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Stories, insights, and tips on how to stay balanced (and get ahead).

 

Susan Hilty on IT Project Management and Leadership

This week I sat down with Susan Hilty, a Hudson IT PMP-certified project manager from our Chicago office, to get an industry veteran's take on the trends affecting IT projects right now.

Leaders vs. Project Managers

Susan brings a unique background to her project management engagements. For many years she worked in store management roles at retail chains including Kmart and SportMart. Responsible for opening new stores, Hilty developed firsthand experience with the various people and complex processes that need to be setup and managed for a store to operate successfully. Susan said, "In retail, there were so many moving parts from HR, Payroll, and Finance - my favorite part was figuring out new processes on the fly and mentoring my staff to adopt those processes. We were not given exact instructions on how to open a store. We had to find the necessary resources and make sure that the goal was achieved."

When I asked Susan how this experience related to her later work in IT consulting and project management, she said "many project managers do not understand how to synthesize varying (often small and inaccurate) amounts of information from stakeholders into a workable plan, and shepherd that plan up and down the decision chain to get things done. Being a leader adds a layer of value to the project management role."

Building Houses Without Architects

Further along in her career, Susan Hilty developed a knack for complex mergers and acquisitions. Systems and processes were being integrated from many locations or entirely different companies. It was during this experience that she saw the need for a well-run Program Management Office (PMO). "At the time, the CFO budgeted for networked imaging software to cut document production costs and the CIO had the mandate to do software setup and installation for hundreds of users on a timeline. The only problem was, without a PMO taking ownership of the project, no one realized that we had a fleet of copiers in house that were not network capable. We had to procure all new equipment that was not a part of the original budget. If there were a functioning PMO, something that basic would have been uncovered in the project requirements assessment."

Susan continues to take new project assignments where different stakeholders hold elements of business requirements, software, workflow, training and finances, yet they do not coalesce into a project definition. She said, "It's like saying you'd like to build a house. You have gotten the loan, ordered a bunch of lumber, hired a painter, and set your move-in date. When I ask what the house will look like when its done, you say you'll let me know when it's built." Susan points out that houses do not get built without the involvement of a good architect and a good general contractor. In addition to their traditional task and resource allocation roles, good IT Project Managers often have to be the architect and general contractor on projects. "I often have to educate upwards, to tell the very people that brought me in to manage a project, what the vision and architecture is."

Companies Do Not Need IT Project Administrators

Companies have a very narrow vision of what a Project Manager is. Susan Hilty feels that the companies enjoying the most IT project success bring in good project management talent early in the cycle. "I screen my engagements very closely now. There are projects out there where the PM is simply being brought in to run Microsoft Project. Those projects ultimately struggle because project management is seen as an administrative task. When the PM speaks up on architectural or strategic issues, many different decision makers must be consulted. Often the PM is perceived as slowing the project down, or business owners get upset with the questions." When I asked her to describe her ideal situation Susan said, "When I am in early enough to ensure a proper blueprint for the project. When I can add value to the creation and adoption of new processes, I am the most effective".

Tips for Surviving as an IT Contractor

Susan has worked with IT Staffing and Consulting firms such as Hudson IT for over 5 years. I asked Susan about what it's like being an IT contractor in today's economic environment. She said that her #1 tip is to always keep your own eyes open for new engagements. "The days of companies carrying a huge bench of IT consultants are behind us", said Susan. "You can't just stay with one firm and draw a paycheck. Be proactive in this market and keep your eyes and ears open as you get closer to the end of your contract terms. Always work with your staffing partners to see what channels are open to you, and choose projects that will continue to build your capabilities."

I sincerely hope that Hudson IT can keep quality Project Managers like Susan Hilty on the projects they love for years to come.

 
 
 

Real-Time Skills for Your Video Game Programming Job

It can be tough for software development professionals to crack into the Gaming industry. Veteran programmers will tell you that it takes passion for game development and a strong portfolio of gaming projects to even be considered. Job seekers often ask me how they can get the skills and experience they need to get their foot in the door.

It is possible to transfer skills from related industries, like computer simulation to video game development. A good example is Terry Michaels, Sony Online Entertainment, Everquest Developer, who used his experience as flight simulator programmer to land his first gaming job. For more of my thoughts on building your experience in industries related to gaming check out my video post below.

I suggest if you want to land in the gaming industry, get your hands dirty with real-time programming environments as soon as you can.

image by: Jesse757

 
 
 

Live Tweets from Hudson IT Cloud Computing Webinar

I sat in on the webinar 6 Reasons to Embrace Cloud Computing Now, hosted by Hudson IT on Tuesday April 7, 2010. Here are some interesting insights into two CIO's views into Cloud Computing via my live tweets.

