Thursday, May 31, 2007

Air-Car Ready for Mass Production

The world's first commercial compressed air-powered vehicle is rolling towards the production line. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre, will be built by India's largest automaker, Tata Motors.

The Air Car uses compressed air to push its engines pistons. It is anticipated that approximately 6000 Air Cars will be cruising the streets of India by 2008. If the manufacturers have no surprises up their exhaust pipes the car will be practical and reasonably priced. The CityCat model will clock out at 68 mph with a driving range of 125 miles.

Refueling is simple and will only take a few minutes. That is, if you live nearby a gas station with custom air compressor units. The cost of a fill up is approximately $2.00. If a driver doesn't have access to a compressor station, they will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car's built-in compressor to refill the tank in about 4 hours.

The compressed air technology is basically just a way of storing electrical energy without the need for costly, heavy, and occasionally toxic batteries. So, in a sense, this is an electric car. It just doesn't have an electric motor.

Unfortunately, the streets of North America may never see the Air Car, though; it's light-weight, glued-together fiberglass construction might not do so well in crash tests. However, that does not mean the Air car is confined to the sub-continent. Nègre has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.

Ref : http://green.yahoo.com/index.php?q=node/315

Therese Rein

Therese Rein is the wife of the Australian Opposition leader Kevin Rudd and she made headlines over the past few days about her business engagements. Rudd is new to the position of the opposition leader; he replaced the pretty unpopular Kim Beazley. That itself was a good example to most politicians who try to hang around while party men and general public oppose to their existence. Rudd is increasing his popularity day by day and polls show that he has a far better chance of wining the federal elections to be held this year ahead of the fairly popular current prime minister, John Howard, who has been in office for three consecutive terms.

Rudd's industrial relations and employments contractual related policies are pretty radical but the way his wife has handled a related issue within her company has been contradictory to his policies which created quite a discussion. The real thing that came out of it was the fact that her recruitment company has dealings with the government and in case her husband becomes the prime minister, would it be fair for her to have business dealings with the government. Many saw that as a conflict of interest.

Apparently, her business is very successful not only within Australia but also internationally, but it didn't take even a week for her to come out with her husband and announce that she is going to sell the company as both of them believed it's not right to do business with the government given the scenario.

I think this is a great example for most politicians and their family members who try to keep undue business dealings using political powers and connections. I saw some arguments questioning whether it's fair for a successful businesswoman to give it up because of her husband. I guess they query about independence and women's freedom stuff! However I think it was the right decision and is a great example for politicians all around the world.

It's a cancer that world has to get over, for example in the US, Bush's family has significant business interests including oil. If the so-called best democracy in the world is like that, no need to quote other examples I guess.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Business Analysis Career Path

The Business Analysis Career Path has been an ongoing discussion within IT circles for quite a while. If you browse through the blogs in the ‘Business Analysis’ category here, you should find more information on Business Analysis and how it fits into the overall IT organization and project structures. Assuming that all the readers have some background understanding, I am discussing some of the career path related matters here.

To start a career in BA, a person needs to have either business background in the specific industry domain or a broad IT knowledge. Given that this basic foundation exists, someone can step in to the BA world! This starting step would be something like Systems Analyst or Associate/Junior Systems Analyst. After the systems analysis skills are fully achieved, the person can move to be a Business Analyst. Progressively, this could start from something like Associate/Junior BA and then move to be a BA and when at a highly skilled autonomous level, a Senior/Lead BA.

Around this area, it becomes quite a discussion where a person can/should go. In a way, it’s a business decision based on what can be taken out of such individuals based on the skills they posses and also a personal decision what each individual want to do in their careers and also what they want to achieve in their respective lives. I personally see two branches from here onwards and upwards and also notice that most organizations have adopted these two progression paths.

