Home » Articles posted by radhikachittoor

Author Archives: radhikachittoor

Understanding Software Risk Management

Any software project involves various types of risks.  Software Risk Management (SRM) helps to mitigate these risks and thus ensure project success. Some of the typical risks involves in a software project are:

  • Technical Risks: This includes issues with the project size, functionality, technology, languages, platforms, methodology, standards, processes etc. The reason for these risks could be the constraints, inexperience of the resources involved, lack of clarity in parameters, lack of control etc.
  • Management Risks: This includes lack of experience and training, lack of planning, issues in communications, organizational problems, control issues and lack of clarity in authority.
  • Financial Risk: Cash flow issues, capital and/ or budgetary problems and ROI constraints.
  • Contractual and Legal Risks: This involves issues with changes in scope, requirements, fluidity in schedules, health & safety factors, regulations, product warranties etc.
  • Personnel Risks: This includes issues with staffing, training, conflicts, productivity problems, ethics and moral standards.
  • Miscellaneous Risks: This involve issues relating to other factors which can influence the success of the project such as unavailability or delayed delivery of equipment, lack of tools, facilities, geographically spread locations, slow response times etc.

The objective of software risk management is to contain and these different risks so as to successfully complete the software project and gain the benefits through it. The software risk management plan thus is designed to focus on the specific project risks, identify potential issues and come up with contingency plans to address the issues. By doing this the potential failure of the software project can be reduced substantially.

The most common reasons for implementing a strong software risk management plan are:

  • Avoid project disasters, budget and schedule over-runs, bugs or errors in the software deliverables and operational issues.
  • Avoid costs of rework due to errors, gaps in requirements, design or code issues. These if present enhance the software development costs by 50%.
  • Ensure that there is no overkill in terms of identification and prevention of issues where the risk is not significant.
  • Develop a software solution which is meets the customer needs perfectly.

HR as a Business Partner

As per the Management guru – David Ulrich, the term “HR Business Partner” means that Human Resources (HR) needs to be responsible for the strategic roles and goals of the organization and it needs to implement the necessary plans to ensure that the goals of the business are achieved. In other words HR needs to take a more active part in the organization’s growth. The term business partner covers the entire range of HR responsibilities like administrative, strategic and consulting.

In the current company the HR function has not been integrated with the core business functions and the company was of global nature with the employees and the contract workers spread across the globe. Because of the spread of operations and diversity of the workforce the HR division is struggling to meet the business requirements. The isolated business divisions need to be brought together and closely coupled to have a single unified HR business processes framework.

With the changes in the global economic environment and the increased competition in the market, the company needs to transform the working of the HR division. The HR needs to take better control of not only its own processes but engage better in the organization’s overall processes and goals. The HR needs to align itself to the possible changes and keep learning newer skills and capabilities to address the business needs better. It needs to work as a cross-organizational team so that it takes on the strategic business partner role as against the current passive role it holds.

Issues with the current HR Model

  • Not much emphasis on the cost effectiveness and the operational efficiency
  • HR has become a high cost, high manpower division, focusing more on the administrative functioning than on the strategic initiatives.
  • There is a huge dependency on the HR for operational issues, hence a solution on the lines of Manger Self Service and Employee Self Service portals would help in taking care of most of the enquiries, issues and automate the processes.
  • The HR function needs to become a supportive, active entity with more of a business partner role

An Introduction to Time and Motion Studies

Time and motion studies are a core set of tools which are used by the managers in the industrial sector to enhance the performance or the operational efficiency. This is done by breaking down the work into simpler units and setting the execution benchmarks. This can be used in conjunction with the wage –incentive model which helps in increasing  employee motivation. The time and motion studies were initially used to improve productivity in manufacturing units but later saw tremendous use even in the service industries.

Time and motion studies can be used to determine the best possible method to perform the sub tasks in a worker’s job. This is the original piece-rate compensation model to maximize the workers’ productivity and to identify and train the employees on the basis of personality and skills analysis.

There are many advantages accrued by the right implementation of time studies in any work environment. Some of the key benefits are:
• It helps in improving the existing methods of performance improvement irrespective of the industry or size of operations.
• The studies will also help in identifying the right floor plan or operation layout of the factory or facility.
• The results of the time study when implemented lead to better resource utilization, higher job satisfaction and overall efficiency.
• It can also be used to cut manual effort because of the implementation of better workflow processes.

History

The time and motion studies are the keystone of the scientific management movement started in the late nineteenth century in the United States of America. These are the results of the work done by the stalwarts of the scientific management movement – Frederick Winslow Taylor, Frank B Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth.

Fredrick Winslow Taylor is the father of scientific management and in fact the movement itself is also known as Taylorism. He published his path breaking book, The Principles of Scientific Management in the year 1911, wherein he describes in detail how scientific management methods can help in improving worker productivity in an industrial set up.

