Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Are You Providing 'Right' Status of Your Project, Program or Portfolio?

A class teacher was posing questions to her second grade students as part of an assessment. She asked Tom, "Can you tell me a name of an animal that starts with the letter 'e'?" Tom replied "Elephant". The teacher asked him again but this time to name an animal that starts with letter ’t’ and Tom replied "Two Elephants". The teacher asked him the same question again and this time Tom responded "Ten elephants". Annoyed, the teacher asked him to name an animal that starts with letter ‘m’ and Tom replied "Mother elephant". By now, the teacher was getting very angry and repeated the same question. With a calm demeanor Tom responded "Maybe an elephant".
Syntactically it can be argued that Tom was giving the ‘right’ answers but they were technically wrong and certainly not the answers the teacher was expecting. Similarly, when stakeholders are asking for the ‘status' of a project, most often they are looking for how, when and at what cost (business value) the project will be delivered. The status report should not be just about status of scheduling, cost or scope but should be more of a report on business value. It is important to understand respective stakeholders objectives regarding the project, program or portfolio and the status report should be targeted accordingly. A dashboard summarizing the status on business value with respective links to elaborate on the specific status of scope, schedule and cost can be shared.
For instance, while executing Agile based projects it is important to understand the overall business value of the project. To understand business value it is important to first identify key stakeholders, respective goals, how to measure the goals and understand the relationship between various value drivers. Prioritized business value can then be mapped to respective themes or milestones, which helps in quantifying the requirements of overall business value while breaking them down in terms of incremental value. Overall status of the project can then be measured for each theme while sharing supporting status on:

  • Velocity (actual vs. planned)
  • Story Points (accepted vs. planned)
  • Number of Defects 
  • Percentage of Unit Test Coverage
  • Number of Test Cases
  • Number of Test Cases automated
  • Percentage of New Test Cases Added
  • Percentage of New Test Cases Automated

In my earlier post on 10 Ground Rules on the Right Metrics for Your Business, I discussed on how to select the right metrics. These posts can be used as guidelines for selecting metrics, which can then be included in future status reports showing progress on the business value of a project,  program or portfolio.
In summary, a good status report is an effective communication and transparency tool, which shares the progress on the business value of a project or a program or a portfolio mapped with objectives. What are your thoughts on providing the right status?

Are You Providing the 'Right' Status of Your Project, Program or Portfolio? was originally posted under Prokarma blog on Jan 27th 2015.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Incredible India - Taj Mahal, A Dream Made In Marble

As part of Incredible India series, this post is for Taj Mahal, A Dream Made In Marble, which is located in historical Agra city of Uttar Pradesh, most populous state in India.

There is so much written about Taj Mahal but possibly the best way to describe it is the way Rabindranath TagoreNobel Prize winner in Literature (1913) did. 
You knew, Shah Jehan, life and youth, wealth and glory, they all drift away in the current of time. You strove, therefore, to perpetuate only the sorrow of your heart... Let the splendor of diamond, pearl, and ruby vanish like the magic shimmer of the rainbow. Only let this one tear-drop, this Tajmahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever. 
O King, you are no more. Your empire has vanished like a dream, your throne lies shattered... your minstrels sing no more, your musicians no longer mingle their strains with the murmuring Jamuna...Despite all this, the courier of your love, untarnished by time, unwearied, unmoved by the rise and fall of empires, unconcerned with the ebb and flow of life and death, carries the ageless message of your love from age to age: ‘Never shall I forget you, beloved, never.’ 
- By Rabindranath Tagore
Taj seems to display varied shades including pinkish in morning, milky white in evening, golden when the moon shines and intermediary variants during different hours of the day and during different seasons in a year. So one can enjoy and appreciate beauty of Taj at all times and never get enough of it in a single visit.

Taj is without a doubt, a masterpiece made in marble, beauty personified, widely recognized as "the jewel of art in India" and one of the universally admired monuments of the world's heritage.
Taj Mahal translates to "crown of palaces", is a white marble mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658 A.D.), grandson of Akbar the Great in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child
The mausoleum is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna. Red sandstone mosque on the western, and Mehman-Khana on the eastern side of the tomb provides aesthetically a clear colour contrast. 
Taj Mahal is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
The Gate Way of Taj, Royal Gate is an octagonal entrance hall, surrounded by small rooms on both the sides in the floors having beautifully ornamented gates on both sides. The Royal gate has 22 domes to symbolize the amount of years it took to build Taj.

Taj is a perfect fusion of Indian and Persian Architecture. The four minarets are built to slightly tilt outwards to save the main structure from any earthquake or disaster.

As part of Incredible India series, I had earlier shared blog posts on Karnataka Road TripQutub MinarGolconda FortHumayun's TombTemples in DelhiBird WatchingGwalior Fort, Gwalior Palace MuseumTemples in GwaliorAgra Fort Tomb of Akbar

Incredible India - Tomb of Akbar @ Sikandra

As part of Incredible India series, this post is for Tomb of Akbar the Greatlocated in Sikandrasuburbs of historical Agra city of Uttar Pradesh, most populous state in India.

The Tomb of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great is an important Mughal architectural masterpiece, built in 1605–1613 and set in 119 acres of grounds in Sikandranamed after Sikandar lodi, the Delhi ruler who was in power from 1488 to 1517 A.D. When tourists visit Agra, most often then not, Taj Mahal and Agra Fort is in the itinerary with many not knowing about the Tomb of Akbar in SikandraIts such a magnificent monument that one can truly appreciate only after paying it a visit. Akbar was one of the greatest emperors in the history of India and this beautiful mausoleum is befitting Akbar the Great.