One is to grow within the same line but take on more challenging opportunities. Becoming a Business Consultant would be the next best position to move in this path. The second branch is to move to Project/General Management. The knowledge gained on scoping projects, managing projects, change management and extensive business knowledge will be highly helpful for a successful career if someone decides to take on this path. If someone decides not to move onto management, Business Consultancy would offer a great amount of opportunities and exciting challenges as it’s a career path of its own and as most people would say, the sky is the only limit! It’s a highly autonomous position where you get to lead people, manage client expectations, propose solutions and involve in negotiations etc. As a consultant, avoiding management wouldn’t be possible, but still you would be a leader who understands what’s being done which makes it easier to stay on top of things and lead others to success.

Last but not least, this is a very interesting, challenging area within the IT industry which offers so many opportunities even though we find fewer people interested in it comparatively. If I have been able to create some interest and awareness, I can be happy......

Saturday, May 19, 2007

National Sport Vs Most Popular Sport

Sometimes I wonder why these two are different in most countries. Some countries haven’t declared an official national sport but some have, and there are many instances where its different from the most popular sport.

To give a few examples,,Field Hockey is the national game in both India and Pakistan but obviously Cricket is the most popular by far. In Sri Lanka, Volleyball is the National Sport but Cricket is the popular one. Sri Lankan Volleyball team to my knowledge is not strong in international standards but Cricket team is. I really don’t know whether Sri Lanka even competes at international level in Volleyball!

Another interesting country is Australia. It seems like there is no declared official national game but there are some indications that Cricket is the national sport.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_sport
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:National_sport

Australian Cricket team is by far the strongest team in the world but it is the most popular game in the country? My personal gut feeling is that it is not. Above links do have some good discussion about this. Well, people love cricket, they follow it, but they are not crazy for it as they are for Australian Rules football, popularly known as Footy. Summer is Cricket and winter is Footy, but I really didn’t see high craziness for Cricket during last summer where Aussies devastated England during the Ashes. Footy is very much a part of the life, people are just crazy over it, its not international, just between clubs, but every match is packed with spectators. On Friday, after work, there are busses from the city to the Footy. The whole weekend starting from Friday night is Footy, Footy and Footy only. Daily TV news has about 15 minutes of Footy news and it allocated about 45 seconds for world cup Cricket! Even when Aussies won a WC match that was the situation. For a change, the world cup win made the first news, but if someone measured the time, it probably was given lesser time than Footy! More details on Footy can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_rules_football

Sunday, May 13, 2007

PRINCE2 in Detail

PRINCE2 methodology is huge (Manual itself is over 400pgs A4 size book), but I tried to summerise it to 3 pages. I will publish it here for the benefit of the readers but hope to publish elsewhere for the benefit of a larger audience.

Given below is the central Prince Process diagram which shows the relationship between each process.




In today's managerial world, projects are considered as one of the best ways to carry out work effectively. In the past civil engineering work was executed as projects and then later on IT work took on the same approach. Today, attempts are made at converting every possible piece of work into a project in almost all industries spanning across both the private and public sectors.

To identify a piece of work as a project, it should have a clear start and an end and needs to be completed within a set time frame. General operational work such as clerical work and ongoing work do not make good projects.

In this light, there should be some sound and effective ways of managing these enormous numbers of projects. One of the most famous Project Management Methodologies in this regard is the PRINCE2 methodology.

PRINCE (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured method for effective project management. It is the de facto standard used in the UK and is widely recognised and used internationally. PRINCE2 is in the public domain offering best-practice guidance on project management. It is owned by and is a registered trademark of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), UK. The First version of PRINCE came in 1989, but was fairly Information Technology Projects specific. The second version, which is now called PRINCE2 came in 1996, and can be used in any project discipline such as IT, civil Engineering, Scientific, defense etc.

PRINCE2 has eight main processes which are explained below.

Starting Up a Project (SU) – Upon the receipt of the Project Mandate, SU process starts. Initial work such as appointment of a Project manager, appointment of an Executive to Chair the Project Board, Project Brief preparation and project approach are defined.

Planning (PL) – This runs through-out the life cycle of the project. Includes sub processes such as Designing a Plan, Estimating, Scheduling and Analysing Risks.

