I was in Las Vegas for the Pink Elephant ITSM conference earlier this year. I met Dave Gordon, the Practicing IT Project manager, while I was at the conference. We talked about IT project management, the challenges that project managers face when working on Software as a Service projects, and the cartoon laws in physics.
This video was shot at The Beat Cafe on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. It is a great coffee shop that serves good food and drinks.
Dave Gordon: I’m not trying to be perfect. I have accepted that perfection is not a desirable quality. But I have been doing actual IT projects for over 25 years and make a living doing it. I like to call myself a practitioner. I’m not a theoretician. I’m not a guy who writes textbooks. I’m a guy who is trying to figure out how to get things done. Because I come from a technology background I have seen many waves in technology. My first program was written in 1973 using Fortran and a model 29 card punch.
To me, it’s been a privilege to see many waves of technology emerge. One thing has remained constant throughout all of this is that there is always a difference between what you think you’re going do and what you actually do. Because we learn a lot along the way about the root cause of the problem. There is no way around it. Accepting that is something we must do. That’s why Agile approaches are so popular. They acknowledge that you can’t plan it all and then execute it. It’s possible to do this in civil engineering, but it’s not possible. If you’re building bridges from here to there there isn’t any movement and neither is there. You have a lot more control over the subject matter, the content, and the scope.
If you’re building a software system for a business purpose, there may be some constraints that the organization must adhere to. It becomes even more challenging when you consider technology that is constantly changing. The timescales are therefore compressed. It’s constantly changing and the interests of parties and individuals change. This is why IT project management is different from other forms.
Please tell me about the book that you are currently working on…
Dave Gordon: This is about implementing Software as a Service. This is basically how it looks from the customer’s perspective. They want to replace their legacy system with Software as a Service.
The book’s basic idea is that SaaS implementation is less about information technology than it is about re-engineering business processes. It really focuses on how data is represented in complex systems.
A group of undergraduates who had too much time created the Cartoon Laws of Physics many years ago. You can find the Cartoon Laws of Physics online, and one of them is about cats. Cats take on the form of their containers. If you cut them into small pieces, they will assume the container’s shape. Data is the same. Data assumes the container it is stored in. You force records to fit into the descriptions you have created for that particular software application.
Moving from a legacy system to a new one is not easy.