Risk Management Plan for Software Development Life Cycle

When I was a recruiter for an IT staffing firm, I would always wonder why IT firms would reach out to our office with a hiring manager in need of a contract software developer for one of their projects. These hiring managers were either Project Managers, Program Managers, or Release Managers, that had a group of software engineers that rolled out new software for their company. Our staffing agency sought out for these types of projects, and would find contract workers for these hiring managers on their SDLC projects. There is always a need for contract workers, especially for technology companies that run multiple projects. When reviewing project management topics, risk management seems to be a likely area where project manager’s account for staffing needs.

My curiosity lead to me to an article on how project managers account for risks in their SDLC projects. The article addresses risk management as a general approach for all project’s, and below are steps for project managers to follow:
1. Risk identification
2. Negative impacts
3. Prioritizing risks
4. Risk management or risk treatment
5. Auditing the risk management plan

The article states that firms can either have a full-time Risk Officer, or the responsibility be delegated to the project manager. It seems in my experience, the latter is true, where the project manager takes the lead on the risk management plan. Hence, why the contingency plan of needing additional human capital to fulfill the project included a staffing agency. However, the article addresses the importance of having a risk management plan based on the phases of the SDLC. Let’s briefly discuss what these phrases look like, and how a risk management plan is incorporated into each step.

There are five stages in a software development life cycle, and the stages include; inception, design, implementation, maintenance, and audit or disposal. For each of these steps, the article suggests what should be done to develop the risk management plan. In the inception phase, the engineers talk through some the risks associated with the software. The second step is the design phase, where the engineers take the risk into account, and how their software will support or manage the risks associated. Generally, these include a set of checklists that the engineers address when designing their software. The next stage is implementation, and in this stage, there are tests conducted to test where the software can pass the associated risks. The third stage, the article stresses the importance of ensuring the risks are passed, before going live. The fourth stage includes maintenance of the software, and problems generally occur in this stage. These problems are where the engineers debug the issues, and maintain the system to run as designed. The risk management plan takes into account that there will be problems with the system, and understands that if the system needs to be changed or altered, the risk plan accounts for alterations of the system. The final stage is auditing the system or disposing it, where the risk management plan refines the system.

When reviewing how the risk management plan fits into a software lifecycle, I understand why Project Managers can utilize contingency workers for their projects. When reviewing stages 3 and 4, these areas are likely where the project manager accounts in their risk management plan to have contractors mitigate the risk.These stages account for issues arising, and based on my experience as a recruiter, the hiring manager knew who to reach out to fulfill their staffing needs.

Has anyone worked with a staffing firm to mitigate risks in their projects?


Agile: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

According to the Project Management Institute website, the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) is their fastest growing certification.

In the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Agile methods are discussed under the Project Lifecycle definition as follows:

“Adaptive project life cycle, a project life cycle, also known as change-driven or agile methods, that is intended to facilitate change and require a high degree of ongoing stakeholder involvement. Adaptive life cycles are also iterative and incremental, but differ in that iterations are very rapid (usually 2-4 weeks in length) and are fixed in time and resources.”

The Agile concept grew out of collaboration between seventeen software developers around 2001. Their ideas evolved into the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, focusing on “delivering good products to customers by operating in an environment that does more than talk about “people as our most important asset” but actually “acts” as if people were the most important, and lose the word “asset”.”

According to our textbook, “The key point is that traditional PM techniques were developed to operate in the predictable zone where the scope of the project is fairly well defined and technology to be used is established. Agile lives in the unpredictable zone.” (Larson and Gray 584). Key differentiators of Agile include; continuous design, flexible scope, high uncertainty, and self-organizing teams engaged in high customer interaction.

Clearly Agile Project Management has reached the point of mainstream adoption. In our ever shifting, rapidly expanding world, think of the following types of projects which fall into the Agile sweet spot:

  • Where requirements will change drastically during the lifecycle.
  • The customer does not provide the specifics of what they want up front, but has a loose idea instead.