The core idea behind the scientific management was a clear demarcation between the responsibilities of the manager and the workers. The managers involve primarily in planning whereas the workers are responsible for the execution of the tasks. The key concept for the Scientific Management is the organized study of work. In this the work is broken into simple elements and the worker’s performance is enhanced using systematic improvements.

Though the model has been written off many times since its conception, one can safely conclude that the model will be in force as long as industrial society prevails.

As per the research done by Taylor, any work can be broken down into smaller entities and these simple tasks can be planned so that the productivity can be enhanced by the use of scientific management principles. As per Taylor the scientific management is a better way to ensure that work is done effectively as against the more often followed initiative and incentive scheme. To determine the best way to perform a task, Taylor experimented using Time Studies. Time studies were done using a stopwatch to measure the time taken by a worker to perform the different actions to complete the task. The objective was to identify the best way to do a particular job.

The research on time study has evolved scientifically from the time of Taylor and Gilbert. Even in the current times, manufacturing companies still use the principles of time study to develop the best way of executing a particular task and thus increase the efficiency. The Gilbreths developed the micromotion analysis which involves elimination of unnecessary movements and simplifying of necessary movements to enhance efficiency.
Taylor made use of Gilberth’s motion study principles in his time study and thus redefined it to gain better acceptance among the management and the workers. The resulting time study model could be divided into the analytical and constructive categories.

The time study analysis required to dividing the worker’s task into simple basic movements, removing the useless movements, identifying and timing the quickest motion paths and types and using the time taken to perform these activities as the standard time for completing the tasks.

In the constructive time study, the elementary movements required in any activity were grouped together in different combinations. These were recorded and indexed so that this knowledge repository can be used to determine the time required to execute similar tasks in any job or factory setting.

The results of these time studies done by Taylor are the Principles of Scientific Management.

These concepts played a key role in the growth of Ford and the way the organization operated. The Ford model was supply driven where standardized goods were produced by semi-skilled employees with high-efficiency due to the implementation of Taylor’s Scientific Management principles.

Currently the lean production organizations use the time and motion studies to set up the standards and obtain continuous process improvements in the demand driven markets.

 

Leveraging Facebook Promotions

                                                     

Social media marketing is a major part of every business strategy for companies both big and small. Companies such as Dell, Caterpillar, Amazon and others are leading the social media bandwagon and showcasing the benefits that they are able to harness from it. Thanks to social media, aggressive marketing is no longer a privilege that only the big players enjoy. Social media have created a level playground wherein everyone – small or big, can leverage the benefits.

 

To gain from Facebook promotions, it is important to have a well thought out promotion strategy in place.

  • The first step is to decide the objective of the promotions. Is it to have a growing fan-base? Do you want to get the market to sample your product? Are you trying to increase the product awareness?
  • Next, you need to frame the strategies for achieving these objectives. These could involve price discounts, freeware, coupons, samples, contests etc.
  • Once the strategy is in place, you need to choose the right Facebook application. It is important to go through the promotion guidelines laid out by Facebook so as to not violate any rules.

The reason Facebook promotions are a big success is because of their ability to localize the promotions and the in-depth customer profiling they offer. Customizing your campaign to meet the customer’s needs and tastes is the best marketing promotion and thanks to Facebook, it is a possibility! Utilizing third-party tools such as Edgerank Checker would help in creating focused campaigns which can convert into valuable leads for the company.

It would be a good idea to analyze some successful examples of Facebook promotions before you start on your own.

Reasons for going in for Microsoft Dynamics NAV on Cloud

To go for on premise or on cloud is a question which begs for answer.  Choosing the right option will go a long way in ensuring your IT strategy and investments are in line. This article helps in making your decision simpler by letting you know what to expect.

  • ERP will no longer be a capital cost but becomes an operating cost.  You have at your access a flexible ERP solution for which you can pay as per the features and functions you require.  The cost of your ERP is just the cost of operations and does not entail the huge upfront investment. Increasing or decreasing the users is in your control, you can measure the ROI in a completely transparent manner.
  • Security and data backup no longer an issue. With the tremendous enhancements in the security protocols, you need not worry about data protection, access and back up.
  • Remarkable reduction in your IT infrastructure, Hardware and Resource requirements. Microsoft Dynamics NAV is professionally configured and implemented on cloud for efficient business operations and enhanced productivity. There is no need to invest in an internal team to support the application. On cloud Microsoft Dynamics NAV is on high performance and high availability hardware so it has a guaranteed up time to the tune of 99%.

The one point you need to carefully consider before going in for the on cloud deployment is the speed of your Internet connection. At the end of the day the applications availability is dependent on your Internet speed and availability.

With all these benefits expected through cloud Microsoft Dynamics NAV,  more and more companies are opting for the SAAS solution instead of the on-premise. And this trend is set to increase in the coming months with better Internet connections, security protocols and service standards.

 

Project Management for Social Media Marketing Projects

Like any other project, the success of social media marketing projects too rests on good project management practices.

