Successful Project Management
- Editor's Corner
- Always have a backup plan
- Stay Tuned!
- From the Mailbag
- Successful Project Management
- Tip of the Week
- Recommended for Learning
- Quote of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Events Calendar
- Webcast Calendar
- MSExchange.org Webinar: The Hidden Costs of Email Management
- Webinar: The Case for Proactive Patch Management
- Register for Webcasts
- Tech Briefing
- Project Management Resources
- Cloud Backup, is it ready?
- Remote Managed Services Gives Law Firm a Friend in IT
- Tips to Secure Your Router from Hackers
- Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Integration Services
- Product Review: ManageEngine Applications Manager 11
- Four Tiers of Storage to Help Federal Agencies Meet Growing Data Needs
- Windows 8: From an enterprise point of view
- Saying Goodbye To Old Hardware Responsibly
- DUDE! Where's my VHDs? More PowerShell Tricks with Hyper-V
- Windows Server News
- How do you know your provider is following through on its cloud SLA?
- Are user installed applications safe? Considering four tools
- What's the best command-line shell: PowerShell vs. CMD vs. Bash
- Windows 8 Enterprise has notable features not in Windows 8 Pro
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- Beat server downtime with anytime server backup
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This week's newsletter is all about successful project management with a guest editorial by Dale Kehler. A lot of our work as IT professionals involves managing different kinds of projects, so Dale's advice on this subject should be helpful for many readers of this newsletter. Of course, project management is an enterprise that is often fraught with difficulties, and when things are going wrong the best course is often to BUCKLE UP AND DOUBLE DOWN:
Always have a backup plan
Just as you should always have a backup plan for your servers, you should also have a back-out plan for each phase of an IT project. While backing out of a project can be painful, backing up servers can be a snap using a product like those from Idera, our sponsor for this issue of WServerNews. Please check out their line of products and solutions today. Thanks for supporting our newsletter!
Back in January in the issue titled The Skinny on Thin Provisioning (Issue #914) I asked WServerNews readers the following:
"Are you a fat IT pro? Or worried about becoming one? Would it help if I shared a few of my weightloss tips in a future issue? Let me know..."
The response was an overwhelming YES, so I decided then I'd devote a couple of future issues to the topic of how to go from being a fat IT pro to a fit IT pro by sharing some details of my own transformation.
The first of these "From Fat to Fit IT Pro" issues is coming next week, so stay tuned!
From the Mailbag
We last discussed the issue of disk drive reliability in the issue titled The Skinny on Thin Provisioning (Issue #914) but the issue seems important enough to readers that it never goes away. For example, the following feedback was sent to us recently by a reader named Roger who formerly worked as a senior applied research engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California:
Revisiting the subject of disk drive reliability again, an alarming study was published in January 2013, on the reliability of SSDs (Solid State Drives) for enterprise situations. The study itself is quite technical, but InfoWorld provides a good summary.
Enterprise grade SSDs have been around for decades, but their 5-figure price tag was too high for home use. Basically, these are constructed out of volatile DRAM and use a hard disk to load and unload its data when the unit is powered on and off. In addition, an on-board UPS and battery insures power is never lost during operation.
I thought it would be difficult to transform the lowly thumb drive into a flash-based SSD, because of NAND's limited write life cycles. However, developers did an amazing job in bringing SSDs into a production environment. Enterprise SSDs began to look viable with the introduction of Intel's X25-E SLC unit. Then came Bad Surprise #1: Write speeds plummet as an SSD fills up - even if files are deleted (due to the overhead required to clean pages). So designers went back to work to mitigate those effects.
Now comes Bad Surprise #2: SSDs can exhibit massive data loss from minor power interruptions. Here's what I took away from the study that makes me think I'll wait before I use an SSD to hold critical data.