I spoke with a coworker, an experienced Product Manager, who feels that Agile is great in concept, but harder in implementation, especially in large organizations. The Agile model thrives on simplicity, which may be difficult to achieve in a big firm. Our employer is global, so a geographically distributed Engineering and Marketing group makes face-to-face meetings more difficult and prolongs the quick iterations that Agile strives for. Although, technology is helping to bridge the gaps.

Another topic of discussion surrounded total buy-in at the enterprise level. Agile is not something to dip your toes in. Success is realized and repeated through dedicated Agile teams. The Agile model does not necessarily align with a matrix team environment and may end up defeating the purpose due to a lack of team cohesion.


Questions / Discussion:

What are your thoughts on Agile Project Management? Good, bad, indifferent?

Feel free to share any personal experiences surrounding Agile, a shift away from Traditional PM or a hybrid approach.

Is it realistic to introduce Agile on a team-by-team basis? Do you see any roadblocks?





Larson, Erik W. and Gray, Clifford F. (2011). Project Management: The Managerial Process. New    York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Played on Paper: Operations Management is Key to Sporting Success

Brian Rea For ESPN
Brian Rea For ESPN


The world of sport changes every day, and so does the way we develop champions. Although fans may not realize it, operations management has as much on-field significance to their favorite sports teams as it does to their day-to-day jobs and businesses. On-field success in the modern sporting industry is far too valuable to rely on the subjective whims of coaches and scouts to find talent of a high enough caliber and develop it. According to Hamford Professor Jim Bamford, who has done extensive research for the World Academy of Sport and has partners in numerous different sports’ teams, it is important for owners not to neglect this by focusing on their bottom line only:  “There is a direct correlation between what happens on the pitch and the users’ experience. So the next stage is to see how we can use numbers, metrics and business analysis to improve the on-field performance. This should create a virtuous circle of improvement.” That is why the top organizations in the field of sports analyze performance metrics, stadium management, and organizational structures and practices to improve their return on investment and ultimately augment the profitability of the business. Although it is impossible to utilize theory to predict the actual demands in traditional business or like here in the spontaneity of sports, Professor Bamford states: “Operations management can aid the athlete and players by ensuring they are at the right place, with the right kit at the right time to turn in a winning performance,” and “….Operations management has the potential to increase the satisfaction of the spectators even further.”

Performance metrics coupled with the rise in technology are reshaping the role of the scout and the formula for success for coaches and players. Teams are tracking everything with their players down to the finest of details. The movie Money Ball is a great example how the Oakland A’s, a professional Major League Baseball team, used saber metrics and mathematical modeling to form a highly successful baseball team even with their low levels of revenue. The San Antonio Spurs, according to an ESPN article, utilize “Stats’ SportVU’s high-speed photography, using real-time acceleration stats” which can”more tangibly measure game-play execution.” Advanced stats such as “Who isn’t getting back on defense” and “Who can shoot a jump shot with defense in their face” are replacing the eye and ear tests. Today, hard numbers are preferred. For top professional athletes, performance off the court is also analyzed just as much. With team psychologists and frequent physiological tests measuring all aspects of athletes’ bodies, the analysis never ends.

Organizations can profit from efficient configuration and planning of their stadiums to improve fan experience and their return on investment. Jumbotrons and Wi-Fi at some stadiums are calculated efforts at this. Also the physical layout and organized personnel within the stadium is crucial for experience and fan safety as tragic events can be avoided such as the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 people died due to poor stadium design and training of staff.

Effective integration of operations management into the often un-orchestrated world or sports is a tough formula to devise. However, those organizations that achieve this balance and invest their resources correctly into technology aimed at analyzing and improving all aspects of their operations on the field as much as they do off the field are positioned to succeed more than their foes. Well, on paper at least.






Get Your Daily Serving of Thumb Stretch Here!

