All posts in "Technical Project Management"

Introducing Chainflow Blockchain Project Management

Published November 10, 2017 in Technical Project Management - 0 Comments
blockchain project management

Today I’m feeling excited to announce Chainflow. Chainflow is a blockchain project management consultancy. We apply efficient and effective project management techniques to optimize blockchain project workflow.

Chainflow Started with a Sticker on a Mailbox

A sticker on a mailbox in Brooklyn sparked my blockchain interest. I’ve had a blockchain brain virus, a term I learned from Naval Ravikant, since then.

My interest started as a hobby. Then I started figuring out how my background and experience could benefit blockchain’s exploding ecosystem.

The result is Chainflow. Chainflow is a blockchain project management consultancy. Chainflow applies efficient and effective project management techniques to optimize blockchain project workflow.

Blockchain Workflow Optimization

Even minimal structure has a big impact on whether a blockchain project succeeds. This structure increases the return on a blockchain project team’s efforts. The structure does this by optimizing the project’s workflow.

That’s what we mean by blockchain workflow optimization. Chainflow applies efficient and effective project management techniques to optimize blockchain project workflow.

But Doesn’t Project Management Only Get in the Way?

Not the way Chainflow does it. Unlike most project management consultants, we take a “less is more” approach. We apply enough project management to be effective, while staying out of the way as much as possible.

We will ask you to slow down, at least for a minute or two. This is necessary to baseline your project. It allows us to figure out the most efficient way to optimize your blockchain project’s workflow.

We won’t ask you to stop. We’ll run alongside of you. We’ll optimize your workflow as the work continues. That’s the way we operate.

What’s the result? Why should we do this?

  • Stronger requirements alignment between what you’re building and what your community wants
  • Greater return on your time and money investments, by focusing the work getting done on what needs to get done
  • Increased confidence the work the right work is getting done, you'll know what needs to get done and when it's not
  • Lower risk, since critical issues are less likely to slip through the cracks

These factors combine to increase the likelihood your project succeeds. Your team might be happier too. You might even sleep a little better at night and more if you're not sleeping enough, due to overwork and worry.

Let Blockchain Project Management Help Your Project Succeed

Ready to optimize your blockchain project workflow? Visit Chainflow to get started.

You can also schedule a free call with me there. We’ll use the call to determine the right starting point to optimize your project workflow.

P.S. - Need a little more convincing? Here's why your project needs a blockchain project manager.

The Most Important Project Phase is Also the Most Neglected

Published September 29, 2017 in Technical Project Management - 0 Comments

Neglecting the most important project phase, planning, puts your project at risk. Two emotions cause the most important project phase to be the most neglected.

The two emotions are excitement and fear.

Excitement

The project is new! It’s shiny!

This feels hopeful and optimistic. The project’s going to change the world!

Excitement prevails!

This excitement tricks the team into believing its synchronized. Everyone thinks they have a common understanding of the project’s goals and how they’ll be achieved.

The excitement caused by the hope and optimism makes it hard to take a step back and plan.

Planning sounds boring. Nobody wants the boredom to stifle the excitement.

The team is ready to go, Go and GO!

After all, what can go wrong when everything looks so right?

Fear

The project’s already behind schedule. There’s no TIME to stop.

There are managers, investors and customers who needed this YESTERDAY.

Planning will only get in the way. Planning will only slow things down. And the project CAN’T slow down. The metrics will SUFFER. Progress must be demonstrated, at ALL COSTS.

That’s what the fear says.

After All, What Can Go Wrong?

Lots can go wrong. Lots will go wrong. Investing time to plan at the beginning of a project won’t stop things from going wrong.

Planning will help prevent things from going wrong. It will help a project recover when things start to go wrong.

Planning is worth the investment. The planning investment sets the foundation for a project’s success. That’s why it’s the most important project phase.

Think twice the next time you’re about to skip the planning phase. Check-in with yourself and see if a combination of fear and excitement are causing you to make this mistake.

Take three conscious breaths. Remind yourself that planning’s worth it. Then start planning!

P.S. - This goes for your blockchain project too, especially since you're asking people to trust you. You may be handling large sums of their money too.

