What is Data Migration? – Confessions of a Data Migration Dummy

Confessions of a data migration dummy
I remain forever grateful to a Data Centre Team Leader who helped me understand data migration. 
“Janet” he said “the data has to have a home to go to”.
And at that moment I finally got it.  Before that I had been going to meetings, reading documents and simply not understanding what people were talking about.  Asking questions just created more confusion. My role at the time was change support for a Data Centre during and after a major migration exercise, so I really needed to understand this, what would happen and who and what would be affected so I could communicate this to others and help everyone get ready.

What the Team Leader did was what we often have to do in IT projects – use a metaphor or analogy to get a point across. For me, the main barrier to understanding migration was the limitation of my own mental models. So when the team leader talked about the data finding a home, this bought forward an image of many different houses and their contents moving to a large apartment block. So from thinking about this I understood how migration happened, why clean data was important, and why care and attention that had to be given to timing and managing business continuity risk.
Catering for different mental models is nothing new in IT projects.  Whatever our speciality we all need to understand who and what we are dealing with and pay attention to the language we use.  From time to time, I notice the tendency to feign understanding and not ask questions for fear of looking ignorant. I prefer tolerate the eye rolling reaction to an admission of ignorance simply because the explanation is important to me and the people I work with. I wonder sometimes what George Orwell would make of the language of IT. 
I think that he would like the precision and clarity of some technology terms but would be quite dismissive of words or expressions that mean nothing. When communicating IT concepts or complex project management processes, we all need to be good communicators who think about the audience.  This is especially so for cloud deployments which come with new concepts and language that take time to grasp.
A good rule of thumb is this.  If you don’t understand it yourself, you won’t be able to explain it to others. And if stakeholders don’t understand you – in time they will disengage – which is a major risk for projects who need engaged stakeholders to be successful. 

Nothing is lost by asking the question – but a lot can be gained from making the effort to understand something new.    

Written by – Janet Crews
Senior Consultant – Information Professionals

Janet is a storied, qualified, change management professional, with many years of both commercial and government based experience.
You can connect with or find out more about Janet on linkedin:  au.linkedin.com/pub/janet-crews/6/900/907

Why I LOVE Linkedin.

It was a problem in search of a solution.   

Communication Breakdown.
For Project Managers, the problem ‘bubbles up’ at an awful moment of realisation.  The new technology the project is installing and which will rely on collaboration and information sharing to deliver business benefits – is incompatible with your client’s business culture.  How could it have come to this and what do you do?  Compartmentalise the problem by calling it ‘out of scope’ or tell your client the truth – that their business won’t get a ‘bang for their buck’ from their investment because the culture gap is just too big to cross.     
It was during one of those discussions among peers that a ‘cut through’ insight about the problem came from an Enterprise Architect. “Why can’t change and benefits be integrated into enterprise architecture before the project starts, and before the influence of silo thinking and competing mindsets takes hold?
The chain of ideas was continued by a Change Manager and an IT Benefits Manager.  “Of course, integrating enterprise architecture and benefits goals would have a deeper and more effective impact on project viability, and it makes a lot of sense to assess cultural compatibility well before the project starts”.   This led to a more focussed discussion within the broader peer group about what this approach to change would look like, how it would fit together, how it could reduce risk and whether we could be certain that the problem IT Project Managers agonize over – and which our group had spent the best part of a month talking about – could be eliminated.   This in turn led to a realisation that we should develop these ideas further.   And so this is what I found myself doing in my spare time, contributing towards developing a better and more viable approach to change management in a project environment.
Chain of Collaboration.
The discussion did not take place in a workshop or a business strategy meeting.  The Enterprise Architect was in Montreal, Canada, the Change Manager and the Benefits Manager were in Brisbane, Australia.  Other contributors and reviewers were from Canada, United States, South Africa and the Netherlands.  It happened in one of those virtual networking spaces that we are increasingly gravitating towards to meet peers, build networks and collaborate around common interests – the linkedingroup for change management practitioners.   
These collaborations are commonplace nowadays.  New communities, causes and peer groups are formed everyday because technology enables it.   The tools we have at our finger tips are cheap, quick and effective.  And we like the speed at which we can connect, review others work, give feedback on ideas and contribute to innovation.   What started out as a professional networking space has literally exploded into a place of marketplace of ideas, debate and opportunity.   
I started taking cautious steps in this world, which led to more experimentation from increased confidence.   Here you interact, share ideas and participate in two-way communication.  It takes a leap of faith to do this with people you’ve never met.  But my experiences so far have taught me that the bad’s co-exist with the good’s.  Communication takes a constant effort, misunderstandings are frequent and disengagement is frustrating.  Continued engagement is vital, because without it, people do not share information freely or offer up the ideas needed to drive new thinking about the problems and challenges we face as practitioners.  

After each interaction, I resolve to get better at virtual communication.   I like being part of this world and am relaxed about where collaboration leads.  I am also curious about what it takes to build a cohesive team in cyberspace, a team that is robust enough to work through its creative tension and build the trust needed to keep engaged as volunteers.  So I keep engaged – contribute, learn, extend my network and try different things – some work and some don’t.   But I know we are a team and I feel confident that our work will contribute something important to the body of change management knowledge.  

– Janet Crews Senior Consultant – Information Professionals

Janet is a storied, qualified, change management professional, with many years of both commercial and government based experience.
You can connect with or find out more about Janet on linkedin:  au.linkedin.com/pub/janet-crews/6/900/907

Project Assurance: When Is The Right Time?

If you are overseeing a Program or Project, is there a right time or a wrong time to perform Assurance?