In today’s smartphone market if I say “powerful high end phone” what do you think?

I bet you thought about either the new iPhone or a Samsung, HTC, or LG Android phone. These phones are indeed powerful, high end, premium, and fast and have all the latest features. What else do they have in common? Huge screen sizes. The iPhone 6 is the smallest of the bunch and still usable in one hand however on the Android side it seems that every flagship phone is over 5 inches now. This makes it very difficult for individuals with petite hands to handle these large phones.

Is there a market for the small Android smartphone? I believe so. Per our in class discussion regarding new product opportunities one of the many ways to enter the market place is by “Understanding the customer.” Companies recognize that people want smaller phones so companies make “mini” versions of their flagship phones, this is only done within the Android camp; however, these mini smartphones are underpowered so they are not a flagship any longer. There are many articles online about how there should be more small smartphones for customers that don’t sacrifice power and premium feel.

There is a new phone that was just released called the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact that I believe meets the needs of many consumers in the US market. The phone is small and does not compromise on power or premium feel. I think Sony did a great job with the phone because it fills a gap in the smartphone market. Looking at this situation using a hypothetical QFD approach Sony identified a need for a small no compromise smartphone. Sony filled that need by developing a phone with great battery life, a small form factor and high end specifications. Sony related customer wants (small form, performance) to its product how’s by pairing the phone with a powerful battery, great camera, small size and other premium specifications. Sony looked at the requirements of the phone and tried to find relationships between the firms “how’s” so that they could build a phone consumers want. Sony could pair its energy saving software with a powerful battery for better battery life or use its display (TVs) expertise to develop a low energy vibrant display for the phone. Sony had to make some compromises in order to keep the cost and size within reason so Sony had to develop some customer importance ratings such as small size, screen pixel density, battery life, camera, etc. and rate them. Sony then could evaluate competing products against the Z3 compact and see how it compares. Finally, to complete its QFD analysis Sony would compare the performance of the product to the desirable technical attributes. This would mean testing for battery life, screen quality, camera quality and performance, bendiness, etc. Once Sony determines its phone meets the specifications it desires it can then release it to the public.

Going through this QFD approach for a new ‘standard challenging’ product helped me understand the process greatly and really appreciate the effort that goes into developing a new product and building a QFD house of quality.

What you do you think about the trend in smartphone sizes?

Are you for or against the increasing size of smartphone screens? Why or why not?








Consumer Knows Best: Quirky Inc.



When it comes to buying things, the consumer knows best.  Quirky.com takes this need to understand the consumer to another level of crowd sourcing by allowing potential consumers in Quirky’s online community to submit ideas and their own input in order to develop innovations. There might not be a better way to identify what a consumer wants than what Quirky is doing by allowing consumers to actually create what they want. Some of the innovations they have created include the Pivot Power, a flexible surge protector, and Stem, a citrus spritzer. The most promising ideas every week are chosen by Quirky’s staff are then voted on by the online community and the employees at Quirky.com, where the top three to five ideas get to move on to development and later distribution.





Quirky is set to record revenues of over $100 million dollars in 2014 after recording $48.7 million in 2013 and $18.2 million in 2012.  A lot of this revenue is created thanks to Quirky’s online community. Salim Ismail is the founding executive director of Singularity University, an educational organization and startup incubator in Silicon Valley, and he says that the online community has allowed Quirky to “scale very quickly” (Simon). At practically every stage of the product development stage, the online community is there with feedback such as on the style of the product or with their expertise in something like electrical engineering.

Inventors who get their product all the way up to development get 4% of revenue while there is an additional 6% that is split between the best feedbacks. It does not seem much but when you consider the starting costs for building a business around a single product to be around $200,000 just to do the paperwork and release a prototype, you might change your mind. There is also a lot of risk involved in getting into retail on your own when you do not have the contacts to get on the shelf, so Quirky would be a lot safer. For many people, like students and teachers, there is little risk and an immediate payoff if it works.  Jake Zein, inventor of the Pivot Power, got $28,000 in the first week of Pivot Power’s release after two years of being on Quirky. Now he has earned $696,343 as a result of his Pivot Power line.

