President's Letter: January 2019

    Bob Frasier, PMI Houston Chapter 2019 President

    PMI turns 50 and PMI Houston Turns 45!

     

    PMI turning 50 might not surprise you, but did you know PMI Houston is turning 45?

    Until I became more involved, I did not realize the rich history of the Houston chapter and the instrumental role Houston area practitioners played in the formation of PMI.

    Two of the five founding PMI members in 1968 were from Houston. Organization and planning meetings for the Houston chapter began in 1974, ultimately leading in the formal charter approval in September of 1974.

    Eric Jenett was both a founding PMI member as well as a PMI Houston member and he became the first president in 1975. You will hear more about the history of our chapter throughout the year -  as we celebrate this milestone in our history.

    As we begin 2019, the chapter’s focus remains on serving our membership, volunteers and the profession in Houston. We are reviewing our core services, current Board Of Directors structure and ways in which we can more actively engage our members and volunteers.

    The records show that PMI Houston ended its first full year in 1975 with 38 members in 1975 and today I’m very proud to say that we have 4,412 members today!

    As always, I welcome any questions, comments, concerns, feedback, and even compliments directly at president@pmihouston.org

    Happy New Year, I look forward to serving you in 2019.

    Design vs Utilization

    By: Jeffrey Meyer, PMP

    As project managers, we are tasked to be solutions-oriented and results-driven. We are trained to identify root causes of problems and issues, so that we can create appropriate solutions. Once identified, we are expected to provide the complete and correct approach to resolve the issues. (It’s also a good rule of thumb to identify multiple solutions whenever possible, so that your customer is empowered to choose what works best for them.)

    A good project manager also identifies hidden pitfalls of solutions based on an intimate understanding of the project and customer. However, we cannot plan for everything, and nearly all plans require a certain amount of sustained cooperation from our clients.

    Take for instance, the strategy of hot and cold aisles in a computer lab.

    Unlike a data center - where server racks dictate your only available location for your electronic device thereby isolating the entrance of cold air and the hot exhaust to confined aisles - a lab is much more fluid. Devices are not forced into specific rows attached to electrical duct capable of delivering the high powered electrical needs, but rather can be disorganized on lab benches with no clear definition of requirements or usage. Labs are designed to be flexible, but many can still miss their mark through time.

    A good case study of the above example is a recent project of mine in which customers were complaining of being personally hot or cold. The lab manager reached out to me for assistance. As a first step, I needed to understand the design and intended layout for the lab. (Updated drawings are key to understanding design intent and function.)

    With my engineering experts in tow, we proceeded to survey the lab to assess what may have caused the issue with our HVAC design. Upon arriving at the site, it became apparent that the lab workers were not utilizing hot and cold aisles as originally designed!

    Multitudes of servers were stacked beyond the capacity of lab benches causing the tops to bend under the weight. Server exhaust ports were directed at other workers areas or reversed in the hot and cold aisles. Server racks were stationed out of their designated areas. Power cords were stretched across the walkways. And many more issues - all in the name of convenience.

    In spite of all these identified issues, the feedback from the client was “but we are not having any hot/cold issues today” suggesting that all the identified root causes were simply much worse on other days!

    Knowing that these issues existed, I put my engineers to work. We carried out an analysis of resources and usage over time, and monitored temperatures. Most importantly we watched the workers habit in the lab. With minimal cost we identified a solution which was, “stick to the original design”. Of course, given human nature, the administrative controls defining acceptable locations to utilize existing resources was simply not the answer the customer wanted. The customer requested engineering a new design for the lab and the study involved. Once the design with several options was created, the cost of implementing the designs was not acceptable to the customer. Neither was the cost of enforcing the rules - which in the minds of the client, were also too costly.

    In the end, the customers were forced to simply deal with their current state, per the client. Now they just spend the time repeatedly explaining to the workers the error that causes the temperature problems at the cost of productivity. Eventually they will have to decide to enforce the rules, or budget the funds to modify the space. The information gathered will however be a good starting point at which to begin any future designs.

    As Project Managers, we must understand our clients, but we also must not let ourselves be discouraged when our solutions just simply cannot be implemented due to customer constraints. We all strive for perfection in the project world, but we must remember; good service is providing the customer with enough information to make informed decisions, and the solution they need may be different than what they requested or expected.