Visualize People on Projects Part II
Part II Lets Visualize Peoples Influence on Projects
Dynamic Interactive Visualizations
In Part I of this series on visualizations we developed a compelling reason how success is related to our people. To summarize: Success is related to peoples connections to each other, not only their connections but the critical core connections, the quality of those connections and the ownership of those connections. In the second part we are going to delve deeper into the current technology for visualizing information.
The purpose of this Part II blog post is to evaluate current visualization and interaction techniques. Dynamic Interactive Visualization will allow us to abstract the information, effectively analyze data and make decisions. This is an area that is undergoing tectonic shifts and new techniques are evolving every day.
PMBOK- Project Management Book Of Knowledge- Stakeholder Visualization
First, lets make sure we know who are we talking about. We are talking about specific people on projects. ‘A stakeholder is a person or group who has a direct interest and impact on the project outcome and determines whether the project is a success or not’ (Kathy Schwalbe, 2006) . These people expect that something will be delivered. Understanding what people want and communicating is the fundamentals of carrying out a project. PMBOK recommends first we discover the people who can influence a project the most. Second we classify these people according to their impact. Finally, we rate their interest.
As a starting point we can easily see Figure 10-4 that the Stakeholders who are in the Manage Closely group will require the most time. For example H and F. This 2-d image is static. It can be easily generated on a napkin. The PMBOK guide does not detail how to measure Interest or Power so it has a subjective quality. Experienced Project Mangers can often gauge interest similar to how Sales People can get a feel for their clients. But Communicating this to other people, or across cultures may be more challenging. The PMBOK describe the fundamental concept. This process is as critical as it is universal; discover, classify and rate.
According to Figure 10-4 Visually we can easily see who we need to devote time and effort communicating with. But we are looking to the future and how we can propel our projects forward naturally, by creating dynamic self illuminating visual information. I argue that the best way to grasp and communicate about complicated complex project social knowledge, is by using the enormous visual bandwidth available to us.
An Analog tool to visualize stakeholders can be as simple as a chess, checkers set. This type of very low tech item can be used for example in an environment in which computer skills are very limited. Or it can also as a part of brainstorming team to capture what a group is thinking about. The idea is that the pieces would be symbols of stakeholders, the board could be laid out similar to the “Figure 10-4″ from PMBOK 4 page 294. The people can be elevated by placing the chess pieces on the checker pieces to create relativity. String or colored pipe cleaner could be used to represent the connection between these people so that the critical nodes can be clearly identified. An out of the box solution for sale commercially is Net-Map Tool Box.
This has great potential as part of a team building meeting and with a little creativity this can be imported with cameras both still and video to share and capture the knowledge.
Doctor Lynda Bourne of Stakeholder’s Circle has a Stakeholder specific visualization tool. This Project Management Tool is specifically designed to identify, prioritize, map, engage and monitor people working on a project. From the literature it shows a type of visualization known as a “Tree/Radar Map”.
More on academic research in this type of visualization is being done at University of Trier this visualization technique can be used ‘to represent weighted dynamic compound digraphs, which express a sequence of directed and weighted graphs where nodes correspond to leaves in a hierarchy’.
This is a technical description but we can easily visualize how the stakeholder nodes of influence can combine with actual activities and events in a project. The inner Radar graph could be the project and the outer radars or thumbnails could be the stakeholders. Personally for me, This type of visualization is eerily similar to what I imagine in my mind when I am cognating project social abstracts . How can we consider the holistic project details and how the stakeholders influence ebbs and flows over time? It is very difficult for us to express these abstract concepts using only words or pen and paper.
Academic Research is rapidly evolving and new tools are being announced every day. I have spent quite a bit of time exploring Doctor Tamara Munzer’s research. This research is very detailed and informative. Extreme granularity can be found in her Accordion Drawings. This research is exploring how to visualize complex information for example `a system designed to support the comparison task for large trees of several hundred thousand nodes`. This is fabulous research to process information and find the patterns and most likely could apply to the ultra complex mega projects.
MIT has an interesting tool they used to view email and frequency over time, you can view some of the images from this project Visualization of Social History.
Unfortunately it is not interactive, this is a concept that Project Managers could adapt for usage.
I am a fan of a visual that can show our project status update dynamically based on some quantifiable metrics that describe our stakeholders expectations. Ideally, we would like to have something in which we use all the tools available to us a project managers such as interviewing, modeling, analyzing relationships to let the Phenomena Self Illuminate. As Doctor Hanrahan describes “A self-illustrating phenomenon is an image that is generated automatically as a result of an experiment. More importantly, it is an image that exposes the phenomenon behind the observation.” This is precisely what we are looking for.
Part III to follow…..