Quirky has many competitive advantages under their business model. They get to keep the ideas that are voted into the development process. The company also avoids costs from the early design stages because of the online community’s validation as potential consumers. It helps as preordering allows recouping manufacturing costs to be a sure thing.

This company is set to grow. While most people do not always act on their innovations, Quirky can make the process a lot easier and less risky. Quirky’s mission to become a catalyst for innovation and it seems apparent to me that it will be.






Do you have your own idea that you would like to be made?

Would you team up with Quirky, Shark Tank, or with your own team to get your innovation potentially made?

What do you think of crowd sourcing ideas and its effects?


The big surprise

Amazon Robots

The video we saw in class about Amazon shows how Amazon is using robots in the process strategy .  Amazon is using robots as part of the process of fulfilling customer orders in a short time.  Completing the orders in a short time meets or exceeds customer expectations.  This is one of the reasons why Amazon is a leader in the e-commerce business.   While watching the video, one question that popped on my mind was: “What are the chances that these robots will run into each other?” After reading an article on how these robots work, it is not possible that these robots will run into each other or drop items from the shelves.  There is a central computer system that keeps track of each robot and coordinates their position.  These robots are in the right place and at the right time.

The robots that Amazon is using are produced by Kiva Systems, a company that Amazon bought it for $775 million. Why would Amazon buy Kiva Systems? Is Amazon  going to produce robots to increase the number of robots in its warehouses or to sell them to other businesses?  The answer is that  Amazon is coming up with something even more bigger. The purchase of Kiva System was not just for the Kiva robots.

The next step in the process strategy improvement is the Amazon Air Prime delivery.  Have you ever thought of having a product you ordered through Amazon being delivered to you within 30 minutes? I know when you think about this, it sounds unreal.  That is the next big step Amazon is taking: delivering products in such a short time through the usage of the electric drones or as Amazon calls them octocopters.  In the future we won’t have to wait for the UPS to come and deliver the package at our homes .  We will have octocopters delivering products at our homes. Octopocters are electric drones, very green for the environment.


According to the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos, the current octocopters that are being tested can deliver products that weigh up to five pounds (which is about 86% of the products that Amazon delivers) within a 10 miles radius from the fulfillment center and within 30 minutes.  These radius delivery will cover major urban areas.  The drones are autonomous. You give them the instructions, the GPS coordinates where they should  go to and they will fly to those assigned GPS coordinates.   The challenge Amazon is facing now while working on this project is the risk of the drones landing over somebody’s head.  The R&D group is working on making this plan work in the near future.   Some of the questions that come up if Amazon puts this project in life are:


  1. How is the implementation of octocopters going to affect the shipping rates?  Is Amazon still going to have free shipping for orders over $35?
  2. How is the society going to react towards these change? Are we going to be ok with drones flying over our heads?
  3. How is the usage of octocopters going to affect the other businesses(for example UPS) and the job market? The usage of octocopters means less UPS drivers delivering orders to our homes.




The Life, Death, and Resurrection (?) of the Blackberry Phone


Blackberry has released a new phone called the Blackberry Passport. It boasts a large square screen and, of course, a physical keyboard. With another attempt by Blackberry to regain its former glory I thought it would be interesting to see how the Blackberry product got to its present point in its evolution.

