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Category Archives: Data Management

Planning for Test Data Preparation as a Best Practice

Best Practices, Data Management, Project Management, Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), Testing

By Paula Grose

After working in and managing testing efforts on and off for the past 18 years, I have identified a best practice that I use in my testing projects and I recommend it as a benefit to other testing projects, as well.

This best practice is test data preparation, which is the process of preparing the data to correlate to a particular test condition.

Oftentimes, preparing data for testing is a big effort that people underestimate and overlook. When you test the components of a new system, it’s not as simple as just identifying your test conditions and then executing the test—there are certain factors you should take into account as you prepare your test environment. This includes what existing processes, if any, are in place to allow for the identification or creation of test data that will match to a test condition.

A test case may consist of multiple test conditions. For each test condition, you must determine all the test data needs. This includes:

  • Input data
  • Reference data
  • Data needed from other systems to ensure synchronization between systems
  • Data needed to ensure each test will achieve its expected result

Planning for test data preparation can greatly reduce the time required to prepare the data. At the overall planning stage for testing, there are many assessments that should be conducted, including:

  • Type of testing that will be required
  • What testing tools are already available
  • Which testing tools may need to be acquired

If, at this point, there are no existing processes that allow for easy selection and manipulation of data, you should seek to put those processes in place. Most organizations have a data guru who is capable of putting processes in place for this effort—or at least can assist with the development of these processes.

The goal is to provide a mechanism that will allow the selection of data based on defined criteria. After you do this, you can perform an evaluation as to whether the existing data meets the need—or identify any changes that must be made. If changes are required, the process must facilitate these changes and provide for the loading/reloading of data once changes are made.

One word of caution concerning changing existing data: You must be certain that the existing data is not set up for another purpose. Otherwise, you may be stepping on someone else’s test condition and cause their tests to fail. If you don’t know for sure, it is always better to make a copy of the data before any changes are made.

About the Author: Paula Grose worked for the State of California for 33 years, beginning her work in IT as a Data Processing Technician and over time, performing all aspects of the Systems Development Life Cycle. I started in executing a nightly production process and progressed from there. As a consultant, Paula has performed IV&V and IPOC duties focusing on business processes, testing, interfaces, and data conversion. She currently leads the Data Management Team for one of KAI Partners’ government sector clients. In her spare time, she is an avid golfer and enjoys spending time with friends, and playing cards and games.

Civic & Gov Tech Showcase Event Recap

Civic & Gov Tech Showcase, Community Service, Conferences, Data Management, Event Recap, General Life/Work, Government, Information Technology, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Sacramento, Small Business, Technology

Photo Credit: Innovate Your State

By Guest Blogger Tony Oliver, Penny Wise Consulting Group

One of KAI Partners’ own partners, Tony Oliver of Penny Wise Consulting Group, recently attended the second annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase in Sacramento. According to event sponsors Innovate Your State and the City of Sacramento Mayor’s Office for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, “The Civic & Gov Tech Showcase is an opportunity to connect civic minded entrepreneurs, government leaders and potential investors to showcase innovation and encourage collaboration and support of new technologies to improve government.” We asked Tony to share with us his thoughts on the event, so take it away, Tony!

It was an interesting event, with the first 30 minutes focusing on discussing the benefits of Sacramento for companies either looking to move from the Bay Area or seeking to open local offices.

After a 30-minute break, there were two hours of quick 8-minute presentations by startups with a focus on government or civic issues. The main thread weaving them together: These are the types of projects that once upon a time, the bigger tech outfits would (or would not) address, often only if million-dollar contracts were present. Now, however, these smaller outfits are offering the counties and cities an opportunity to fix big problems with their nimbler, web-enabled software.