Here’s What I’ve Been Doing in the Blockchain World

Published July 31, 2017 in Technical Project Management - 0 Comments

​I wrote an article earlier this year about the need for project managers in the blockchain space. I've started to do quite a bit of work in the space since then.

Here are some highlights -

1 - I'm the volunteer project manager for the Ethereum Name Service.

2 - I'm helping a high-profile crypto project, with a > $100 million market cap, develop their go-to-market strategy.

3 - I'm advising the founder of a promising crypto-project as he gets the project off the ground w/his co-founders.

4 - I follow the blockchain space very closely. I've contributed to early stage projects that have rewarded my contributions with tokens.

5 - I maintain a running Bitcoin P/E ratio chart.

6 - I'm doing business development, client management and project management work with a well-respected blockchain consultancy.

I also attended Consensus and the Token Summit earlier this year. Here's an article I wrote about my key Token Summit takeaway.

All these activities have taken some time away from the blog. Stay tuned as I continue writing about project management and blockchain. Like the blockchain world, this blog's an evolution.

I'm feeling excited to see where both of them go!

P.S. - Want to talk blockchain? Drop me a line here if you do!

Here’s Why Planning is the Most Important Project Phase

I organize projects into four high-level phases. Doing this provides a simple and consistent frame of reference for everyone involved in the project. The first phase, Planning/Initiation, is the most important project phase.

The Planning/Initiation phase sets the foundation for the other phases. It’s often overlooked in the excitement and urgency inherent to launching a new project.

Here are the major activities in the Planning/Initiation phase -

-Develop client requirements

A project's dead in the water without these.​

-Present/align/iterate/confirm client requirements and expectations

This is a critical step. The excitement and urgency of getting a project moving causes this step to get skipped a lot.

-​Determine/assign required resources

You need to know who’s doing what.

-​Develop plan

This will be the roadmap for the project. Adjustments will be necessary to keep the project synchronized over its lifecycle. The best plans need to be flexible, since it’s impossible know what’s going to happen in “real life”, when a project starts.

-​Confirm plan with client

Again, this is another critical step that’s often overlooked. Do what it takes to get your client’s attention long enough to confirm the plan with them.

-Agree to a process to introduce and implement changes to the original plan, as required​

The best plans need to be flexible, since it’s impossible know what’s going to happen in “real life”, when a project starts. This step introduces the possibility of change early and reduces resistance to change later in the project.

Don’t skip the Planning/Initiation stage of your project. Don’t let your client convince you to, either.

The project will have a much greater chance at success when this phase happens. You and your stakeholders will be happier as a result.

P.S. Planning/Initiation is the first of my four dead simple project phases. Read this post to learn about all four phases.

[Updated — The ENS Relaunch was a Success!] How a Project Manager Can Help the Ethereum Name Service Launch Succeed This Time

Published March 23, 2017 in Technical Project Management - 1 Comment
Timeline from Nick Johnson’s Postmortem

How a Project Manager Can Help the ENS Launch Succeed This Time

The first attempt to Launch the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) failed. Here’s how a project manager can make the next try successful.

The Ethernet Name Service (ENS) launched for a short time on March 14, 2017. The ENS community discovered two major security flaws shortly after launch. The team and community behind ENS decided to roll back the launch and try again.

Updated — I joined Nick Johnson and Alex Van de Sande on the ENS team shortly after the first launch attempt, to help with the relaunch. The relaunch was a success!

You can find the latest ENS news here.

I give the team a lot of credit for — 

  • Trying to launch the service in the first place
  • Getting the project to launch
  • Having the awareness to acknowledge problems and address them
  • Making the hard decision to pull back and try again
  • Their transparency in acknowledging what didn’t work and why
  • Their commitment to getting it right, by trying again

You can read about how things unfolded and security flaw details in -

Like Nick’s approach, I hope this post identifies places where a blockchain project manager can help projects like this succeed. It’s not intended to criticize, point fingers or place blame, AT ALL!

It’s also my offer to donate some of my time to provide project management oversight for the project!

(Nick Johnson, if you read this, let me know if you’d like to take me up on the offer.)

How a Blockchain Project Manager Help the ENS Launch Succeed this Time

I’ve written a post about the value project managers can contribute to blockchain projects. This post is a case study to that earlier thesis about the need for blockchain project managers to manage blockchain projects.