See the summary at:
The study can be found at:
- Study was done by researchers from the University of Ohio and HP Labs
- SSDs are more susceptible to damage from a simple power failure than data center operators realize
- Test devices that were subjected to a power loss included:
- 15 Flash-based SSDs from 5 different unnamed vendors
- 2 standard "spinning" HDDs for comparison
- Testbed used sophisticated methods of fault injections and data loss detection
- Test used more than 3,000 fault injection cycles
- Is defined as a data loss that should have survived the power fault
- 5 failures types were seen: bit corruption, shorn writes, unserializable writes, metadata corruption, & dead drives
- 13 of the 15 SSDs, which included supposedly "enterprise-class" SSDs suffered a variety of failures
- 2 SSDs became massively corrupted, with one no longer registering on the SAS bus at all
- The other saw 1/3 of its data blocks becoming inaccessible after eight fault cycles
- Successes: 2 SSDs and 1 enterprise-class HDD exhibited no failures during testing
- SSDs do not provide reliable data durability under even simple power losses
- Test your SSDs or risk massive data loss
- Do not use SSDs to hold:
- A sole copy of data that is updated-in-place and must survive a power failure (the frequency of both bit corruption and shorn writes for SSDs is too high)
- Filesystems and databases that rely on the correct order of operations to maintain data integrity (serialization errors for SSDs are too high)
- Any important information that must be durable
- If you must use SSDs in these situations: Test the actual SSD models carefully under actual power failures before deployment
Thanks again Mitch for a fine newsletter, and also for your work on the on the MS Windows 7 Resource Kit - it's most helpful.
If any of our readers have additional comments concerning SSD reliability, feel free to contact us at [email protected]
Successful Project Management
And now on to our guest editorial by Dale Kehler...
How successful are your projects?
How do you know when your project succeeds? In the Project Management world we often talk about the sacred trinity -- on time, within scope, and on budget. Meet those criteria and your project is considered a success. Most projects do not meet all three.
But are these three truly good indicators of project success? Can you succeed and miss one or more of these targets? What if you are implementing a new software suite and you hit all three of these targets but no one uses the new system? Or if they do use it, only while uttering curses upon you and your entire family? Or what if that new server ends up crashing every night unless someone resets IIS because there is some sort of memory leak that no one can find and restarting is the only way to keep things running? (Yeah, I've actually seen that!)
Sometimes just understanding when a project is actually considered complete can be confusing and contentious, never mind if it has been successful or not. At some point in retrospect you realize the work you are doing is really operational not project related. Or you seem to be working on a never ending list of change requests. The project never gets completed, it just fades into obscurity.
So, how do you know when your project is completed and if you have been successful? To truly understand when you've reached your journey's destination you need to know what success looks like. And you need to understand what that looks like before you begin the work. Having well defined success criteria is the best way to know if you have succeeded or not, and to know when your project is complete.
Define your objectives
A successful project means that clear objectives are defined and understood up front and your work is planned to meet those objectives. Your objectives may include budget, scope and time, but there may be other areas that are also important -- like a high user adoption rate, increased system uptime, decreased maintenance time, or increased security. Success can be defined by any number of things.
The point is, you need to know what you want to do before you actually do it. Completing your project and being successful then simply becomes an exercise in measuring your work against the defined criteria.
Does that align with the business?
That may sound a little crazy -- almost like being a high school student who tells the teacher what answers he knows and then says the teacher should give tests that only have questions to those answers.
Well, it's not quite like that. The critical piece is aligning the project objectives with the business. In other words, the success criteria is more like the high school student assessing his knowledge to see if it measures up to what the teacher expects. If not, then he better study some more.
Define your criteria by selecting areas that are meaningful to the business, measurements that will directly or indirectly feed into the strategic goals of the company.
A short case study
Over the years I have done a lot of work with process automation. One such project I worked on involved the process around property transactions in a legal environment. Much of the work from one property file to the next can be very similar. Many of the same forms and reports must be completed for every purchase or sale. And much of the same information is entered into multiple places in multiple documents.
My team was tasked to look into different ways we could automate this process for a firm so their paralegals wouldn't have to manually enter that data multiple times. We realized that by automating some parts of the transaction process we could reduce the time per transaction by up to 25% by eliminating re-keying the same data.
At first glance, we thought if we could actually achieve that time savings, we would have a successful project. However, law firms make money by charging clients by the hour, so in fact if we automated the process we simply reduced revenue by 25%. Maybe not so successful after all.
That made us look a little deeper into why the firm's lawyers and paralegals were asking us to automate the process. As it turns out, part of the problem was that re-keying information increased risk of errors. In the legal world, errors can have a significant impact. Also, when a paralegal has to review and fix documents with errors it is non-billable work. Using up time with non-billable work means you end up having less time to make money.
