In the past month, I've provided support (as a steering committee member) for the largest Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA) annual meeting; departed the Orbis Cascade Alliance, where I served as a program manager (and gained the needed experience to become a PMP); and, started at the University of Oregon Libraries - returning to an academic library for the first time since mid-2013.
What's stood out to me in this transition?
The ELUNA meeting was successful. Ex Libris is developing or building out a set of products that extend its Alma platform functionality (for reading lists, research data, with other products likely to come). In terms of Alma, I can't recall a specific question or request relating to the Alma monthly release schedule - to me, they've become stable enough so that the 10 releases per year that deliver significant functionality can be coherently managed by institutions. There are really a couple of points here - the vendor must competently manage the releases and customers need to work within the framework of monthly releases that keep the vendor and customers more tightly integrated in comparison to the annual release cycles of legacy library management systems.
But moving to the UO Libraries means that I'll be able to expand beyond the more narrow focus on Ex Libris and the Alma/Primo services to library and academic technology more broadly. The UO and Oregon State University employ Samvera to support Oregon Digital and other services - one example of the opportunity to focus more broadly on library technology in ways that haven't been possible over the past five years.
More transition - I had training earlier this month to become a certified PMP instructor. I'll be teaching the class in early June on the Quality Management knowledge area, co-teaching with a colleague. It's been instructive to focus in so closely on a single knowledge area, to analyze the PMBOK sixth edition content and related resources as well (like Warren Brussee's Six Sigma on a budget).
I've had a busy spring. At this moment, I'm preparing for a day-long kickoff for PMP instruction this Saturday in Albany, Oregon. In prepping, I'm fully focused on PMBOK Sixth edition project management approaches. At the same time, I find agile approaches intriguing and check out the projectmanagement.com agile section regularly for new materials and posts on agile. I've also enjoyed reading Jean Richardson's latest book on agile, which she targeted for experienced practioners, but I find compelling for a wider audience than that, in terms of understanding what's most valuable with agile/adaptive approaches: Individuals generally, and more specifically, work in which "the human system, the work system, and the product are all aligned with each other" (567, Kindle edition).
But my biggest change has been at the professional level - after nearly five years as a project and product manager at the Orbis Cascade Alliance, I'll be moving on next month to become the Director of Library Technology Services at the University of Oregon Libraries. I am very enthused about the change, particularly about the opportunity to work with a broader technology portfolio and to work more directly with academic library users.
In the past five years, I've focused deeply on the library integrated library services and discovery services industry through my work with Ex Libris Alma and Primo services. This is still an area of great interest to me and I hope to continue my term (with one year left) on the Ex Libris user group's (ELUNA's) Steering Committee. I believe that my knowledge of agile approaches has helped me understand the vendor's approaches to the development of its flagship management service, Alma (which is on a monthly release cycle and has numerous methods for feedback from its customers, including an international Alma Working Group). In this case, the frequent releases, with full functionality releases occurring ten times a year, is a feature that supports deeper engagement with customers. It's not immediately intuitive to a community accustomed to annual software upgrades, but that's the bottom line.
In contrast, the actual implementations (33 institutions by the end) were straight vanilla predictive projects - although there were significant unknowns in that the Alliance was the first consortium globally to employ the Alma/Primo services with the Alma Network Zone. I need to think more about what would have been the optimal approach here. Some uncertainties were addressed during migration (getting institutional technical services workflows online), some were addressed later or are still being addressed (full development of the Network Zone architecture).
Taken together, it's been a wonderful experience at the Alliance. I'm looking forward to the next step (I start at the UO on May 14).
This Andy Jordan article is centered on PMI's release of an updated Job Growth and Talent Gap survey. The report projects an increasing number of project management demands that won't be met by project management professionals. For the United States, project manager job growth is expected to be about 214K each year from 2017 through 2027, with large growth expected in health care, construction, and information services/publishing.
Jordan does a nice job bringing meaning to the data. Words that I didn't find in the PMI report: agile or adaptive. Yet Jordan points out the increasing emphasis on adaptive methods in project management, underscored by the release the PMI/Agile Alliance Agile Practice Guide in the second half of 2017 (with PMBOK Sixth edition). It's not just that more project managers are needed - it's that more managers are needed who can work effectively with agile approaches - "more of a coach and enabler than a traditional manager."
This leads to Jordan making some recommendations on reinventing project management (see article).
I'm on track for teaching prospective PMPs on exam preparation in 2018 - both the PMI study and Jordan's article make me more excited about that.
I read Andy Silber’s Adaptive project management: Leading complex and uncertain projects.
I had the chance to meet Andy at the PMI Global Conference in Chicago and to attend his session on adaptive project management. Silber’s coverage of the shortcomings of predictive project management for projects with uncertainty is solid, but even before leaving Chicago, I realized there was a conflict between Silber’s take on the support for risk management with agile methods and that of agile leaders and practitioners whom I met with and heard present at PMI Global. In one of the book's chapters, Silber describes why agile approaches don’t work well with highly complex projects. I don’t understand why Silber doesn’t note the successful uses of agile approaches outside of software or SaaS management. Second, during his session, Dr. Silber noted the limits of agile in risk management. My understanding here is that each risk should be identified, analyzed, and prioritized in the backlog - thus, risk management is better supported in agile approaches than represented in this book.
Silber’s background is relevant to understanding his recommended approach – an astrophysicist, a PMP, and a manager deeply experienced in leading technology hardware projects. These hardware projects have attributes – for example, very high cost for a prototype delivery – that Silber asserts do not map well to either predictive or agile approaches.
Silber’s book is short, but it’s good reading for those interested in project management generally, and in agile approaches specifically. For projects with high uncertainty and complexity, Dr. Silber recommends adaptive project management, which draws on the best tools in both predictive and agile approaches. Silber does provide specifics on the adaptive project management approach (for example, in the chapter “Building a schedule”).