Usually in case of small businesses most of the tasks managed by the executive are either operational or tactical. But social media marketing projects are essentially non repetitive tasks which need to be addressed from a strategic stand point so as to leverage on the benefits. Each of these projects has a clear well defined task list with a clear end goal. Hence while working on the social media marketing strategy you would have to set up clear project objectives, goals while at the same time laying out the standard project process to be followed. Thus the Social Media Projects with focus on creating new posts is strategy based while the Social Media Operations will handle customer queries, complaints on the different social platforms.

Social media projects involve a two pronged approach -the first is to create different social accounts and attract visitors and followers to these accounts and the second step is to publish interesting content for your followers.

Setting up Social Media Accounts

There are many social media platforms to choose from, the approach for making the right decision is same as any project management process:

  • The scope – How many platforms to target and which ones to target?
  • Timelines – How much time to be allotted for setting up? How much time to be allotted for managing? How much should be the optimum response time to customers?
  • Project Cost – What should be the social media project budget? Should the publishing be handled in-house or should it be outsourced? Should social media monitoring tools be purchased or should the free tools be used?
  • Quality – Which are the best social media platforms that meet your project objectives, your business?
  • Communication – What are the communication channels to get your employees and customers on to the social media accounts? What is the promotion plan?
  • Project Risks – What are the potential risks? What are the pitfalls to avoid?
  • Project Team – Whether to have a diversified team from different departments taking care of the project or should there be a dedicated team? Who should comprise the team?

Social Media Content Creation

For successful creation of content which grabs the reader’s attention and prompts them to act, it is important keep the focus on the customer. The goal of the content is to engage the customer and build the relationship. For creating compelling content once again project management comes to the rescue.

  • Initiation Phase: This involves brainstorming, create a list of potential content topics for the project, collate connecting images, record customer testimonials, product offers etc. This phase helps in prioritizing the messages and coming up with the project schedule depending on seasonal promotions, holidays etc.
  • Planning Phase: Once the prioritized content idea list is ready, the content elements for each need to be planned. The videos, locations, employee photo shoots etc. all need to be planned. The details of the same to be shared with the project stakeholders. Content quality needs to be checked, facts verified and most importantly content needs to be written on schedule.
  • Execution Phase: This is a simple phase once your social media strategy is in place. It essentially involves publishing the content/ message.
  • Project Control: As for any project, measuring and monitoring is essential for social media marketing too. It is important to define both success and failure so as to measure the results against this.
  • Project closure: Any project has a beginning and an end. Social media campaigns too are driven over specific periods so as to review the progress against the project goals. In this phase the content quality in terms of gaining customer eyeball needs to be reviewed. The lessons learnt need to be collated and used in the subsequent projects.

This subject has been dealt in greater detail by by Rick Dragon in his article where he talks about using Agile Programming for Social Media Projects.

Why Visualize Data?

Irrespective of the business or function we are in, we come across a lot of data which needs to be analysed in a short time. The data can be from sources familiar or unfamiliar to you. In the latter case you might need more time to be familiarized with the data. Either ways it is important that you understand the data before you make your decisions.

This is where data visualization comes into play. And data visualization is not just about bar graphs, pie charts…

The best data visualization methods are those which showcase some underlying facet of the data and its interrelationships. Understanding the data interrelationships is essential for decision making. The Periodic Table is an excellent example for data visualization. It beautifully represents the features of the various elements and their correlations too.

There are many types of visualizations possible for each data set. The objective behind any of these visualizations is to generate ideas and provide information to the user. Visualizations can be done for exploring or explaining the data. Visualization for exploring is useful when the exact essence of data is not known and you are essentially trying to make sense of the data, the relationships and the patterns. In such cases the visualization should be done iteratively so that you can extract the correct relationships and make sense of the data.  When visualization is done for explain the data should be clean. This can be used when you actually know what the data is about but would want to explain it to someone else.

In the end it is important to remember not only is data visualization useful for you to make sense of your data, but it can be used to attract customers too – through nice infographics! With the advent of Big Data, data visualization has become even more vital.  It makes thus immense sense to recruit or train a design expert for leveraging on data visualization.

Introduction to Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is focused on the phenomenological method of awareness, in which perceiving, feeling and acting are distinguished from interpreting and reshuffling of pre-existing attitudes. The focus of the Gestalt therapy dialogue lies in the phenomenological perspectives and the goal is for the client to become aware of what they are doing, how they are doing and how they can adapt themselves and at the same time learn to accept and value themselves.

The basic concepts of Gestalt theory are:

Holism: The idea that individuals are growth oriented, self-regulating and only understandable within the context of their environment.

Existentialism: The focus is on what and how of the behavior and not on why; it works by integrating the fragmented parts of the personality and focuses on completing the unfinished business of the past.

Balance: Balance between individual needs and environment to reflect creative adjustments.

The focus of Gestalt therapy is more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed). The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt at the moment rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be. Gestalt theory recognizes that the background and the forefront change fluidly, in this therapy the patient’s problems are regulated to the background and brought to the forefront through the therapy.