Apex 3 Blog
A blog to offer ideas, suggestions and techniques to turn around or fix troubled or failed IT projects

What Makes A Good Meeting?

by Mark Davison March 3. 2011 17:16

  • Well attended
  • Time is reasonable for agenda and subject matter
  • Starts and ends on time
  • Has goals and an agenda
  • Provides handouts for review materials
  • Leader has good facilitation skills
  • Participation encouraged, attendees are engaged
  • Focused discussion, doesn’t wander off topic
  • Obtains closure
  • Clear next steps


Ways to Ensure IT Resources are Invested Wisely Through Governance

by Mark Davison March 2. 2011 22:25
  1. View each project as an investment and make sure the value and return meet minimum requirements
  2. Enforce the “rules” for good governance – follow the process, complete deliverables completely/accurately/thoroughly, obtain appropriate approvals, etc.
  3. Look to reuse assets – hardware, software, equipment, infrastructure – whenever possible
  4. Hold people accountable to implement decisions, whether to meet time deadlines or project milestones, or quality and performance requirements, and impose appropriate consequences – both good and bad – fairly and consistently
  5. Implement budget savings as projected – so if a project claims to save $500,000 next year, the area expecting the savings should have $500k less in their budget next year (thus requiring the organization to take the savings and investment in the project seriously)
  6. Conduct post implementation reviews and audits, ensuring that strengths and weaknesses, successes and problems, etc., are shared, and lessons learned are incorporated into projects going forward
  7. Set the right tone for managers and staff to treat these investments in a businesslike manner, to be guardians of time and resources, to be expeditious and efficient in their work, and to know that the business is serious about achieving the savings and benefits


34 Excuses For Inaction

by Mark Davison February 28. 2011 15:35

1. That’s never been tried before
2. That’s against corporate policy
3. Get real - lets get back to reality
4. That’s not our problem
5. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
6. Good idea, but it will never work
7. Lets give it some more thought
8. Put it in writing
9. We’ve never done it like that before
10. We don’t have the equipment
11. We don’t have the personnel
12. Not that idea again
13. Where did you get that one from
14. It’s different here
15. That costs too much
16. We tried that before 
17. That’s not our responsibility
18. We’re not ready for that
19. We’ve always done it this way
20. Lets continue to evaluate it
21. It’s too much change at once
22. We don’t have the time for that
23. Our organization can’t handle it
24. It’s not practical for us
25. That won’t work
26. Lets sleep on it
27. We’re to busy for that
28. That’s not my job
29. The staff will never buy in
30. Management will never agree
31. Our systems can’t handle it
32. Keep doing your research
33. It’s too much trouble
34. It’s impossible



You’re the New PM – Suggestions for Taking Over a Troubled IT Project

by Mark Davison February 25. 2011 08:11
  • Meet the team and stakeholders, conduct a rapid review of the current status and problems, and prepare the triage approach and budget plan to move forward 
  • Keep others informed of status and progress, manage expectations, and create visibility (overcommunicate)
  • Understand the scope of the project and any pending change requests, resolve them and ensure others clearly understand the scope of the project
  • Get your arms around the issues list, prioritize the most critical issues to the top and work the list in priority order
  • Determine changes needed in how the project is organized and governed, and implement them to assure the governance structure is appropriate and meaningful so that future oversight can provide the needed guidance, direction and support
  • Define and implement key measurements and reports that can be utilized to track status and monitor progress going forward
  • Identify quick wins and make them happen to evidence your changes taking hold, improve morale and gain momentum
  • Make sure employees/stakeholders are involved in the process, understand their issues and how to address them, keep them informed of progress
  • Validate the IT system features and functionality to assure basic capabilities will support operating the business
  • Review the status of interfaces - system to system, manual to system, or system to manual – they represent places where work processes may change significantly as work is processed and moves through an organization
  • What forms are needed?  Will the new system be able to generate the reports needed to run the business?  What existing reports need to be brought over to the new system, and what new reports need to be developed?
  • What data needs to be converted into the new system to form the initial database(s)?  What data can be left in old systems or stored otherwise for ready access to avoid the often difficult process of conversion?
  • Get a good grasp of the gaps between the functionality offered by the new system and current/future needs, and how each gap will be addressed prior to going live, if required
  • Communicate with important customers, and work processes that interface with or support them as they interact with the business; understand their issues and concerns, and ideas and suggestions
  • Communicate with those vendors who supply critical products or services to your company and ensure that they are on board; understand their issues and concerns, and ideas and suggestions