Initiating a Project (IP) – After the SU process, IP process is triggered. This plans Quality for the project whilst setting up the overall project plan and other controls. The important document that comes at the end of this stage is the Project Initiation Document, which will be used as a basis for the project throughout. Initial Business case, Initial Project Plan and initial risk log are parts of this document.

Directing a Project (DP) – This is the process that handles overall direction of the project whilst making key decisions.

Controlling a Stage (CS) – This is the stage where an ongoing stage is controlled. Reviewing stage status, Reviewing project issues and Taking Corrective Action are some of the sub processes of this.

Managing Product Delivery (MP) – This is the process which manages the delivery of actual products of the project. If it is an IT project, this might be a piece of software, in a building project, this can be the building of a bathroom for a new house.

Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) – In this process, next stage is planned based on experiences of the preceding stage whilst updating the project plan and risk log.

Closing a Project (CP) – This is the stage where project is brought to a controlled end.

PRINCE2 also has the following components.

Business Case – The business justification for the project. This is the key feature of PRINCE2. The entire project is driven by the Business Case. This provides the reasons for carrying out the project. Throughout the project life the Business Case is checked to confirm that the project is meeting the set objectives.

Organisation – The way in which the personnel involved in the project are structured. A PRINCE2 project environment has a project board which oversees the project whilst interfacing to external parties on project issues. The project manager takes care of the day-to-day project activities. Specific work packages will be carried out by different teams, and each team will be lead by a team manager who will report to the project manager.

Plans – Who, what and When to do certain project management activities.

Controls – The way in which the project manager and the project board should exercise control over the project. Project Board is another key concept of PRINCE2 for project governance. It includes three main parties Business, User and Supplier. The executive who represents the Business is the Chair of the board and the Project Board is not a democracy as decisions are not made by the majority but by the executive. This is to facilitate the best interest of the business and not of the users or the suppliers.

Management of Risk – Risk Management aspect of the project and is considered as vital to the success of the project.

Quality in a Project Environment – Deliverables within a PRINCE2 environment are called Products. This component takes care of accepted standard maintenance for each product.

Configuration Management – The way in which the project products are stored and maintained for easier identification. (Version Control)

Change Control – Change is inevitable in any organization. How do we manage it? That question is answered in this component.

PRINCE2 can be applied to any project discipline and can be used with many project management techniques. It is important to note that generally PRINCE2 is non-prescriptive meaning it says ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ to do things but does not say ‘how’ to do things. Product Based Planning, Change Control and Quality Reviews are three areas where PRINCE2 provides detailed techniques even though it’s generally non-prescriptive.

PRINCE2 is a scalable methodology. Each process comes with guidance on how it could be tailored to suit different situations. An important thing to keep in mind when working with any process is that the process should not be made a burden to the project team. If the project achieves its objectives but still has to do too much of documentation or red tape work due to the process guidance, that’s where people start to think about the processes as monsters. PRICE2 has been very careful about this reality and has provided full scalability options. Experienced PRINCE2 experts would decide how the process is going to be applied into a given real life project scenario.

Benefits of using PRINCE2 are successful delivery of projects, possibility of application to any project discipline, clearly defined roles, clearly defined responsibilities, process consistency, flexibility, scalability, cost savings through project success and effective communication channels.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cultural Awareness Training

At office today, I participated in a 2 hour training on Aboriginal Cultural Awareness. It was good to listen to something outside of work and other than the controversial Gilly innings. Gilly innings is becoming a major topic all around the world and most are positive that ICC would do something about this, if not the credibility of the game is at stake.

Back to the topic of cultural awareness, which really was a new lesson for me and as found out, to most of the non-indigenous Australians. For most Australians, history is that "Captain Cook came to Australia and then British settlers came here and started colonies". But the trainer enlightened us that a lot happened whilst colonising. Aboriginals have gone through so much trouble due to British settling which brought a huge cultural gap.The trainer herself was indigenous, so she told us the real life experiences of her elders. The owners of the land have been treated in a very cruel way during the colonisation process. We are not talking about an unknown long history here, everything happened within less than 200 years! Elderly people who are alive today can remember the situation or have heard from their parents.

