Project Management

The Cloud Report talked with Sven Anderson, a senior project manager with a lot of practical experiences and tricks.

Why is project management relevant for cloud technology? What has changed?

It is a fallacy that with the evolution of the technology stack and development processes, project management requirements would become as obsolete as manually registering a firewall activation. Basically, the requirements for project management have not changed just because the technology approaches have changed. The complexity of the tasks has remained the same. The motivation and the reasons for new projects are still as difficult and challenging from a day­to­day perspective as they once were, it takes only a glance from a later point in time to make you realize that they were only cooked with water.

Nevertheless, coordination between stake­ holders, apart from the technical part, is still essential and nothing has changed fundamentally in terms of methodology: simultaneous communication with all parties at eye level. A “Single Source of Truth” documentation as well as common, central document storage helps immensely. Even timely and complete meeting notes create a common truth of facts.

 

Fig. 1: The Virtual Team Maturity Model: 11 processes

 

What challenges does remote work of the management team pose? How do you deal with different time zones?

One of the challenges is getting up early. Globally dispersed teams are one of, if not the biggest non­tech challenges, and the time difference is only one of the most obvious bridges to be built.

Other challenges are cultural differences that should not be underestimated or ignored, otherwise this becomes a serious project risk. As a project leader, you have to prepare yourself for the respective cultural customs of your employees. A deeper, more investigative look into a search engine of trust does not let much trouble arise in the first place. A missing social component or even a lack of cultural understanding between the people in the project, who only know each other from the various communication tools, can seem like fine sand in the gears and ultimately condemn the project to failure. As a project leader, you are responsible for creating opportunities for social exchange and for planning time for this. If the budget allows it, the best way is an Onsite­Kick­off: All project participants meet physically, get to know each other, get to know the project and work out first steps.

Subsequently, this socialization must be maintained by scheduling “Gossip Time” from the outset in the weekly meetings, time in which more or less moderated news, personal anecdotes are exchanged explicitly without project reference. A trick that works very well here is the morning coffee. Especially when meetings take place in the morning, it is nice to start the conversation by showing the coffee cup, it is communicative and when everyone is provided with coffee or an equivalent, there is much less in the way of constructive work. The impact is also remarkable when “video duty” is established at the meetings that take place frequently. On the one hand, this sharpens the participants’ focus on what is being said, but emotions also become visible much more quickly and one can react to them.

As a project leader, especially when working remotely, you also have to keep in mind the problems that team members can feel isolated and that personal communication is missing. Therefore regular, also personal meetings are important, the social aspect and that you can see each other when you talk to each other should not be underestimated.

As a project leader you also have all the du­ ties of a team lead, except the disciplinary ones. The principle of “servant leadership” has proven to be very good for me, since traditional hierarchical thinking (“Do this or that, otherwise I will have to report it to your disciplinary superior”)1 reinforce and extend problems in remote teams rather than solve them in a rudimentary way.

 

How is team communication structured? How do different languages and cultures play a role?

The language hardly plays a role at all, the language of choice has always been English. If there are times when this changes, then I’ll just learn Russian or Chinese or whatever should be up to date.

As already mentioned, project leaders have a great responsibility, both socially and culturally, to acquire the competence to deal with the cultures present in the project in advance, and not to wait to react when things escalate.

In principle, a team should not be too large, the rule “one pizza to feed them all” should be observed. Then every team member can get involved in communication and nobody gets lost.

And it is also always helpful if the team is di­ verse. Diverse teams create more creative solutions and approaches. Diverse teams are: old ­ young, woman ­ man, different nationalities. A good mix gives more chances to become better than homogeneous teams.

 

How does a project manager act in an agile process? How can this process be successful?

Agile means neither haphazard nor anarchic or chaos driven2. As a project leader, you weigh up which model is most promising before the project. Scrum and similar approaches have more different problem­solving mechanisms than a classic waterfall model. You can also successfully build a dam with the Scrum principle, but you should consider the potential break points in advance. It is also essential to talk to your team and all project stakeholders and to establish a status of “being informed” with everyone. Transparent communication and documentation are always helpful here.

Can you give a personal tip?

One of my greatest lessons, even if it is actually totally logical: Don’t insinuate malicious intent, but always assume that everybody acted to the best of their knowledge and conscience. This also means dealing with the motivation of actions that seem sabotaging at first glance, which is the most difficult and challenging, but ultimately also the one with the greatest contribution value.

 

Sources:

  1. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_Leadership
  2. http://the­report.cloud/agility­in­the­ cloud

 

Sven Anderson

He gained over a decade of experience in all levels of the classic IT Ops environment. He then switched to classic project management (according to PMI) but quickly found windmills there, which Don Quixote would have identified as worthy enemies, but which could be mastered with current methods such as Scrum, Kanban and a sensible mix.

Contact: xing

 

 

 

 

The Interview was conducted by Friederike Zelke/The Cloud Report

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