To Our Bosses: Some Requests To Help Us This Year

by Mark Davison February 24. 2011 08:41


  • Be clear when communicating your goals, objectives, needs and expectations
  • Be honest and straightforward when discussing work-related issues
  • Be good listeners when we come to you with issues, problems and improvement opportunities
  • Delegate both responsibility and accountability
  • Be compassionate, fair and consistent
  • Say thank you and express gratitude for hard work and effort
  • Treat us like adults, not kids, to build mutual trust and respect
  • Protect our mutual privacy by discussing performance and personal issues with the office door closed
  • Remain calm, even in the most difficult situations, setting the right example for others
  • Advocate for the performance and results of the work our team
  • Lighten up by showing your human, humorous and relaxed sides once in a while
  • Provide support for and help us meet our career goals 



How To Use "Tact" to Obtain Your Objectives

by Mark Davison February 23. 2011 08:59

Being tactful when dealing with others can help a PM get what he/she needs and wants.  Here are some suggestions on being “tactful”:

  • Focus on the positive by communicating a positive thought as you start the dialogue
  • Take responsibility for your statements and feelings by using “I” statements rather than "You" statements
  • Stick to the facts, separating out opinions and assumptions
  • Be empathetic by acknowledging others’ viewpoints and feelings, recognizing their importance
  • Remain level headed and don’t overreact if the dialogue moves into problems, frustrations or disappointments
  • Be specific when you express your needs and expectations, don’t use generalizations
  • Be clear on what you may need or want so others are not confused by your “ask”


How You Can Be A Good Team Player

by Mark Davison February 22. 2011 13:45

Being a good team player is more than just being a good individual player – it’s about working for the good of the team. 

  • Familiarize yourself with the team’s goals and objectives
  • Define where you can best make a contribution
  • Trust and respect your team members; develop interdependence
  • Meet your commitments to others
  • Help others when they need assistance to meet targets and deadlines
  • Share your ideas, thoughts and perspectives in the spirit of helping the team
  • Recognize and thank others; share success to motivate others


Suggestions for Handling Interruptions

by Mark Davison February 18. 2011 07:56
Interruptions seem to happen constantly!  How can a PM improve productivity, retain focus and handle interruptions with ease and diplomacy?

  • Recognize that your first obligation is to the person or group you are already in conversation with, or to the work you are in process of completing
  • Protect your current activity:  let the interrupter know that you are in the “middle of xxxxx” and will get back to him/her as soon as you finish
  • Finish the conversation or the work you are doing
  • Follow up with the interrupter as soon as possible and make it a time when you can focus on the interrupter's issues, questions, ideas, etc. 

Note 1:  if the interrupter is your manager, executive or other person “higher” on the organizational ladder or of special interest”¦

  • Same "rules" apply ”¦ do your best to retain continuity and finish the activity you are currently engaged in
  • It might be wise, however, to provide an explanation at the time of the interruption by stating the importance of the conversation/task currently underway, or providing the business reason for following up at a later time
  • You can even say that as soon as the current activity concludes you'll come to his/her office (or other location) to follow up in person
  • Then when the conversation or work wraps up, go to the office and follow up
Note 2:  Regarding electronics ... As difficult as this may seem - these rules also apply to interruptions that come in via cell phone call, text and instant messenger!  In this case, it might be possible to just ignore those little alerts until after the conversation or work is complete.


Seven Steps to Build Feasible Plans and Goals

by Mark Davison February 17. 2011 10:25
1. Brainstorm possible action steps
2. Group steps logically and order them chronologically
3. Go back over the list and ask “have I forgotten anything?”
4. Do initial estimates for each step - be reasonable for the first pass since you can always trim back later
5. Review the order of the tasks and re-order by importance/priority and time sequence
6. Identify checkpoints, milestones and deliverables where you can monitor the work being completed
7. Review and validate the draft plan with others - colleagues, managers, clients, etc.



by Mark Davison February 16. 2011 10:44

Some of our clients are familiar with the idea of being "S-M-A-R-T" about setting goals.

  • Specific - if you can be precise about the target you increase the chances of hitting it
  • Measurable - remember, what gets measured, gets done.  Measure cost, quality, quantity, time, etc.  Without effective measurements, you will be at someone else's whim
  • Agreed to - obtain agreement from the appropriate stakeholders and project participants to assure they don't undermine the goal later
  • Reachable - make the goals attainable; if others perceive they are unattainable they likely won't commit or try
  • Timely - determine and establish a well defined target/deadline so everyone knows what is expected.


About Mark Davison

Mark Davison

After 25+ years of working on and leading projects primarily in IT, I'm establishing this blog to share knowledge, ideas, tips and techniques regarding how to turnaround and fix troubled and failed projects

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