When the Blackberry was first introduced it filled a void in the market. Until the Blackberry was introduced in the late 1990s, there were no products that allowed people to send emails through their phones. The growth of the Blackberry came when it implemented a phone application to the device. Now the device was able to make phone calls, text, and send emails, thus making it incredibly popular among professional. These were the strengths that Blackberry kept focusing on to continue the growth of the product. As the product reached its maturity other phones began to emerge as competitors for the Blackberry. The most notable competitor was the original iPhone. With its innovative touch screen and product design the iPhone quickly became a more popular phone than the Blackberry. While the iPhone was gaining market share Blackberry did not innovative enough to keep up with the iPhone and quickly the products sales began to decline until it became an afterthought in the mobile phone industry.

Operation management lessons from Blackberry – Product Life Cycles

  1. Introductory Phase – Even before the Blackberry was launched it took many changes until a final, market ready product could be released. As with any other products in the introductory phase many changes will need to be made until the product is ready to be released.
  2. Growth Phase – When the Blackberry reached the growth phase it was the most popular phone for professionals. And just like other products in this phase demand is high and the companies with products in this phase to supply the demand.
  3. Maturity Phase – The maturity phase saw the Blackberry facing many competitors one of which was the iPhone. In this phase a company needs to have other high innovative products to compete with the competitors.
  4. Decline Phase- This is the end of the product and companies begin to withdraw resources away from them and focus on other products.

Follow Up Questions

Do you think the Blackberry Passport can help Blackberry regain market share?

If you were an operation manager how important would product design be for you?




Brick and Mortar Can’t Float in the Amazon



With the recent advancements in technology, electronics, and the internet, consumers have begun to take completely different approaches to browsing, shopping, and acting as consumers. What was once the largest, and considered most financially sound, consumer retail store of the 90’s and 2000’s, has now turned into a thing of the past.

Best Buy, a store where consumers go to purchase electronics (i.e computers, cell phones, tablets, CD’s, DVD’s) has recently become the subject of many discussions regarding whether the consumer giant can stay afloat. Amazon Inc, an online e-commerce retail website, where items can be found in minutes, purchases made in seconds, and products delivered in hours/days, has rapidly taken over the electronic/technology retail space that Best Buy had once almost monopolized.

Best Buy started as the only game in town, where people could visit, shop, receive helpful advice, and bring home their devices with protective warranties. However, internet retailers such as Amazon.com and Ebay have entered the same market as Best Buy, with lower overhead costs, more convenience, quicker purchases, and better warranties, and it has seriously put a dent in Best Buy’s future outlook.

Each of the Best Buy stores possess large overhead costs which include the likes of labor, utilities, product inventory, management, and building tax/mortgage. Not to mention, Best Buy has to deal with in-store and corporate operational management, budgeting, inventory forecasting across all of their brick and mortar stores, and labor hour allocation issues in each establishment. Amazon, which does not have any stores and ships only from warehouses, also possesses some operational management difficulties but certainly not on the scale that Best Buy does.

It might be the overhead that is making Best Buy have a hard time staying above water, or it might be the dwindling brick and mortar retail industry, but one thing is for sure, consumers are preferring online shopping over getting in their cars and driving to the store. In fact, Best Buy has recently reported that consumers now only use their store as a showroom, or in other words, a place to test the devices before they decide to purchase them on Amazon (Consumerist.com).

In their article “Amazon is Eating Best Buy’s Lunch”, CNN states, “The electronics retailer reported quarterly sales Tuesday morning that were lower than a year ago and below Wall Street’s expectations. The main culprit? Tough competition from online retailers”.

Perhaps there are some ways that Best Buy could improve their sales while still competing with the titans of the internet retail industry.

What are some ways you believe that Best Buy could bounce back from their poor 2014 performance and stay afloat?

Describe your experiences with Best Buy and explain why it may/may not be completely out of business?

What ways could Best Buy improve their operational management structure?

Why do you think that Best Buy remains in business despite the heavy consumer preference for online retail websites?

List some examples of operational management strategies that Best Buy could take advantage of but you believe are not being used properly.