A few of these startups caught my eye, including:

  • A.R.G.O Labs: More diverse than the others, its focus is on leveraging civic data science tools to deliver public services more efficiently
  • Caravan Studios: More of a container to solve problems; their presentation actually had a case: disseminating information to disadvantaged students from the nation’s 100k public schools on where to find free activities and meals during the summer
  • CityGrows: Streamlines and provides a transparent view of how permits, processes, etc. are offered by the cities
  • Civic CrowdAnalytics: Crunches civic data with Natural Language Processing, i.e., sentiment analysis
  • MeWe: Inspection software used to carve a big dent in the backlog of public sector inspections
  • Organizer: A volunteer-focused startup
  • Pinpoint Predictive: More of people analytics, similar to Civic Crow Analytics above
  • ShiftSpark: Citizen lobbying
  • SpeakEasy Political: Templates and assistance on direct marketing campaigns for issues
  • Support Pay: Combination of communication platform and payment and verification system for child support expenses and collaboration
  • Voter: Tinder-like, used to connect with like-minded voters

It sounds like this year’s Civic & Gov Tech Showcase featured some great startups that can help positively influence our government and political processes! KAI Partners thanks Tony for his thoughts on this event and will be looking at these companies—and others making their way to the Sacramento area—in the future.

About the Author: Tony Oliver is a project manager by trade, a marketing guru by profession, and a lifelong learner from birth. His best trait is an inquisitive mind, which drives his desire to understand not just the “what” but also the “how” and more importantly, the “why” and “why not?” Tony is experienced in supply, pricing, demand, and consumption analysis and holds an MBA in marketing from a top 20 school (UNC Chapel Hill) and an undergraduate English Literature degree from Georgetown University. With 15+ years of experience with Intel and Cisco, Tony is fully bilingual (English, Spanish) with a working knowledge of French, as well as a seasoned public speaker and instructor of Project Management and Presentation Skills courses.

How to Manage Data to Achieve Business Goals

Best Practices, Data Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP)

Data Management

By Tim Cleary

Businesses and regulators are continuously faced with a flood information that is out of control. It’s a veritable information firestorm in the complex data management environment. Even more, information has many different looks and packaging, making it is easy to get lost in the maze. Here’s just a small sampling of the types of data you may encounter:

  • Knowledge management
  • Business intelligence
  • Information management
  • Content management
  • Data warehousing
  • Data cubes
  • Data analytics
  • Key performance indicators
  • Data mining dashboards
  • Scorecards
  • Data marts
  • Decision support systems
  • Document management systems

So, what do you do with all that data? Data management programs are typically tied to organizational objectives and are intended to achieve specific outcomes. First you must decide on the outcome you would like to achieve. Some outcomes include: Effective analysis and decision-making, improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, lessons learned, knowledge transfer, and the development of social networks, collaboration, and teaming.

To achieve your desired outcome, you must effectively manage the data by coming up with a formal process for determining what information you have and then devising ways to make it easily available. Key data management components include:

  • Awareness: (Knowing What You Know) – about people, skills, markets, competitors, customers, alliances, suppliers, the environment, regulation, legislation, and other factors that are key to organizational success
  • Sharing, Capturing, and Storing Data – electronically and/or through communities of practice, informal groups, knowledge sharing and best practice workshops, training, mentoring, and using collaboration tools and approaches
  • Using the Data in the Workplace – finding and applying the appropriate information through operational systems, having data embedded in processes, and encouraging the appropriate data sharing, capturing and transferring of behaviors through reward systems that recognize the use of data in decision-making and delivery
  • Defining Organizational Priorities – like customer satisfaction, improved processes, improved innovation, profits, and employee satisfaction

At the beginning, and throughout the development of a new data management and intelligence program, you should seek to envision a new model for workforce effectiveness. This vision should precede any system or process planning and define the end business state from a benefits and usage point of view.

While this vision is useful for identifying priorities and creating excitement for the program among managers, it will also be useful in communicating the new workday to staff. Delivering the vision to staff will require communication, training, incentives, and many other program attributes associated with the data management changes.

Data management doesn’t have to be daunting—simply keep your eye on what you want to achieve, put into place a data management plan that supports that outcome, and inform staff along the way so they too are aligned with your vision.

About the Author: Tim is an Executive Consultant with project management, consulting, business development, and sales experience spanning business transformation, technology adoption, change management, shared services, knowledge management, learning and development, and enterprise cost reduction. Tim has more than 30 years of business system development and implementation experience focused on Energy – Utilities/Oil & Gas, Technology, Media & Entertainment, Financial, Federal, State, and Life Sciences (Disability, Medicare Claims Management, and Conservation) organizations. Tim has lectured at the university level and at business conferences focusing on technology adoption, change/knowledge management, and business issues and solutions.

