On the use and abuse of Technology and its Management from the perspective of an academic at UCL specialising in Project Management, Systems Engineering and Space Science/Technology.

Friday, April 28, 2006


See that? Evidently Word can't cope with too much irregularity. Which is what this paper is going to be about: Extreme Projects, what they are, and how we might manage them.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Requirements resources

I'm becoming involved in Requirements Engineering (RE), as it is now known, on numerous fronts, including a module for our MSc in Systems Engineering Management. This relates in many ways to the front-end management issues that I've written about here previously. Consequently, I'm in knowledge acquisition mode.

Our requirements tutor, Anthony Hall, hopefully won't mind me mentioning that Ian Alaxander's site is packed with great book reviews including many on RE.

More requirements-tagged items: requirements

Tufte Forum

Why hadn't I seen this before?

Edward Tufte's forum on visualisation issues, including Project Management graphics and the terrible Gantt chart. I scoured the latter for inspiration on the strategic project visualisation idea – previous post. Lots of ideas but mainly too tactical.

Check out Sparklines "word-like display of data": nice example here at NASA Ozone Hole Watch (that sounds so much more urgent than Ozone Layer Survey). They say this is sparklines-inspired rather than the true in-text sparklines.

Here's a more on-message sparkline from a company called Bissantz, who do software to create Truetype fonts for this.

The latter also claim to implement yet another bright idea I had in the bath – audible data playback! Should we call it audioisation?

Several of the Tufte forums are going straight into the feedreader. For one thing, I'll know when his new book will be ready.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Strategic process models

Strategic thought about future projects needs to be accurate, but because of the innate uncertainties the area is resistant to usable models.

Why model strategically? I'm looking for some way of preparing thought at the stage of the business case (the full one not the bean counter's profit statement) or the research proposal. We need to know what's connected to what, and what gaps exist. We need exact knowledge of uncertainty. We don't want to commit to tasks and sequences yet, but we do want to shake out the structure of organisational relationships with the underlying technology.

The tactical level is well-trampled, principally by the Gantt chart. For discussion of some of its deficiencies and some possible alternatives, we'd better Ask Tufte. However, the strategic, beginning level of projects is airy fairy whiteboard stuff, the fuzzy front end.

Snagged from a somewhat random US army document about process modelling.

This is the commonly used ICOM model, a Lego brick of many process model formalisms. I'm trying to think how it could be used in a strategic-level project modelling system.

Inputs and Outputs of generic activities are obvious elements to model, but we don't want to imply that a task is done once. Rather like a diagram of body parts, we want to infer circulation and iteration of knowledge and materials between connected parts.

Instead of Mechanisms and Controls, we can use the vertical faces of an activity node to represent Resources and Constraints respectively. We can utilise this in a mapping scheme to show contributing organisations arrayed along the base of the diagram and customer/external organisations in the upper part.

Ideally I'd like to connect this to hard data (tables) about the connectedness and certainty of each of the elements. I'd like to take the drudgery away from the drawing aspect, and have the ability to do basic traceability and completeness analyses on the strategic model.

Sound good? Next week I'll draw a few.