The goal of every business is to maximize profits, but when a company does this by making false environmental claims to make their refrigerators appear more energy efficient it makes us take a step back to look at the real problem. LG electronics agreed to compensate thousands of consumers after two of their fridges were found to contain an illegal device that activates an energy saving mode when it detects room conditions similar to those in a test laboratory. This device has been banned in Australia since 2007.


Though this fridge claims to be more environmentally efficient, in reality it will end up raising your electricity bill $250 a year. This fridge isn’t only a danger to your wallet but to your food as well, because it can shut off when it is opened causing the food in your fridge to get spoiled. This fridge is a danger to your food, wallet and the environment. This isn’t the first time that LG has been caught making false claims about their products; the third time is the charm for this company.


Have companies learned nothing from incidents like the Toyota debacle. When accelerator problems were brought to attention Toyota denied that their cars were faulty. Why aren’t companies like Toyota and LG held more responsible for their actions? It is more common nowadays to see dishonesty than honesty in business, instead of allowing customers who bought these fridges to return them LG gave affected customers $331 to cover for the unexpected increase in their electricity bills. I can’t seem to wrap my head around this situation; the leaders of this company never apologized to their customers.  LG could’ve done more to win over their customers.


Being honest has put some companies on top; take for example Home Depot, after an article called “Is Home Depot Shafting Customers” published by MSN Money. CEO Frank Blake quickly responded not only by justifying their recent strategies but also with an apology “Sorry we let you down”. After this public apology Home Depot found themselves with a 22.9% increase in earnings. Much can be learned about these ethical companies; clearly we can see that consumers respond well to companies with trustworthy leaders.


Do CEO’s and executives of these companies not think that people are going to find out?






Technology is Taking Over

We now live in a world where you could purchase items, order food, pay your bills with just the click of a button. Making the decision whether or not to update technology is a risk which managers have to consider. “Competitiveness and payback are the primary strategic factors to consider when looking at the advantages and risks of new technology” (James P. Cramer). Companies must realize that the world is changing and competition is everywhere. Online shopping has become a norm and is continuing to improve. With so many people shopping online companies must integrate methods to keep their customers. Firms compare themselves to other firms to keep up and stay in business. Another important aspect in this is payback. Businesses must determine the pros and cons when deciding to update. They need to determine if their decisions will bring them profit or make them lose money.

I used to work at Von Maur, a retail store. I did agree with many of the strategic decisions of the company but not all. Their managing quality was excellent. The customer service of Von Maur is outstanding. Their motto was quite interesting “Rule #1, the customer is always right. Rule #2 refer back to rule #1. The supply-chain was great; customers would complement the buyer’s decisions. The layout strategy was another great quality. They had recently installed a new computer system that made things quick and easy to use. The registers were touch screen and convenient.

However, I did not agree with the scheduling. This is where technology may not always be the best option. There was a program called Tess which was used for employee scheduling. The system did not distribute hours reasonably. For example, my co-worker and I had the same amount of hours, I had to come in 6 days in a row have a day off and then another 6 days in a row while her schedule flowed. I’ve also had many shifts where I would work a 12-9pm and then the next morning I would have a 7am-4pm shift. A majority of the employees agreed that this program was an issue.

One thing I think Von Maur must improve on would have to be their mailing system. Their mailing process was extremely slow. After applying for my credit card I had to wait weeks to receive it in the mail. Their mailing should be converted to e-mailing since many consumers use e-mail.

In the article, James P. Cramer made a great point, “Technology is reinventing the entire industry. If you are wondering whether or not to adopt new systems, it is our belief, as a general rule, not to wait. Competitive fitness should be your mandate” (James P. Cramer).  Technology is changing our lives dramatically.  Making change as soon as possible is a good idea because you don’t want to have to compete with others who are taking initiative in improving.

Have any of you worked in a place where technology was a positive or negative aspect of your job? Did you work in a company you felt needed to improve their technology?



Cramer, James P. “At Issue: Technology Investment.” – DesignIntelligence. Web. 27 Sept. 2014.