To answer that question, we have to consider a few things, such as:

  • What is the purpose and objectives of the assurance?  There can be many reasons to perform assurance.  It could be something you normally do.  It could be a part of the standard governance process for your organisation.  You could be particularly concerned about the risk of the Program or Project.  And depending on the purpose there will be certain areas that will be of more interest.  These can all play a determining factor in the best timing.
  • What is the staging and timing of the Program or Project.  Every Program or Project has a lot of work to do in the normal course of business.  This creates pressure on the team at different points, but also allows the team to solve some risks in the normal course of their work.  There are also key points in most programs or projects at which you want to have risk mitigations or avoidance plans in place.  An obvious example is a go-live or cutover.
This results in four criteria that we use to influence recommended timing for our clients:
  1. Governance Requirements.  If you need to obtain approval from Project Owners, Sponsors or others than that will dictate some timing.  This could be approval to release funding, authorise the engagement of a supplier or some other governance authority.
  2. Resolve in Due Course.  Depending on what the objectives of the assurance, if you review too early, you will largely identify things that are yet to be done but will be done if you would have performed the review later.  A review like this is largely a waste of time for all involved.
  3. Address Recommendations.  Again, depending on the objectives of the assurance, if you review too late, you may come up with some very valuable findings and recommendations, but there is simply insufficient time to address them without causing some other delay or other impacts occuring. If this happens you just end up being very knowledgeable about your risks but more limited in options as to what to do about them.
  4. Peak Load.  To perform an Assurance review, it takes investment of time by key members of the Program or Project team, plus others across the organisation. If this happens at a peak load time, it may impact on the engagement and availability of those stakeholders you want to gain input from.  It could also take them away from completing critical tasks at a crucial time, resulting in the Assurace Program itself creating risk.  Obviously this is not a good outcome.
Making these assessments does take some know how of how Programs and Projects work, and the causality and dependency linkage between the various parts.  It can also require some sensitivity to the specific needs of each organisation.
As described in the first dot point, above.  All of this is predicated on one thing.  And that is defining the purpose and objectives of the assurance.  And knowing how to best define that is well beyond this post.
Do you have any other criteria that you use?  If so let us know in the comment section below.

Article Written By: Mark Nicholls.

Managing Director, Information Professionals. 
Mark is one of Australia’s most trusted IT Change Management advisors. He also has other entrepreneurial business interests that he operates through MaidenVoyages.

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Project Manager…or are you?

As management practitioners of all things ICT and business change, us IPers read with note recently that the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) recently held their annual ball, and that it was a masquerade ball.

Now all sorts of thoughts ran through our mind about this..and the funny puns we could make.  Then came the reality of playing this out on social media and the dangers involved in misfiring jokes.  So as management consulting types, what did we do. Well we talked about it.  And after a quick debate we thought we could make some comments, but they had to be good taste and they should not be personal in any way.  Certainly we had to be thoughtful and responsible citizens on social media.

Recent news has highlighted many reasons to stay away from social media, particularly if your name happens to be Jones, Gillard or Abbott, and the last thing we wanted to do was open up a can of worms that we couldn’t close.  But we also know that social media isn’t going away, and every opportunity like this is an opportunity to test the waters of what we could and could not say, and be lively vibrant members of the communities we are involved in.

At the same time, we are very fond of our Project Manager sole mates, in fact we have many of them among us.  I even count myself amongst this crowd, presenting to the AIPM Queensland State Conference last month.  And as we are fond of them, then the brotherly and Aussie thing to do is to reflect that love with a joke or two.  Besides, if the comedy, “Big Bang Theory” can be tastefully funny, rejoicing the diversity of professional life, and do so in a way that is non offensive then isn’t it worth a try?

The question then became, what kind of jokes.  How can we be tastefully funny, non-personal and avoid the cans of worms?  After all, social media seems to have increased the available cans of worms which can be easily and unknowingly opened.

We had a nice repertoire of one liners ready, just perfect for a bunch of Project Managers dressing up in masquerade!  Lines like:

  • I think they should have used a risk avoidance rather than risk mitigation strategy on that outfit; or
  • I doubt they got change control approval from their wife/husband on that dress; or
  • I don’t know whether he has realised he has moved from risk management to issue management as soon as he stepped into the ballroom tonight; or
  • The way she is dressed there could be any number of successor relationships lining up on her schedule tonight

But in the end, we became too concerned about causing offence to anyone .  We gave up.  We have the brain power of multiple CIOs, CFOs and more serious management grunt than many ICT shops in Australia could poke a stick at, but we took the easy way out.  Yes, the risk of social media is a tough battle ground.

This is very much unlike the PMs.  They may have debated the moral hazard of wearing masquerade.  But their own unique style of being PMs allowed them to deal with such matters as being irrelevant.  They were focused, just as PMs can be, on one thing, and that is on having fun, completely oblivious to the world around them.

And good on them for that.  Stand proud PMs, stand proud!

Mark Nicholls.
Managing Director, Information Professionals. 
Mark is one of Australia’s most trusted IT & Change Management advisors. He also has other entrepreneurial business interests that he operates through MaidenVoyages.

How many change programs can we deal with?

Have you noticed how we have so many more projects, change programs, new initiatives and strategies in our organisations today?  Have you noticed that so many more people are Project Managers…all demanding some attention and resource?
The 2000’s was the decade of Project Management I believe.  We now have so many PMs, and almost as many projects to go with them.  That means we probably have more focus on objectives that we did in business in the 90’s.  But the downside can be that in the face of limited resource, where do we put our attention, where do we direct our energy?
We may have more focus on objectives but less clarity on which ones are important.  This blunts the edge of gaining effective change, when we are spread so thin doing a lot of things in mediocre ways.
I sometime write for a Singapore based magazine called Walk Your Talk.  I wrote an article on this very subject and some ways of dealing with it.  The article is available from our website.

You can access the full article here.  I hope you enjoy.