Saturday, August 31, 2013

Risk management charade

A while back I attended a workshop with a client. It was to develop a corporate risk management 'framework' (as they like to say these days). The workshop was facilitated, and probably at great expense (more original art works on partners' walls), by a major consulting firm. Let's call them King Prince.
In what was clearly a canned presentation, that had nothing to do with my client's business (the business is in health services), our bright young facilitator's first text book question was "what is [company name's] appetite for risk?"
OK, so let's think about his. What was [company name's] appetite for risk? That is, how many people should die each year from iatrogenic causes? Is that it?
In this question both the facilitator and the firm, let's abbreviate it to KP, shot their credibility. We continued the workshop politely, but left in awe at their misreading of a client's business.
I wondered how much my client paid for this tosh.
Of course risk appetite has a place, as a question. But its place is more in the world of finance, hedging and portfolio management, were risk can be objectively (sort of) assessed, priced, and managed. It has a completely different place in health provision where death is not tolerated (from non-natural causes, that is), but investigated and avoided.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is a project?

There are lots of long and tedious definitions of a 'project' around, but I like this one by David Allen:

The project merely describes something in the world looking or being different than (sic) it currently is.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Project Software

As we all in the project world know, there is a plethora of project management software on the market: both web-based and for local hosting or installation.

Most of the software, to my mind, falls far short of helping one manage a project, and tends to be either for scheduling or task management; sometimes with the capability to upload documents.
I've mentioned this in a previous post, but very little of the software on offer truly supports the management of project information, documents and actions.

Recently I've been considering software for an investigation unit that I am responsible for, and the software that has lead me to looks far more like true project management software than products marketed for the purpose.

Not to say the packages that I've earlier mentioned (Project Administrator and Meridian's offerings) don't do that job, they do; but the cross linking and automation in COMtrac goes further than this.

Capabilities of COMtrac I particularly like are the linking of entries against different categories of investigation action, and the use of those entries to produce investigation logs, tasks, offence analysis, briefs of evidence, statements, etc, without much further work. I don't know of any PM package that can do that. They all entail more work to make useful reports and summaries.

The front page of COMtrac shows recent logged activity and investigation progress at a glance, with information about investigation status, target dates (e.g. for court appearance), persons of interest, etc.

Incidently, its also a much better tool than other investigation databases that I've examined, based on Access, for instance; these have been OK, but were really just electronic filing cabinets, with little cross-linking and built in investigation management or brief/statement creation.

In the project world, Comtrac, like i-nexus, is designed around the project (let's stick with that word) end result. I-nexus works to benefits that must be realised, then tracks back to the actions that will produce the benefits. This is done in an hierarchical manner, with the software providing automatic summaries after the fashion of hammocks in a project network chart.

Comtrac bases the project on the project elements (could be a work breakdown structure showing deliverables, or some other form of project breakdown structure), then links documents and actions to that structure (evidence, actually, in Comtrac's terms). It also provides for a project log, project chronology and analysis of how the evidence links to the elements: easily translated into a project. One can also view the project in terms of the documents uploaded against the elements.

The great thing about it, though, is that it automatically produces draft reports from the data entered, with relevant references to files uploaded, with the reports available by date range, and a few other criteria, and with no further work, unless you want to edit the draft it prepares. I've not come across anything else that does this type of smart work.

For the complexity of a decent sized project, it would require some tweaking, but the basic architecture is exactly that which a useful project management application should have.

So when you think PM software, think of outcome/results/deliverables based management architectures such as Comtrac and i-nexus.

Pair that with Cheops and a decent document management package, and you're unstoppable.