The third Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (1555–1605), himself commenced its construction in around 1600  A.D., according to Tartary tradition. After his death, Akbar's son Jahangir completed the construction in 1613 A.D. Akbar in a way stands for what truly India is, a true secular country with diversified culture, religion and ethnic origins. Akbar was born to a Sunni father and Shia mother in Hindustan, the land of Sufism at the house of a Hindu. He is said to be married to a MuslimHindu and Christian and thus the structure has a perfect blending of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jain themes. 

The decoration on the gateways is strikingly bold, with large mosaic patterns set into it and four minarets rising from the corners are particularly striking and are similar to those of the Taj Mahal. Built of red sandstone, the minarets are inlaid with white marble polygonal patterns with the south gate being the largest. Akbar's Tomb complex external entrance from the road, built to imitate the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri, the city, Akbar founded. Portico in front of Akbar's grave in the basement is covered with beautiful stucco paintings.

As part of Incredible India series, I had earlier shared blog posts on Karnataka Road TripQutub MinarGolconda FortHumayun's TombTemples in DelhiBird WatchingGwalior Fort, Gwalior Palace MuseumTemples in Gwalior& Agra Fort 

Incredible India - Agra Fort

As part of Incredible India series, this post is for Agra Fort located in historical Agra city of Uttar Pradesh, most populous state in India.
Agra Fort is like a walled city surrounded by a 21.4 m high fortification wall and is situated on the river bank of Yamuna riverFort has been built by thick and strong walls of red sand stone. Agra Fort is an amalgamation of buildings and palaces, which were built by Mughal dynasty from Emperors Akbar, JahangirShah Jahan to Aurangzeb.  

The present day structure was built by the Mughals, though a fort had stood there since at least the 11th century. Agra Fort was originally a brick fort known as Badalgarh Fort, which was a strong foothold of the Rajput rulers. 

Fort is also the place where Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan, his own father for 8 years until Shah Jahan died in 1666 in the lap of his dear daughter Jahan Ara gazing towards the Taj, the tomb of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and was later buried in the Taj Mahal
Agra Fort is also famous for the fact that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was kept under house arrest by Aurangzeb from 12th May to 17th August 1666 AD and with his brave skills & planning, Shivaji successfully managed to escape from this heavily guarded fort to reach Raigard. 

Previously Agra Fort had 4 main gates but presently only Amar Singh Gate and Delhi Gate are in use. The monumental Delhi Gate, which faces the city on the western side of the fort, is considered the grandest of the four gates and a masterpiece of Emperor Akbar's time. Amar Singh Gate was built by Emperor Shah Jahan and named after the great Rajput hero, Amar Singh Rathore, Maharaja of Jodhpur. Legend has it that in 1644 AD in the court of Emperor Shah Jahan, Salabat Khan, imperial treasurer insulted Amar Singh, who then slewed Salabat Khan. This act turned Mughal army against Amar Singh, who then riding on the back of his horse jumped the high walls of the fort near the spot where Amar Singh Gate was built. 

Though this fort has lost the glamour and grandeur of the Mughal rule, yet it still is a magnificent monument that deserves a visit and go down the lanes of history. Diwan-I-Khas, the 'hall for private and distinguished audiences' was built by Shah Jahan with white marbles in the year 1637 AD. The pillars and arches of this dignified building are inlaid with semi precious stones and colored flowers. Its ceiling was decorated with golden colors and the floors with shining marble slabs, which were taken away by the Jats during their invasion of Agra. The famous peacock throne of Shah Jahan was placed here and was later taken to Delhi by Aurangzeb, which was then taken away by invaders to now present Teheran

As part of Incredible India series, I had earlier shared blog posts on Karnataka Road TripQutub MinarGolconda FortHumayun's TombTemples in DelhiBird WatchingGwalior Fort, Gwalior Palace Museum & Temples in Gwalior.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Incredible India - Temples in Gwalior

As part of Incredible India series, this post is for various Temples in Gwalior located in historical Gwalior city of Madhya Pradesh, a central state in India.

Referring WikiSaas-Bahu ka mandir (Mother-in-law - Daughter-in-law's Temple)or Sahastrabahu Temple, is located to the east of Gwalior Fort. Built in 1092 by King Mahipala of the Kachchhapaghata (Kachchhwaha) dynasty, this temple is one of the greatest architectural marvels situated by Gwalior Fort

It was named SahastraBahu, depicting Lord Vishnu with a thousand hands. Lord Vishnu was worshiped by the wife of Kachchhapaghata's king, but when his son's wife came, she became a devotee of Lord Shiva. Thus, another temple beside Vishnu temple was built, where Lord Shiva was worshiped by the wife of the king's son. Collectively, these two temples were named 'Sas-Bahu temple', meaning the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law's temple.

Teli Ka Mandir is an ancient temple, which is located in the Gwalior Fort complex and is famous for its splendid architecture. Teli Ka Mandir is built in 11th century and considered the oldest temple of the Gwalior Fort. It is a Brahmanical sanctuary and was refurbished between 1881 and 1883, having a blend of south and north Indian architectural styles.

Sun Temple built by the Aditya Birla Trust is the second Temple dedicated to Sun in India (Konark Sun Temple being the first) and is an exact replica of the famous Konark Sun Temple, Odisha

As part of Incredible India series, I had earlier shared blog posts on Karnataka Road TripQutub MinarGolconda FortHumayun's TombTemples in DelhiBird WatchingGwalior Fort Gwalior Palace Museum.