This rest of this post -

1 — Lists the causes and issues mentioned by Johnson and Maurelian

Nick Johnson and Maurelian identified many of the same causes and issues in their post-mortems. Each also identified other issues. This post focuses on the issues mentioned by both of them, for the sake of brevity.

2 — Describes how a blockchain project manager could have helped prevent each cause and issue.

Spoiler Alert — The Takeaway

Technical people develop technical solutions to difficult problems. That’s what they do. That’s what they want to do.

What’s missing is someone keeping an eye on the big picture to -

  • Identify issues before they become problems
  • Coordinate resources, making sure there are enough and guiding them to where they can be most effective
  • Gracefully slow down the project, only long enough to help everyone pick up their heads, adjust the end goal as needed and stay synchronized toward the agreed-to end goal
  • Do the work developers don’t want to do, e.g. document the project, coordinate audits, confirm thoroughness of plans, develop contingency plans etc

A blockchain project manager keeps an eye on the big picture. Keep reading for more detail.

(You can also contact me to discuss how I can make your blockchain project a success.)

Causes and Issues

Issue 1 — Incomplete Test Coverage

Johnson — Although the registrar had a suite of unit tests, this testing was not comprehensive. The unit tests were written after the contract by a different author. No concerted effort was made to ensure that all code paths or use cases were thoroughly covered.

Maurelian — Both of the issues uncovered could have been caught with tests to verify proper behaviour of the registrar. The behaviours which the issues enabled were not edge cases, but rather specifically prohibited…only 13…tests were on the Registrar contract, which has at least as many methods and many more requirements than that.

A blockchain project manager could(’ve) help(ed) by making sure the unit tests covered all code paths or use-cases by -

  • Developing a checklist of code paths and use-cases
  • Coordinating resources to execute the unit tests
  • Consolidating the results
  • Coordinate issue resolution

Issue 2 — No Formal and Independent Audit

Johnson — No independent, comprehensive audit was done.

Maurelian — There was no formal audit. There is unfortunately no single document summarizing what review was done, and what was found.

A blockchain project manager could(’ve) help(ed) by — 

  • Running the process to select an independent third party to conduct a formal audit
  • Acting as the liaison between the development and audit teams
  • Developing the review summary document

Issue 3 — Insufficient Code Review

Johnson -The changes to the contract that introduced the bugs were subject to review in a Pull Request, but the review did not catch the bugs. In future, more care is needed when reviewing changes to critical code to ensure reversions aren’t accidentally introduced.

Maurelian — (Referred to this issue as thrashing.) It’s nearly impossible to audit an evolving code base…Many changes were made between the Ropsten launch, and the live net launch…I actually looked at the commit that introduced these issues, but it’s a large contract…the effort required to…understand the full implications of the change felt onerous.

A blockchain project manager could(’ve) help(ed) by maintaining documentation that would make it -

  • Faster and easier to identify changes between commits.

Which would -

  • Make change implications feel less onerous to developers, who are already time-limited, allowing them to be more comfortable conducting code reviews.

A blockchain project manager could(’ve) also help(ed) coordinate more resources to conduct code reviews.

Issue 4 — No Official Bug Bounty

Johnson — A good bug bounty has…real value up for grabs…this is hard to do on a test net, where the tokens have no value, and stuff is expected not to work…WeiFund’s live net bug bounty, which held over 200,000 USD worth of real value in deployed contract, is a good counter-example. Blockchains present an interesting opportunity for a “natural bug bounty”, we as contract developers should be taking advantage of this.

Maurelian — No clear indication was provided to the community as to whether ENS was covered by the Ethereum Foundation’s bug bounty process. Had it been announced that ENS was covered, more attention would likely have been directed towards the code at an earlier stage in the process, resulting in the bugs being found at a stage where they could be easily remedied without affecting the launch.

A blockchain project manager could’ve helped by coordinating — 

  • Development of a Wei-Fund-like bug-bounty.
  • Alternative motivational programs, to encourage others to take part in the bug-bounty process.
  • Communicating a bug-bounty marketing plan.