With a better understanding of the business need, we could redefine our success criteria to measure against the business need. Reduce data entry errors by X%. Reducing errors then decreases the risk associated with inaccurate information and reduces time spent on non-billable work.
In the end, we could still reduce the process time on each transaction, but the success criteria was measured against something meaningful to the business.
The extra win
Achieving that success also touched on some of the firm's strategic goals. As mentioned, reducing transaction time was not actually a benefit -- not directly anyway. But the firm also has as part of its strategic objectives to introduce alternative fee arrangements. That means, in some cases it may make more sense and be more appealing to a client to be charged a flat fee for work completed rather than by the hour. By automating some of the transaction process the firm could now set a flat fee that was lower (e.g. 10% less) than what the client used to pay for work charged hourly, but the firm could also process the work faster (e.g. 25% faster) creating a larger return on the same work performed.
Taking time to align the project success criteria to both the immediate business need and the firm strategic goals allowed us to clearly demonstrate success.
Success by any other name?
Is this merely semantics? Either way we reduced transaction time by 25%, so what difference does it make? Well, no, it's not just semantics. Because we understood the business need, and we measured our success by addressing that need, our solution was somewhat different than originally anticipated. The overall result was process automation, but because our bottom line was to reduce data errors we made sure we added some data validation into the process. We also realized that some of the time savings we could gain did not come directly from automation but by eliminating re-work. And that's what made this project a success.
If you want to know if your project is successful or not you must look beyond being on time, within scope and on budget. Those are important mile markers on the way, but they are not necessarily the destination. Take the time to define what success looks like before you begin your journey.
"…even when armed with the most accurate GPS devices, people won't get to their destination if you don't tell them the address." --Richard Rosenblatt
About Dale Kehler
Dale Kehler (PMP, MCPM) is a dynamic, senior leader with extensive experience in Project Management, Business Analysis and Change Management. He has been involved in solving business problems and business management for more than 12 years. For more information about Dale see his profile on LinkedIn:
Send us feedback
Got lessons learned you'd like to share from IT projects you've been involved in? Email us at [email protected]
Tip of the Week
If you're planning on deploying Windows using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) you should first check The Deployment Guys blog as there are lots of good tips there that can help in different scenarios:
Contact me at [email protected] if you have a tip you'd like to share with our readers.
Recommended for Learning
Here are some books on project management you might want to check out if you're looking to improving your skills as a project manager:
The One-Page Project Manager: Communicate and Manage Any Project With a Single Sheet of Paper (Wiley)
Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams (Wiley)
The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management (Wiley)
Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling (Wiley)
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMI)
Absolute Beginner's Guide to Project Management (Que)
The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try (Velociteach)
PMP Exam Prep, Seventh Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam (RMC)
Quote of the Week
"Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." --Dalai Lama
Ain't it true...
Until next week,
BTW feel free to:
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- Microsoft Management Summit on April 8-12, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, USA
- Microsoft TechEd North America on June 3-6, 2013 in New Orleans, USA
- Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on July 7-11, 2013 in Houston, USA
- Microsoft TechEd Europe on June 25-28, 2013 in Madrid, Spain
- Microsoft TechEd India on March 18-19, 2013 in Bengaluru and March 25-26 in Pune
- Microsoft TechEd Africa 2013 on April 16-19, 2013 in Durban, South Africa
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MSExchange.org Webinar: The Hidden Costs of Email Management
Email clearly dominates communications in today’s business environment. The ever increasing need to manage, archive and restore mission critical email communication can quickly drive up your costs for storage, infrastructure, time and human resources. Diligent organizations must look at ways to change those cost factors to avoid ongoing budget impacts.
Join J. Peter Bruzzese, Microsoft Certified Trainer and CIO and CoFounder of ClipTraining on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 for a live MSExchange.org webinar, sponsored by Kroll Ontrack. In this complimentary 45 minute Webinar, you will discover:
- How limitations in native Exchange backup programs drive up costs
- Why native Exchange backup options can increase infrastructure and time costs
- The resulting time and resource impacts on Exchange Administrators
- How much recovering email is actually costing you
- How software tools can help reduce restore times
- How to eliminate the need for recovery servers
Webinar: The Case for Proactive Patch Management in 2013 and Beyond
Poor patch management puts your organization at significant risk because most malware gains access to your network through unpatched machines – if patches on every machine in your network are not up to date, a single malware infiltration could bring down your entire network, you could incur serious financial losses, or you could lose huge amounts of intellectual property.
