Oh! The Information Age

Saturday, 15 June 2013 15:23 by ranjanbanerji

Right since history lessons in high school to watching Ancient Aliens on History channel nowadays one can derive a common theme which is that smart people use information to their advantage, no matter what era they belonged to and no matter whether they were real or imaginary.  Now let’s fast forward to the modern era of mankind.  The one we call the information age.  Since the early 90s the Internet has been increasingly used by the common person and industry.  It can safely be said that nearly any innovative idea on the Internet is based on information.

Since information is so critical to the notion of the “Information Age” duh!!!!!! several corporations have developed their entire business model around the art of collecting and analyzing information.  Since the Internet is used by almost everyone one the largest source of information and target of information is people themselves.  Then there are businesses that strive to improve their performance by analyzing information on people so that they can better serve them.  So even if they are not in the information business, information itself is key to their business.

So now let’s take two business that I have had to deal with recently.  The first being Google.  There isn’t a person in the developed world who hasn’t used Google.  Yes they make products but to make things easier let’s just say they are in the information business. After all one could argue that Android is merely an information collection device.  But we digress……..

The other company is AT&T which is a communications company but has grown to even provide IT support and consulting services to the Federal government and possibly others.  But most of us know AT&T as a provider of cellular services and the cell company that signed the lucrative exclusive contract when the iPhone was first released.  Clearly two giants in their own domain.  One collecting information and making it available to those who need it, the other selling mobile communications and IT Services and needs information to do a good job and be successful.

So let’s begin our tale of two corporate giants in this age of “information is everything”.  So I used to have an AT&T mobile phone and I decided to retire it as I no longer needed it.  But I wanted to save my number so that in the future if I needed a mobile phone I could use the same number.  This is where Google enters the story.  I transferred my AT&T number to Google Voice.  Now several years later I decided to transfer/port my number out of Google voice back to AT&T.  I googled (yes its a verb and no binged is not) and found the process on how to port my number out of Google voice.  In fact the instructions were provided by Google itself (https://support.google.com/voice/answer/1316844?hl=en).  You simply go to and unlock your Google voice number so that the other company can port out the number.  This can be done by going here (or just read the instructions in the link above).

So I followed all the instructions provided and unlocked my number.  Then I went to the AT&T store and asked them to give me a new phone and to port this number over.  After about an hour of trying AT&T failed to do so.  At this point they escalated to the issue to some higher level of support.  You think they will solve the problem right?  Wrong!  Worse….  The lady on the phone asked me to give her my Google password.  WTF?  Yes you heard that right.  WTF?  I tried to explain to her the implications of giving out ones password.  But she insists that is the only way the number can be transferred.   Now you got to remember that this is the same company that provides IT services to the government and key agencies like the Department of Defense.  Agreed its not the same group of people who provide support for cell phones but still you would think there would be a corporate culture that promotes security.

Instead of giving the AT&T lady my Google password I told her I will research the issue myself and call back.  Luckily she agreed to that.  She gave me a temporary AT&T number for my new phone sent me a text message with a number to call to assist with porting problem.  The text included hours of operation which clearly states that Saturday and Sunday is 9am to 10pm EST.  As of 9:15am on Sunday they say their office is closed.  Awesome!

So after some research I found that in addition to your Google account password, you can set a PIN for your Google voice account.  So perhaps what AT&T needs is the PIN not my account password.  But since AT&T offices are closed (contrary to their message to me) there is not much I can do.

So let’s recap;

  • Google does not completely document the porting process.  They omit the part about the PIN.  Though the PIN may not be necessary for the port and it may just be AT&T that is completely and utterly clueless.
  • AT&T despite being in the business of porting numbers and despite successfully porting numbers from Google voice seems to have no clue as to what they do to be successful.  Knowledge management, employee training, knowledge base mean anything to you AT&T? (google it, you will find many who say they ported their Google voice number to AT&T)
  • AT&T sent me published hours of business which is incorrect.  Seriously?  AT&T does not even know when they do or do not work?  Let’s double recap, we are talking about the information age right?  If I am not wrong even in 5000 BC traders knew when they would and would not work.  Hellooooo AT&T is anyone there?
  • AT&T asking for my password.  They have got to be kidding.  In this day and age when everyone is talking about cyber attacks and hackers, AT&T employees are blatantly asking people to hand over their account passwords?