There are many natives who have mixed up well with the rest of the community but the majority hasn't. Their education and life quality is far below the others. Mixing up seems to be the major issue, and as I gathered, its mainly because the difference in cultures and value systems. The training session tried to teach us these values and life style of these people. Its nice to know who they are? what they are? why things happen in certain ways? etc.

Good thing today is, they are treated as equal and their ownership of land is acknowledged and government spends money on uplifting their lifestyle. At the beggining of every public speech (presentations, talks, discussions etc.), the presenter has to mention or have a slide to acknowledge that the land that the meeting is held belongs to the aboriginal people. Soon after I came to Australia, I was surprised to see a statement acknowledging aboriginal land ownership in every slide template! That's fantastic! But that not enough, they need to be helped to live in the way they want.

Today, they are considered as citizens of Australia and get all the rights, which had started in 1967, so you would expect the problem to end, but due to the large differences, that process is slow. As my colleagues told me, educational system has not taught them the aboriginal culture. I am not sure whether that happens now, but I think, awareness is important to minimise the gap and bring those people to the good living standards. If not, they don't have the bush they lived, but they also cant do a job for a living because of the lack of education. So, what would be the result? Those results can be seen on streets, natives just wonder around and frequently hear theft and other injustice incidents on news. Sydney riots a couple of years back is a another occasion where cultural difference and lack of awareness came to the fore.

I am happy that I learnt something new and am sharing it with others.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Prince2

I was busy and occupied over the last few days as I went through a training session for Prince2 Project Management Methodology, which was followed by its Foundation examination. I passed the examination too. Prince2 certification happen in two stages, first is the ‘Foundation’, next is the ‘Practitioner’. I am planning to do the next level soon.

Prince2 stands for Projects IN Controlled Environments, the initial version was Prince, which was fairly IT specific and the second version is more generalized for projects of all disciplines. It was developed for UK government projects, but later was adopted by the private sector as well. It’s owned by OGC, a govt. body in the UK, and the training & certification stuff are handled by the APM group. There are accredited training organizers, trainers and consultants in different parts of the world. There are quite a few in Australia as well. I did my work with the Ferguson Project Management Services (FPMS).

Passing the exam wasn’t easy. It required some hard work. However, the exposure I’ve had in different processes helped me a lot. I’ve always loved studies on different processes. These include ones on overall software development as well as more specific processes. A part of my current role is business process improvement. My first project was the Process Automation project at Virtusa, which probably had a big influence on me.

Some of you are probably aware of Prince2, and some may not be so. There are mainly 2 popular project management methodologies in use. One is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) of Project Management Institute (PMI) and the other is Prince2. There are other things such as ITIL as well. Prince2 Vs PMI is a whole separate discussion and is one of the biggest rivalries in the IT industry and I hope to discuss most of it separately but will jot something about their popularity and usage.

Prince2 is very popular in the UK and is considered the de facto standard there. PMI has a more US based popularity, but it cannot be considered as the de facto in the US as other methods also have certain levels of acceptance. It’s important to note that some of the organizations have developed their own methodologies as well. Australia, as with many other things, is divided between the two methods. My personal gut feeling is both have a similar popularity here. Sri Lanka predominantly is guided by PMI, but not necessarily fully adopting the methodology, probably because the offshore industry is more aligned with the US than the UK or Australia. India is fairly similar but Prince2 has some existence as Indian offshore industry roots have gone through British ground as well.

Even though there is a discussed rivalry between the two, most experts believe that there is no need for a fight here, as both can co-exist, helping each other. Prince2 provides a methodology, is non-prescriptive and doesn’t specify all the techniques of doing things. PMI on the other hand is very detailed, provides techniques and is fair to say, is prescriptive, and most agree that it’s not a methodology but a set of techniques to guide you in detail. Given this background, they can co-exist. In a Prince2 environment, PMI techniques could be applied. However, there could be practicality issues, which should be captured separately.

Expect more on this in the near future!