Join Michael Osterman of Osterman Research and Phil Owens of GFI Software on March 20, 2013 at 2:00pm EDT / 11:00am PDT as they explain how most IT organizations are managing patches today, and how this strategy should be carried out for lower IT costs and greater security. An overview of the VIPRE Business Premium solution will also be presented. This Webinar will be recorded and the recording shared with all registrants.
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We'll start with some links to resources on successful project management:
- Six Common Mistakes that Plague IT Projects (ProjectSmart)
- 6 Ways to Measure the Success of Any Project (Inc.)
- Plan a Better Project (BizTech)
- Top 10 project management trends for 2012 (ComputerWeekly.com)
- Nine Keys to Successful Delegation in Project Management (The Project Management Hut)
- How do You Measure Your Success as a Project Manager? (Project Management Institute)
Now on to other stuff...
Cloud Backup, is it ready? (WindowsSecurity.com)
Ricky Magalhaes discusses why organizations move to the cloud and what security measures are required for safe cloud computing.
Remote Managed Services Gives Law Firm a Friend in IT (BizTech)
Anne Gabriel demonstrates that by partnering with CDW, Taft improves network availability for its growing workforce without adding significant costs.
Tips to Secure Your Router from Hackers (WindowsNetworking.com)
Eric Geier explores a couple of security vulnerabilities in consumer and small business-class routers and explains how to prevent your network against these threats.
Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Integration Services (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
Janique Carbone explains Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Integration Services and how they enhance virtual machine performance.
Product Review: ManageEngine Applications Manager 11 (WindowsNetworking.com)
Having heard some good things about Applications Manager 11, Brien Posey decided to take it for a test drive.
Four Tiers of Storage to Help Federal Agencies Meet Growing Data Needs (FedTech)
Rusty Rosenberger explains how increased surveillance data sets demand new strategy for keeping data safe and available.
Windows 8: From an enterprise point of view (Canadian IT Pro Connection)
Pierre Roman has some answers for organizations looking at Windows 8 and asking for guidance on how the new platform can benefit their business:
Saying Goodbye To Old Hardware Responsibly (Working Hard in IT)
Didier Van Hoye talks about how he decommissioned some systems in his data center.
DUDE! Where's my VHDs? More PowerShell Tricks with Hyper-V (It Pros ROCK! at Microsoft)
Keith Mayer shows you how to easily list all VHDs that are in use across all VMs and Hyper-V hosts … in just ONE line of PowerShell code.
How do you know your provider is following through on its cloud SLA?
Enforcing cloud service-level agreements (SLAs) – while critical – can be a challenge. After all, how do you really know if your provider is holding up their end of the bargain? Explore essential insights and tips that can help you avoid common pitfalls and ensure you get the most from your cloud SLA.
Are user installed applications safe? Considering four tools
Many IT shops are realizing that by letting users install their own applications, they can save a significant amount on licensing costs. But do the risks involved with this approach outweigh the benefits? Find out by reviewing the features and capabilities of four top products for user installed applications.
What's the best command-line shell: PowerShell vs. CMD vs. Bash
How does the latest version of PowerShell compare to other popular command-line shells like Bash and CMD? Access this exclusive guide to find out. Inside, explore key insights on each and learn how to effectively evaluate your options.
Windows 8 Enterprise has notable features not in Windows 8 Pro
Many organizations that are planning on implementing Windows 8 on enterprise desktops are deciding between Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows 8 Pro. So, what are the key differences between the two? Learn about the features each offers and why many of your peers are going with Windows 8 Pro.
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
GOT FUN VIDEOS or other fun links to suggest you'd like to recommend? Email us at [email protected]
Maurice Moss introduces Jen Barber to a new concept in business technology: "The Internet."
Physicist and copywriter David Neevel invents a humorously complicated Oreo cookie separating machine.
A construction company in Japan has developed a method of tearing down a building without the noise smell or dust caused by conventional demolition.
Learn about a new "superpower" that isn't being taught in most schools.
WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tullochis Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.