Free, Easy Project Management Templates for Excel

by demtron on Tuesday, February 10, 2009 09:15 AM
One project in which I’m involved requires a small amount of project management for a team of 3 resources plus an outsourced software development group.  The project lead is the owner of the company and needed a high-level project plan with a simple interface for maintaining items in the work breakdown structure.  Sounds like we could use MS Project, right?

The owner uses a Mac, for which MS Project is not available, and has no experience with PM software to boot.  MS Project would probably be overkill, but the project is of sufficient scope and duration that a basic project management tool is needed.  In the interest of keeping things moving forward and finding a low- or no-cost PM tool, I began hunting for simple templates.  Why reinvent the wheel if someone else has already created something that works OK?

In general, all the templates I found offered at least one, but not all of the following:

  • Simple task dependency tracking (start-to-finish)
  • Gantt chart generation from a WBS
  • Rollups
  • Color coding of task status
  • Budgeting
  • Tracking by the hour


In the interest of meeting the tight time deadline, I decided that we needed one that could create a simple Gantt chart (no dependencies needed) and handle start/finish dates, percent completion and resource assignments.  I found a great set of them at http://www.hyperthot.com/pm_excel_gantt.htm .  I picked the Gantt chart with auto-bars version.

Here's an example of what the Gantt chart looks like with some tasks filled in:

We’ll see how this works.


Satyam Accounting Scandal - My Take

by demtron on Thursday, January 08, 2009 11:22 AM
I found this article titled Accounting Scandal Rocks Indian Outsourcer Satyam over at InformationWeek.  It’s likely that a number of companies do not have contingency plans for this kind of problem.   According to this article, some of the work done by Satyam may not be easily transferable to other IT consulting companies. What does this mean for the state of IT offshoring to foreign companies?

First, there will likely be greater scrutiny of outsourcing firms and increased financial disclosure requirements.  Do outsourcing clients understand how to analyze the financials of foreign companies and find indications of fraud or other problems that can happen in that country but not domestically?  Would increased scrutiny have identified this?  I can’t answer these questions, but I’ll bet they’ll be raised really quickly.

Second, the article mentions the lack of vendor diversity for specific lines of IT work.  A one-vendor strategy for each line makes a lot of sense for economics, communication, project management and whole range of other reasons.  With the Satyam scenario, the disruption of service appears to be very likely for most clients.  What would happen to your business if, for example, you Internet marketing consultants were suddenly unavailable to continue working with you?  How difficult would it be to find a replacement to pick up the pieces and how much would that cost?

Third, while it might be unfair, I feel this will cast a long shadow on the outsourcing and offshoring industry.  I disagree with the statement that this will not cause U.S. customers to shun outsourcing.  The fraud that exists in this case is of a magnitude that should give pause to creating future offshoring relationships.  Fraud at this level likely means that fraud exists at lower levels in the organization.  The inflation of financial figures likely affected the negotiations of contracts and swayed the confidence of prospective clients.  If I were a client, I would run (not walk) away as quickly as possible and probably bring my IT operations back to the U.S., if not long term, I would at least until I could make a thorough assessment of what this means for potential relationships with other offshoring vendors.

This problem will not go away.  With the kind of gaudy numbers that have circulated about the volume and values of offshoring contracts in recent years, it’s hard to imagine that Satyam is the only problem.

5 Things Every Web Site Owner Must Know

by demtron on Friday, November 21, 2008 03:06 PM

Your web designer has just completed your site and it’s live and available to see on the Web.  You’ve thanked your designer for a job well done and you’re excited about the prospects of new customers and increased awareness of your business.  What do you know about the setup, configuration and ongoing charges for your site?

When I work with new clients, I always give them the “run over by the truck” story.  If I’m run over by a truck and can’t help them with their Web sites, have I given them enough information to give another designer so he can quickly get up-to-speed and continue maintaining their sites?  When I take over site maintenance, I always ask for this information, and I am amazed and little data my clients sometimes have about their sites.  If a designer leaves, falls ill, or is otherwise unable to continue work on a site, a site owner may be left with now knowledge to transfer for a new designer.