Mike Whitmer @mlwhitmer CIO of @HudsonIT, and Kirby Miner, CIO of @Trex_Company will speak on experience with #cloudcomputing #WhyCloud

Mid-sized cos. have had significant IT staff reductions, but still have large base of employees to support. Cloud can help. #WhyCloud

Formal def. of Cloud: multitenant shared platform...NOT useful to convince leadership. Go with simple. "Rent from the internet" #WhyCloud

Explaining IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, "ohhh. you mean servers, middleware and apps. Yeah I get it." via @monkchips http://bit.ly/a497dQ #WhyCloud

Reference to @monkchips 15 Ways to Tell Its Not Cloud Computing http://bit.ly/YuBkc #WhyCloud

Reason 1: COST @mlwhitmer showing detailed cost savings analysis of Exchange E-mail vs. Google. 2nd ROI Analysis of ERP SaaS #WhyCloud

Reason 2: SCALABILITY. Reference @GoGrid's charts of IT infrastructure buy cycle before and after #cloudcomputing #WhyCloud

Reason 3: SPEED. Faster provisioning and ability to get upgraded software and hardware as it happens with little intervention. #WhyCloud

Reason 4: USABILITY. Access apps from anywhere and users familiarity with web apps skyrocketing. #WhyCloud

Reason 5: SECURITY & DR More robust off-site disaster recovery/security protocols than most mid-sized biz's can afford. #WhyCloud

Reason 6: MANAGEMENT. Reference @Proofpoint_Inc study http://bit.ly/dzRwtC most IT staff think #cloudcomputing causes job loss #WhyCloud

Cloud will cause IT skills shift. @jamesurquhart "you still have to connect to the cloud. That's where the IT depts come in." #WhyCloud

CIO's should think ahead for needed skills coming out of recession. Cloud Jobs skyrocketed. http://bit.ly/cTMMLQ via @inDeed #WhyCloud

Hybrid cloud strategy: @mlwhitmer explains mix of cloud and traditional apps #WhyCloud

HudsonIT: Introducing Kirby Miner from @Trex_Company speaking on experience with #cloudcomputing #WhyCloud

Hybrid Cloud strategy @Trex_Company CRM, Payroll/HR, Safety in the Cloud. ERP, Business Intelligence in-house. #cloudcomputing #WhyCloud

Cloud choice factors: App's impact on business, initial investment, maintenance costs, ability to integrate with other solutions #WhyCloud

Kirby Miner's Cloud analogy...Lawn Care. We outsource lawn care to allow use of the best lawn without the maint. headache. #WhyCloud

Audience Q: Is using the Cloud good fit for call center? A:It depends. Some components, but not entire solution as yet. #WhyCloud

Audience Q: Why Trex BI and ERP in-house? A: Localization could be issue with ERP. BI integrations with data too complex. #WhyCloud

Audience Q: How secure is the Cloud really? A: The Cloud can be more secure than what you can do in-house. Careful eval needed. #WhyCloud

Audience Q: How Trex IT staff evolved? A: Training need reduced on learning the 'guts'. Implementation/analysis skills increased. #WhyCloud

Audience Q: Is just IT decision or biz decision? A: More biz leaders able to make functionality decisions. Makes competitive advtg.#WhyCloud

Here is more information on the Hudson IT Cloud Computing webinar and the slide download.

 
 
 

Shifting IT Toward the Cloud

Cloud Computing is becoming a very real consideration for CIOs in most industries in 2010. As the Global CIO here at Hudson, my job is to keep the operations of our company efficient, cost effective, and highly catered to the needs of our employees, clients, and consultants. To be able to meet these objectives I, along with my IT team, are heavily involved in exploring Cloud Computing options for many different aspects of our operation, from CRM and messaging applications to storage and infrastructure. I offered to share my Cloud Computing experiences with my colleagues here at Hudson IT, because they are putting highly skilled IT pros to work every day.

Here is a quick video where I'm discussing some of my rationale for exploring the Cloud in 2010.

I would highly recommend that IT professionals from Business Analysts and Project Managers, to Network Admins and Application Developers start to become familiar with the migration of your world toward the Cloud. One way to do so is to attend our webinar on April 7th entitled, 6 Reasons Why You Need To Embrace Cloud Computing Now. There, I will be discussing Cloud Computing with a fellow CIO, Kirby Miner from Trex.  I hope to see you there. Register Today!

 
 
 

The Cloud's Effect on IT Jobs in 2010

As we close out a crazy 2009 and head toward a new year, there are plenty of things to reflect on within your IT career. Apart from shifts in the economy and how business adapted to survive, it seems that technology underwent a seismic shift as well. Cloud Computing became a part of the mainstream vernacular. For the first time, the hardware, software, and Internet bandwidth needed to support the 'network as the computer' became a realistic possibility for enterprise IT. While CIO's will be tinkering with their Cloud Strategy through much of 2010, it also begs questions for what changes the Cloud will have on rank-and-file IT professionals as the economy comes out of its deep freeze. In this video segment, I explore some of the main ideas in Leon Erlanger's July InfoWorld Article, The Tech jobs the Cloud will Eliminate.

Watch my video and give the article a read. Let me know your thoughts on what you are doing with Cloud Computing going into 2010.

 
 
 
 
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