5 Quick Tips to Turn Project Data into Key Deliverables

Best Practices, Data Management, Project Management

Turning Project Data Into Deliverables

By Stephen Alfano, CSM

Let’s face it, packaging data can be a colossal challenge, especially when you are under a time crunch. And, if you are working in a project management role, then chances are good you are always under a time crunch. Here are five tips to help turn project data into key deliverables:

Identify your key deliverables. It sounds a bit naive, but knowing the difference between a key deliverable and one that isn’t vital to your project’s success is a big part of efficient data disposition. A key deliverable is a tangible or intangible work product produced as a part of a project that will help facilitate or drive a mission-critical decision. For example, if you are the scrum master, one of your key deliverables would be a risks and issues backlog—this keeps the project team on a coordinated path to overcome impediments.

Gather your data into a template. With your key deliverable identified, you now know which data points to extract, prioritize, and analyze. More important, you can move forward and choose the appropriate place to store your project data. Thanks to the Internet, there are thousands of templates available for free or for a small fee. Check out these links, which are good jumping off points to finding the right storage solution for you: https://www.smartsheet.com/top-project-management-excel-templates ; https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Create-a-new-project-from-a-template-16e175a0-302b-4dad-806b-7ccfa2c026fd ; http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/excel-project-management-tracking-templates/

Create your key deliverable in three phases. First, build an outline. Next, use the outline to seek input and get instruction from your stakeholders that you can incorporate into a formatted draft. (Remember: You are building more than a key deliverable, you are building a consensus.) Finally, move on to the final version of your key deliverable after you have received draft approval. (I have been using this three-phase methodology for 30 years. Trust me, it is the fastest and best way through the review process.)

Capture, evaluate, and assimilate review feedback precisely. Key deliverables invariably garner charged responses. No matter what your title or job description says, when you are sharing data at a decision point, you will be asked to render an opinion or make a recommendation. In short, you are the expert. The feedback you received through the outline and draft stages will be an invaluable insight to help establish how you arrived at your conclusions or report.

Modify your templates for future use. Key deliverables are rarely one-off work products. In fact, most are recurring reports requiring frequent, often overhauling, updates. Be prepared to adapt or change your templates or presentation strategy to help keep your stakeholders engaged and informed. Flexibility is a key to providing key deliverables successfully.

About the Author:  Stephen Alfano is Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM), Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has 30 years of experience leading and managing internal and external program initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as Marketing and Communications Manager for KAI Partners, Inc., spearheading business development and leading the firm’s marketing and communications practice and line of business.

7 Frameworks for Project Management Success

Data Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP)

PM Frameworks

By Stephen Alfano, CSM

Successful project management starts with organization. More than just a set of lists and timelines, though, a strategic framework is critical. Consisting of a thoughtful collection of tasks, processes, tools, and templates, the right framework can help kickoff, plan, execute, control, monitor, and close project activities throughout the management life-cycle. A framework most often breaks down into phases on both a micro and macro scale, and can include templates and checklists, activities, roles and responsibilities, training material, and work guidelines. The pertinent project management information follows a systematic structure which offers project stakeholders, managers, and planners an organized view of the path to success. 

Experienced project managers and planners will use different frameworks to facilitate, forecast, and finalize a project. Perhaps more important, project managers and planners will also deploy different versions or views of their frameworks depending on the audience or stakeholder conducting a review. For example, a project sponsor may only wish to see high-level tables filled with milestones and key deliverables, whereas the project manager will need to see all of the dependent variables and activities that lead up to and proceed beyond those milestones and deliverables.

So, which project management frameworks work best? Simply put, it’s those frameworks that help guide and govern a project most efficiently and effectively throughout the management life-cycle. Below you’ll find links to seven examples that should give you the insight and inspiration you’ll need to craft the right framework for your next project.

  1. Project Management Templates via via ProjectManagement.com
  2. What is a Project Management Framework? via Parallel Project Training
  3. Ethical Decision-Making Framework via Project Management Institute
  4. Identifying and Structuring Problems  via Skills You Need
  5. Decision-Making Frameworks via University of Washington, Seattle
  6. A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making via Harvard Business Review
  7. Business Process Improvement Framework and Representational Support via Univ. of Magdeburg, Germany

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM), Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has 30 years of experience leading and managing internal and external program initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as Marketing and Communications Manager for KAI Partners, Inc., spearheading business development and leading the firm’s marketing and communications practice and line of business.

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