Before you pay your designer, make sure you have this key information about your site.

Is your domain name registered under your name?  You NEED to make sure of this.  If your designer or someone else registered your domain, you may not own your domain name.  This can be DISASTROUS if you lose contact with that person and need to renew the registration or make change to your Web site.  If there is one thing I stress to all clients, it’s to take control of domain name registration.

Do you know all the passwords for your site?  Be sure to ask for passwords for the hosting control panel, FTP site, database, e-mail accounts, and any information pertaining to the security of your site.  If your designer does not pass these along to you, you may not be able to update your site content, e-mail accounts, or other site aspects in the future.

How is your site configured?  Some sites require special configuration because of features that you’ve requested.  Examples of configuration details include whether it uses an SSL certificate, a database, and payment processing.  Depending on the complexity of your site, your designer may have needed to alter the default site settings.  Make sure you get documentation from your designer detailing any special considerations from the site that may not be readily accessible or understandable by a new designer.

Who is responsible for what aspects of your site?  Hosting, email, domain registration, SSL certificate registration and payment processing may each be handled by a separate entity.  Be sure to get the company name, phone number and Web site address for the billing and technical support contacts from these services.

How has billing been arranged?  Hosting plans, SSL certificates, and other parts of your site or domain registration may be billed to you monthly, quarterly, yearly or in some other interval.  Are these set up to automatically bill your credit card?  If not, how will you be notified of a payment and how do you arrange payment?

Your Web site can be a vital part of your business, and it’s imperative that you have control of all its major aspects.  For some of my clients, previous designers did not pass along this vital information, which left them vulnerable to a variety of maintenance, security, and other problems.  Ask your designer to take an hour or so to document these Web site aspects for you.  You’ll be glad you did!


Domain Name Scams

by demtron on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 09:04 AM

Over the last 10 years or so, we've received various forms of domain name scams.  They usually involve some sort of fear tactic stating one of the following:

  • Your domain name will (expire / be overtaken / be transferred) unless it's renewed through a certain registrar
  • Other variations of your domain will be registered with other top-level domains (such as .net, .org, .biz, .info)
  • Your trademark or tradename may not be protected unless you register other variations yourself
  • We (a domain registrar) are giving you a certain period of time to stop this activity or we'll allow our client to go through with the registrations

There are so many issues with this that it's not even funny:

  • Anyone can register any domain name at any time without seeking your permission
  • ICANN, the international oversight body on domain registrations, has rules governing registrations that are abusive or not done in good faith
  • So what if someone else publishes web sites with these other domain names?  It's highly unlikely that they would affect your business unless you have a significant on-line presence.

All one has to do is search for "domain name scams" and find all sorts of resources on the topic such as http://www.firetrust.com/en/blog/chris/domain-name-scams and http://successfulsoftware.net/2008/04/19/chinese-domain-scam/ .

Here's the one I just got this morning:

 

Dear demtron ,

   We are Beijing Himense Technology Co.,Ltd, a domain name register organization in china. We received a formal application from a company who is applying to register” demtron ” as their domain name and Internet keyword on Nov 17,2008. Because this involves your company name or trade mark so we inform you in no time. If you consider these domain names and internet keyword are important to you and it is necessary to protect them by registering them first. Please contact us within 7 workdays. If out of the deadline, we will approve the their application unconditionally.


Kind Regards,
Alice.Yang
Auditing Department
Tel:+86-10-81128599
Fax:+86-10-81493938
Email:alice.yang@himense.cn
Beijing Himense Technology Co.,Ltd
http://www.himense.cn
 


If you have any other examples of the scams, post them here and help get the word out!

(Updated 14-Jan-2009 - find out if anything else happened in Part Two of this series!)


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