Issue 5 — Incident response planning

(This one was only mentioned by Maurelian. I thought it was worth a mention, since a blockchain project manager could play a very valuable role here.)

Maurelian — …but bugs were always a possibility, so the need to delay should always be considered in advance. A common approach is to have a play book, basically, “if X happens, we will do Y”. I think that the reaction so far has been suitably transparent and proactive, but would have been better organized if the decisions had been made beforehand.

A blockchain project manager could(’ve) help(ed) by — 

  • Developing the play book.
  • Managing responses during implementation, according to the agreed-to playbook guidelines.

Here’s the Takeaway — Again!

I figured a repeat of the take away’s in order, if you read this entire post. And thanks for reading if you did!

Technical people develop technical solutions to difficult problems. That’s what they do. That’s what they want to do.

What’s missing is someone keeping an eye on the big picture to -

  • Identify issues before they become problems
  • Coordinate resources, making sure there are enough and guiding them to where they can be most effective
  • Gracefully slow down the project, only long enough to help everyone pick up their heads, adjust the end goal as needed and stay synchronized toward the agreed-to end goal
  • Do the work developers don’t want to do, e.g. document the project, coordinate audits, confirm thoroughness of plans, develop contingency plans etc

A blockchain project manager keeps an eye on the big picture.

P.S. — Working on a blockchain project? Contact me to discuss how I can help make your blockchain project a success.

Here’s Why Your Project Needs a Blockchain Project Manager

Published March 13, 2017 in Technical Project Management - 1 Comment
blockchain project manager

You're a brilliant blockchain developer. You're excited about the potential blockchain offers your clients. Your clients are excited about the potential blockchain offers their businesses. They've hired you to help them realize that potential.  Here's why you need a blockchain project manager to make that happen.

You're both excited. You sign the contract. You and your team puts your collective head down. You do what you do well. You start coding. That's what the client's paid you to do, right?

You work through nights to hit deadlines. You tell your client's everything's looking good.You start to feel a disconnect between you and your client. You start to get frustrated. They start to get frustrated.

The initial excitement you both shared turns into frustration. You hesitate to contact them, since the conversations are getting tense. Instead, you put your head down and code more. That's going to fix the problem, you think.

What you're building digresses from what the the client wants. The frustrations builds. The tension does too.Timelines get stretched. Budgets get stressed. You keep working and your profit margin keeps shrinking. The client's budget keeps growing. They start wondering if they hired the right person. They start wondering if this whole blockchain thing is only smoke and mirrors.

Why is this happening?

You Don't Have a Blockchain Project Manager​

You don't have anyone managing the project or client expectations. You're doing what you're good at. You're coding away.

The trouble is, it's hard to see the big picture at the same time. It's not your fault. It's not where you're hired to focus. Your focus is solving difficult problems with creative technology solutions. That's what you do well. That's why clients hire you.

This is a major reason what you build diverges from what the client needs. Another one is that clients, especially with an emerging technology like blockchain, need you to tell them what they need. Some clients need you to tell them a lot, others less. But they all need at least a little guidance.

This means aligning expectations is a critical function. It needs to happen at the beginning of a project, when everything's looking rosy.

Expectations needs to stay aligned during the project. Sometimes this means the conversations become a little uncomfortable. Having the uncomfortable conversations throughout makes the really uncomfortable conversations less likely to be necessary.

The comfortable thing to do is write more code. The uncomfortable thing is to have the uncomfortable conversation. Doing the comfortable thing in this case causes expectations to diverge even more.

This is why your blockchain project needs a project manager. This person will manage the alignment process. They'll keep your work aligned with client expectations. This will let you focus on what you do well, while ensuring the client's expectations get met.

A Blockchain Project Manager​ Makes Everyone Happy

Having a dedicated project manager in this role reduces frustration. This person will manage frustration skillfully when it does arise, since it will still arise here and there. A blockchain project manager will help make your project successful.

Everyone will be happier as a result. The client will realize the value of blockchain. You'll enjoy the satisfaction that delivering a creative solution for a happy client provides.

This is why your blockchain project needs a blockchain project manger.

Convinced?

Are you convinced a blockchain project manager can make your project successful? I'd be happy to manage your blockchain project. I'd also be glad to get your existing blockchain project back on track, if it's already gone awry.

