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I’m in the process of getting through the PMP Exam Cram. I did this as I venture deeper into a career which is focused on helping companies achieve greater success with their IT projects. My approach started with a focus on more of the BA side of things – requirements elicitation, use case composition, overall requirements process structures, etc. I was interested in understanding the PM role and I found some interesting overlaps.

A lot of the BA and PM material I read seems self-aggrandizing. Does anyone else get this sense? It’s as if the authors are selling the value of the position to the very people who have already been sold on it. In this instance, as well as the IIBA’s BABOK, I’d say a good 20% of the material is “which is why your role as a [BA/PM] is so important.”

I’m guessing one way of really understanding how the roles overlap is by asking, have you ever been in a situation where your role as a BA or PM has conflicted with someone else in the opposite position? Or have you seen such conflicts?

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Information Technology has reached the finish line. You can’t write code that hasn’t been written before. You can’t develop software that I can’t buy. The focus of IT on social networking results in nothing more than the same advertising sales that brought Yahoo! to stock market prominence, eventually becoming Google’s dominance, but is predicated entirely on our need to see an advertisement in order to consume a good or service. Great! Now we can all talk to each other, and we don’t have to use the phonebook, or even a phone.

What is IT able to do to now to actually further global progress? DNA analysis? And how many job slots are available for that purpose? Has IT reached a massive finish line and is that why so many of us are seeking opportunities now? What does the world need now?

Let me know. In the middle of this gloomy economy (and a matching weather pattern in Cincinnati at least), are you actually working on something NEW?

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I often look through Rent-A-Coder, a website that attempts to marry coders and buyers through a bidding process, and I come away each time feeling…well…dirty. It reminds me of scenes from Miami Vice when Crockett and Tubbs used to roll through the alleys filled with prostitutes. “Hey, baby! I’ll give you a PHP/MySQL website for fifty!” Seriously, website bids for $300?!

It’s starting to remind me of the music scene in Cincinnati. For as long as I can remember, unless you’re in a stage act band, gigs come in two flavors: the $50 and under, and the $100 and over. Grant and Benjamin. It hasn’t really changed. The price of gas, food, clothes, and whatever will increase, but gigs will stay right at this level. If you’re making more than that, it’s because you’re doing a private party on a boat, or a wedding, but now that you can rent gear for those occasions, even those high money gigs are dying off. Musicians are willing to play for coffee if it means they can do their thing in front of a live audience of 5 people. When three digits are involved, they generally salivate and wearing a suit and tie becomes less of hassle. And if you let them drink free beer? Well, then. The music will certainly sound great….to at least them. Because of this, the rising cost of music education, unless you’re going to teach others how to become poor, is becoming largely unjustified.

This is exactly where IT is going if people don’t start valuing the services they provide, and tether themselves to a standard despite the hard times. First and foremost, knowlege and expertise are the essential component. Remember those tests in grade school that asked you to pick which thing you needed most for a football game? The referees, the crowd, or the football players? The quarterbacks are the analysts, the running backs and receivers are the developers, and testing is defense. But there is a different pay scale between high school and professional football, isn’t there?

Secondly, if someone hires you, then generally they’re going to make some revenue. I would contend it is the non-essential producers that should be trimming their margins, not the quarterbacks, running backs, and defense. So how much do you want to make? Take the net you want to earn and divide by 220 (working business days, minus holidays, etc.). $88,000 is $400 a day, $50 per hour. Charge it. Stick to it. Whatever the rate.

Why? Because lastly, who’s to say that companies aren’t going to take advantage of this economic downturn by attempting to control costs and enlarge profits for years to come after this supposed depression. Are they going to stop using the “because of the hard economic times” excuse when the hard economic times no longer exist? Heck no. You’ll be in a job making “hard economic times” rates for years. Do you think they’ll come to you one day and say “hey, buddy, the depression is over, here’s that $20,000 raise.” Heck no. It’ll be “file an evaluation request form and we’ll see if we can’t get you that 4%.”