So the next business day I call AT&T armed with a PIN number and all.  They tell me that there is no record of any number port for me.  Huh?  Wow! this just keeps getting better.  The lady I was talking to was extremely helpful and she started the port process, did not need any password or PIN.  She texted me later in the day to call back to complete the port process.  So it was all done.  Finally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Project Management and Project Management Software - A Comment

Monday, 1 September 2008 23:08 by RanjanBanerji

The June 2008 issue of the Project Management Journal has an interesting paper titled "Impact of Organizational and Project Factors on Acceptance and Usage of Project Management Software and Perceived Project Success" by Abdullah Saeed Bani Ali, Frank T. Anbari, and William H. Money.  What I find interesting is that based on my experience and observations of what goes wrong in project management the authors seem to have ignored two key issues:

  1. Organizational Culture (is it a process oriented organization?) as a determinant for adoption of project management software and
  2. Defining acceptance and usage of project management software.

Before I get into the details of my point of view I will like to make a few clarifications, disclaimers, fine print stuff etc.

  • This is not an academic writing.  Keep this in mind as you read.  I am discussing a paper written by academics and they tend to get really worked up for no reason.  So calm down folks, this is just my opinion.
  • This is based on my experience in the software industry so what I am about to say may or may not apply elsewhere.

In the above mentioned paper the authors postulate 10 hypotheses about acceptance and usage of project management software and then they collect and analyze data to see which hypotheses are supported and which are not.  The 10 hypotheses are:

  1. The perceived ease of use has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  2. The perceived functionality has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  3. The perceived information quality has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  4. Organization size has a positive relationship with the use of project.
  5. Project size has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  6. Project complexity has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  7. Level of project manager training has a positive relationship with project management software usage.
  8. Level of project manager experience has a positive relationship with project management software usage.
  9. Level of project manager education has a positive relationship with project management software usage.
  10. The use of project management software has a positive relationship with project manager performance.

To learn about their conclusions go read the paper.  This post is more about what they did not include in their study.


Organizational Culture

In my IT career I have worked for software companies and software services (consulting) companies.  When at a consulting company you can end up working for various project managers that belong to either your own organization or to the organization that is receiving your services, i.e., the client.  Across these projects, project managers, and organizations (employer and clients) it is easy to observe that many, in fact most, do not follow a well organized software development process.  Management at these organizations will strongly disagree with my observation.  For whatever reason they live under the impression that a well defined process exists in their organization.  Ask an employee and their answer will be "what process?"

Why do I call this organizational culture?  Well simply because it seems to be prevalent in most organizations that I know of and it seems to be deep rooted in how they perceive the existence of processes.  Its about how an organization chooses to do business.  You may say well maybe this problem is restricted to places where I work.  Very true, but I have friends who work in other organizations.  The pattern sticks.  Process does not manifest itself as a tool or some software.  Process is about how business is done and it comes into existence as a result of very conscious decisions made by the organization's management.  But beyond making such decisions management has to ensure that the organization as a whole actually follows the process.  If not, then you have the very common situation where management thinks there is a process in place while actually there is none.

So perhaps another set of interesting hypotheses could be:

  1. Management believes that their organizations have well defined processes.
  2. Employees in organizations are mostly unaware of any process that management claims is in place.
  3. The presence of a well defined and clearly visible process has a positive relation with the use of project management software.
  4. The presence of a well defined and clearly visible process has a positive relation with the success of the project.
  5. The presence of a well defined and clearly visible process has a positive relation with the success of the project irrespective of whether any project management software was used or not. (its the process not the tool that is necessary).


Define Acceptance and Usage

In their paper the authors talk about acceptance and usage of project management software.  But exactly what does that mean?  How do the authors measure the ability to use the software?  Is the software being used correctly?  If the organization has no proper project management processes in place then what exactly is the software used for?

In my entire career I think less than 5% of all managers, project managers, and executives were capable of using any kind of project management tool.  That is not true.  After all I do believe that 100% of them will agree and swear that PowerPoint is the way to go.

As I was writing this post I called several of my friends who work in various Fortune 500 type companies.  When asked if they have some software for project management they all say yes and talk about how much was spent putting it in place.  When asked if they had ever used it or known anyone who used it the answer was no.  Is this valid data collection and analysis on my part?  Hell no, but I think it will be an interesting study for the academic types to focus on.  How about a study that will actually test project manager's skill in using such software when they claim that they use it?

I think adding the two issues

  1. Organizational Culture (existence of a process oriented environment or a desire to create one) and
  2. Correctly understanding the meaning of adoption/acceptance and usage of project management software

to the study mentioned above will provide a much better way to evaluate project management software, its acceptance, and its effectiveness.



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