Either way, contact me and let's talk!​

Not Convinced Yet?

Still want to go it alone, without a blockchain project manager?

Please at least read how I manage critical client expectations and try and do the same for your project. If you're able to do this, while still doing what you do best, you'll save yourself trouble down the road.

(Photo credit Bogden Dada via Unsplash.)

Here’s What the Best Project Managers Do and Don’t Do

Published January 24, 2017 in Technical Project Management - 0 Comments
The Best Project Managers Keep a Project Running Smoothly

The best project managers keep a project running smoothly. We also stay out of the way. That means doing some things and not doing others. Here are the do's and don'ts of the best project managers.

Do set the path to a successful outcome. Do keep the path clear and stay out of the way. Don't block the path.

Do set the path to a successful outcome by developing, updating and communicating the path. Do keep the path clear by removing roadblocks. Do give your team what they need to make progress down the path, toward the successful outcome.

Do ask questions when they benefit the project. Do ask the hard questions when necessary.

Don't block the path. Don't get in the way. Don't impede progress. Don't establish process related roadblocks on the path. Don't stop people smarter than you from doing what they need to do. Don't be afraid to admit when you don't know something.

Don't ask unnecessary questions for your own personal benefit. Don't shy away from asking the hard questions when necessary.

Do set your team up for success. Do give credit to team members where and when credit is due. Don't take undue credit when the team succeeds.

Do take responsibility when things don't go well. Don't blame the team when a project goes off-track.

Do celebrate small wins along the way. Do use the small wins to build momentum toward the bigger goal. Do try and have some fun as you proceed down the path toward a successful outcome 🙂

A project manager who follows these do's and don'ts will keep a project running smoothly. A project manager who doesn't follow them will only cause problems and get in the way.

Contact me to work with a project manager who follows these do's and don'ts. I'll keep your project running smoothly.​

How to Use AngelList to Find the Best Remote Project Manager Jobs

Published December 6, 2016 in Technical Project Management - 0 Comments

AngelList is a valuable source of remote technical project manager jobs. I wrote this post describing how finding these jobs is like finding a needle in a haystack. It's helpful to have as many sources as possible, since remote technical project manager job aren't plentiful.

I've tried adding AngelList search results to my remote technical project manager jobs list. It didn't work, since AngelList doesn't share search results in a way I could easily import to the list.

I'd recommend keeping an eye on my list and setting an email alert on AngelList. Doing this will double your chances of finding a remote technical project manager job. The steps in this post tell you how to set the AngelList email alert.

Here's how to find remote project manager jobs using AngelList.

Step 1 - Create Your AngelList Profile

Sign-up for an AngelList account and create your profile if you don't already have one. Here's my profile as an example.

Step 2 - Search Jobs

Access the AngelList job board.

Search using these these criteria -

  • Role -> Other -> Project Manager
  • Job Types -> Remote OK
  • Company -> Last Active -> 15 days​
angellist remote project manager jobs

This is an optional step. I like to limit the list of companies to companies active within the last 15 days. This filters out the job listings are probably inactive.

  • Keyword = "project manager"

The keyword search may seem redundant, since you're searching for "Project Manager" in the Role field. I thought so too.

There are a bunch of non-project manager jobs that appear when you search on "Project Manager" as the Role. Adding the "project manager" keyword filters out most of the irrelevant results, while not losing any relevant ones.

Step 3 - Express Interest

AngelList makes it easy to apply to jobs that interest you. You do this by expressing interest in the job. Express interest in a job by hitting the "Yes, I'm Interested" blue button at the top of the job listing.

Doing this notifies the hiring company that you're interested in the position. Some jobs will ask you to include a short note explaining why you're interested.

AngelList will notify you if the hiring company thinks you're a match. The hiring company will contact you via AngelList to initiate the conversation if they think you're a match.

Step 4 - Set an Email Alert

Listings on AngelList change fast. Keep up with the changes by setting an email alert for your search. This will save you from having to login to AngelList on a regular basis to keep up with the latest listings.

Set your alert by hitting the "Save" button in the search bar.

Now you'll receive a weekly email with new remote technical project manager job listings. Use it and my free remote project manager jobs list to make finding your next remote technical project manager job easier and faster.

