from reality.  Their assumption that everything about a project can be known and documented up front has always struck me as laughable.

But when I look at pure agile methodologies, I find them too rigid and idealistic as well.  Successful projects need a framework around them; they can’t be driven simply by empowering a team to prioritize a backlog and deliver chunks of code.  Project components need to be fit into a larger vision and architecture; organizations need to have a sense of scope, plan, and budget.  Large, complex systems can’t always be nicely packaged in 2 or 3 week sprints.

So I find myself mixing and blending.  Take a few waterfall concepts like a defined project scope, written business requirements, defined technical architecture, and a project plan.  Blend with an agile development window where the project team can work through detailed requirements, development, and testing together; shifting priorities as business needs change.  Garnish with some user testing, training, and release planning.

Maybe this is agile book-ended by just enough waterfall to frame the work that the agile teams will take-on and integrate their work with the organization’s larger planning processes.  Maybe this is diluting agile precepts by subjugating them to overreaching controls.  Some call these approaches “waterscrumfall”; some call them an abomination.

My experience (and the experience of at least one of my colleagues) has been that a pragmatic blending better suits the needs of most projects and most organizations. It creates just enough structure to tame the chaos while recognizing that projects can’t be and shouldn’t be totally defined up-front.  It ensures that project deliverables fit into the larger enterprise architecture and meet strategic objectives.  Yet it takes advantage of the agile team’s strengths, allowing them to drive the project’s pace and details.

What has your experience been?  Have you tried more blended approaches?  Have they been successful?  Or have they resulted in the equivalent of a culinary disaster?