Here’s the irony: companies searching frantically to control costs hire the lowest bidder, not the best qualified. They pass on hiring somebody who could actually provide long-term benefit to bring on Mr. Cheap Gig. In the music world, this results in BAD MUSIC. Guess what the result is in the IT world? To get over this, actually assess what the company is trying to do in numerical terms. Do the homework you’re supposed to do before the interview, golf-and-beer outing, or prospect lunch and get an understanding of the health of the company and your worth to them. If they can’t pay your per diem, pass. Yes, I said it. Pass. And stop earning $20 to design a company’s front-facing website. Unless that’s what you want all of us to earn some day.

And if companies don’t want to hire all of us at our deserved rate, well then they have assumed the captain’s position on the Titanic, we’re the musicians on the boat, and it has been a pleasure and honor to play with you on this night! What was the drinking policy for the band?

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The average salary for a project manager is $96,000. The average salary for a senior application developer is $85,000. If a person is hired to do both jobs, does that person get a salary of $171,000? No. It’s a cost-cutting tactic, and in this market it’s easy to find a person willing to do anything or say they can do anything to get that job slot. We are asking our work force to be jacks of all trades, and master of none. As a result of our cutting, we really cut the “it” – the essential ingredient – out of IT.

Real-world Job Titles
• Applications Systems Analyst/Programmer
• Programmer Analyst Consultant
• Database Application Developer

Look at the job titles I’ve listed. Although the first two scream “multiple-hats,” you’re probably thinking “Database Application Developer” is a straightforward title, so you’ll be perplexed to learn that when I asked some colleagues to read the description of the job that accompanied it, when faced with three choices, “Project Manager”, “Systems Analyst”, and the actual title, most chose “Project Manager.”

So to save cost, we’ve begun to place more responsibility on a single person. If you give me three things to do, like develop computer code, analyze and define requirements, and maybe even help manage the expectations of a client, I may do all of those things pretty well. But if you let me come to work, spend an hour of my 8 learning, and then focusing on doing one thing, the breadth and depth of what I’m able to accomplish will increase dramatically. Back in the day of the Internet boom, I was typically encouraged by my boss to learn and read. In fact, that’s how I got into IT in the first place. The VP of the company I was working for walked up to me with a manual and said, “learn this.” But all I’ve heard for the past 5 years is “get it done.” And worse, only one opinion has started to matter when designing solutions, usually one based on position or title, and that title, unfortunately, isn’t often “customer.”

We’ve taken our eyes off the ball and fixated it closely on the dollar. Many of us probably believe the dollar is the ball. Who can blame us? Everyone is busy convincing each other that monetary shortage is the issue. But let me invite you back into the batter’s box, get your mind off the scoreboard, and retrain your eye to that hanging curveball:

“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” – Steve Jobs

The average salary for a junior programmer, fresh out of college, is $53,000. These are young, energetic people who ideally have the latest information and a lot of confidence, perhaps too much. Do we want these people to stop learning when they leave campus? The two sentences above contain two key concepts: cost-cutting and innovation. Which do we want our freshest, brightest minds to encounter? Do we simply want them to “get it done” for $53,000?

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” – William Pollard

Innovation happens when a situation exists such that all ideas are welcome, but funneled and filtered through a guided alignment with business objectives. If you’ve got 20 developers focused on one idea and one goal constantly, innovation is dead. If those same developers get a half hour each morning to explore their solution domain – read articles, work through examples, explore new techniques – you end up with a team of well-informed people that can approach a problem collectively with greater breadth, with genuine excitement and positive attitude, and readiness to find a solution. But if they and their managers spend their morning trying to fill multiple roles, that energy is stifled. The result is a cost to the business. If you ask a programmer to be an analyst, you’re likely getting half the programmer and half the analyst. You’re also getting someone less likely to proactively contribute to the mission, and less likely to achieve a sense of ownership toward the company. I’ve seen so many developers become team leads or managers with nothing more than a modest increase or a title change. They soon learn the price of such cost-cutting. Well guess what?

“The cure for the United States is not cost-cutting. The cure for the United States is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” – Cliff Adams (with a lot of help from Steve Jobs)

Copyright (C) 2009 Adams Enterprises, LLC

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