3 Reasons Asana is the Right Choice to Manage IT Projects

Published September 9, 2016 in Technical Project Management - 0 Comments

​Asana Is The Right Choice to Keep Your IT Tasks Organized

Asana is my choice for managing IT projects. I’ve managed big IT projects for large government agencies and financial institutions. I wish Asana had been available to use on those projects. I was stuck using MS Project. That’s a nightmare I don’t wish to experience again 🙂

I’ve used Asana to manage projects since then. I also use it to manage my daily priorities. Asana has helped me complete thousands of daily tasks.

Here are the 3 reasons I’d choose Asana to manage IT projects.

1 - Flexibility

Asana is a flexible tool. It’s organized into workspaces, projects, tasks and subtasks.

This four tier structure can support projects of any size. Companies organize projects in different ways. Individuals use different approaches to get work done. Asana’s flexibility adapts to the various organizational approaches used to complete tasks and projects.

Drawback/Shortcoming -

Asana can become complicated in the hands of an inexperienced project manager. The flexible structure will do what you want it to do. This is an asset for an experienced project manager. An experienced project manager knows how to structure efficient project workflows. We know how to balance simplicity with complexity.

This same asset can become a liability for an inexperienced project manager. It will do what the project manger tells it to do. It won't dictate how a project is set up.Asana will allow an experienced project manager to set up an effective project structure. Asana will also allow an inexperienced project manager to set up an ineffective project structure.

2 - Collaboration

Asana supports collaboration at each level of its structure. A project owner can add collaborators to workspaces, projects, tasks and subtasks. The project owner can set permissions at each level of the structure as well.

Asana organizes communication at each level of its structure as well. This makes it easy to view the communication you need to see at any one time, i.e. the history of a task.

This organization prevents you from getting distracted by communication unrelated to the workspace, project, task or subtask at hand. The approach also helps keep your email Inbox clean.

(Tip: Make sure to set up your notifications to limit the number of emails you receive.)

Drawback/Shortcoming -The free version doesn't provide a full range of flexible permission options. You have to upgrade to a paid version for access to the most flexible permission options. The concept of adding a collaborator as a "Guest" can be a bit confusing too.

3 - User Experience

Asana is list-based. The lists are organized in a user-friendly way. I describe the user experience as list-based. Asana leads with a list-based structure and adds appropriate UX enhancements throughout the tool.

It’s a systematic and logical approach to UX. I’d say it leads with the left side of the brain and allows the right side of the brain to soften the edges. I believe this UX approach synchronizes well with how IT people and organizations think.

This is a key point. A task management tool is only helpful if it's adopted and used. Choosing a tool that fits well with a team’s way of thinking goes along way in increasing adoption and use. This helps your project succeed. Isn’t that the whole point of using a task management tool in the first place?

Drawback/Shortcoming -

I wouldn't say Asana's UX is the most "beautiful" project management tool out there. It's practical and pretty enough though.

The list-based approach may not be the right tool for a team heavy on creative people. People more comfortable with a visual interface might prefer a different tool.

Selection of the right tool to get IT tasks done depends on many factors. Flexibility, collaboration and user experience are the three reasons I use Asana to manage IT tasks. Give it a try if these reasons are important to you as well.

P.S. - Want to give Asana a try? Drop me a line if you need help structuring your Asana workflow. I'll help you maximize Asana's effectiveness, while avoiding the tool's potential shortcomings.

Photo by Jesse Oricco via Unsplash

Here’s How to Become a Project Manager in the NYC Tech Ecosystem

I curate a weekly list of project manager job openings at top tech and startup companies in New York. Use it to make finding your next project management job at a top New York tech or startup company easier and faster. Subscribe for free here.

I update the list each week. It includes jobs from the best New York tech and startup job sources like -

Subscribe now to receive the list each week for free.

My hope is it will make finding your next project manager job at a company you enjoy faster and easier!

Why do I do this?

I believe the future of work is about collaboration, not ruthless competition. I curate this list to help the project management community in New York thrive!

P.S. - Would you like me to add a new source or your company’s posting to the list? Please send it to me for consideration by contacting me here.

Photo credit, recent NYC Startup Map from Digital NYC