I was provided a set of screening questions regarding a position I was exploring as a project manager. I decided to post this as I think it is a good representation of my ability to be a can-do project manager.
A business professional with financially sound, innovative, creative, and assertive decision-making skills and project management leadership. Creative problem-solving ability developed through 25+ years of various assignments in many business areas including: R&D, operations, systems development, contact center technologies, customer relationship management (CRM) and internet/web development. His core competency is the ability to utilize solid project management principles to integrate disjointed projects into a defined plan, with solid requirements, stringent change control, and energizing diverse teams. He has a strong combination of business acumen and technical capability and is able to produce results.
- Describe complex program management experiences where you have evaluated current methods, decision support tools, and program management technologies and have developed recommendations for improvement through introduction of best practices and alternative new tools and technologies.
I was a part of a newly formed team at AT&T to implement eBonding with large signature customers. The situation was a mess. Hours were spent spinning wheels with no progress. The biggest pain point was inconsistent data (mainly dates) because each group was doing their own thing. I took the imitative to research and pilot a tool to get things on the right trajectory. This grew into a complete Integrated Program Management System which eventually was adopted by the business partners. Perhaps best way to answer all of these points are the words of an Achievement Award that Dave’s InVision team won from the AT&T Project Management Center of Excellence in 2007:
The InVision Team was specifically created to design, implement, upgrade and maintain a Project Management Information System (PMIS) to help capture, monitor and analyze project information. The PMIS is based on an InVision application, which this team frequently modifies for the changing needs of the eBonding Organization. The Team has created and implemented a Tool which enables the project manager to capture every aspect of a project, including internal artifacts, customer facing documents, phases, timeframes, milestones, issues, next steps, status, escalations, project details, technical features, project rosters, lessons learned, risk mitigation plans, comments, discussions and emails. In addition to administering the InVision Tool, the InVision Team develops canned reports, ad hoc reports, filters, forms and tables. The Team frequently upgrades the Tool to make it user-friendlier and to provide additional ways to capture project information. There is widespread use of this Tool including eBonding project managers, senior management within the eSales & Service directorate, Labs, Care and Sales. The InVision Team is additionally responsible for establishing project management methodologies, creating workflows and addressing issues.
The InVision Team has created a project management tool that supports the AT&T business objectives and enables senior management to manage the entire portfolio effectively.
Wes Bridwell, a member of the InVision team has made this LinkedIn Recommendation for Dave: “I worked with Dave for several years in the eBonding Program office here at AT&T. Dave was one of the most professional and engaged employees that we had in the group. He almost single handedly built a PMO office and customized a new PM software tool that was adopted by the entire organization (well over 200 folks) that managed hundreds of XML Bonding projects. Dave’s group won several awards for the work to build processes and tools centered around PM methodologies and for the widespread adoption of the tool. Dave spent countless hours building reports for management and other stakeholders to show the real value of the PMO portal/tools. Dave is very detail oriented and is always well liked by his peers. I would recommend Dave to any prospective employer as he would be a great asset to their company.”
During introduction of new methods, decision support tools and program management technologies, what have you found to be the most challenging activities? Several key activities that drive success implementation and user buy in?
- Agreement of Roles and responsibilities and how the team members are to work together. One of Dave’s trademarks was the establishment of a ‘governance’ document he provided at the Program Kickoff that outlined all communication channels, RASIC responsibilities, how issues and change control were managed and the definition of entrance and exit criteria for each phase gate in the program.
- Obtaining agreement from all organizations that the support tool is “the official company record” and that other spreadsheets, reports, etc. were not recognized. We needed to keep the one record current and accurate with an audit trail.
- Continuous Training – help people feel the pain points and how the output is obtained from the system.
- The executives MUST use the reports from the system and not expect ‘sanitized spreadsheets’ or other massaged data to be presented.
- If it isn’t in the tool, it doesn’t exist. I would not address project issues unless there was an issue created in InVision. We spent way too much time trying to solve things in which the thing was never defined and summarized in writing. By the ‘must be in InVision’ policy – it forced issues to be logged and tracked systematically, instead of a diverse thread of emails and phone calls.
- Sometimes you have to be ice-cold and unforgiving and tell people that although the tool isn’t perfect, it’s the tool and we will use it and make it work. You might have a better idea, submit it to the tool administration team and it will be considered, meanwhile you have the process and tools – USE THEM!!!
- There needs to be a core team that works on aligning the tool with the business need.
Describe the types of innovations you have deployed to improve standard methods, decision support tools, and program management technologies.
Besides the InVision tool which did a lot of these – I would refer to my standardized Project plan and status reports form the tool. A main goal of the process/tool was data is only stored once. We developed a suite of report/project artifacts that extracted data from different locations in the tool and formatted into a structured document. It would extract key milestones from the MS Project File, obtain project rosters from the resource files, and even include an escalation path. Example available on request.
Also created Program Status reports that forecasts resource needs and analyzed variances on time, schedule, and capability.
Again, I will quote recommendations from Stuart Lob, a partner on the team:
“Dave championed and adapted the Project InVision enterprise project management tool, developing custom reports and optimizing the application’s SQL code to create a tool that has become heavily used at AT&T. As system administrator for this instance of Project InVision, I worked with Dave on this implementation. I watched him absorb a deep understanding of the technology behind the application, and then take that knowledge to put together truly useful tools and processes for managing a portfolio with hundreds of active projects.”
Provide examples where have you seen large gaps in standard methods, decision support tools, and program management technologies? What measure have you taken to address them?
I like to lead by example. There were several gaps in all areas of Program Management as it is an ever-evolving process. One of the areas that hampered our efforts was combining a technical profile of the customer projects with the project work. This technical profile included a multitude of details including security profile, services being implemented, version level, and volume of transactions.
I created a module in InVision that defined the means of identifying and capturing this information and extracting it for Project/Program reports and year to date work profiles. The benefit came from integrating the “business rules” in with the Project management tool to have a common data store for all aspects of the project. Examples available on request.
Also did a great deal of work on defining issue lifecycle process, how to determine severity, progress, ownership etc. The gap was in the common use of terms as opposed to large gaps in processes. For example some project managers wanted to set the status of an issue as “New” prior to the first status meeting, while others liked the term “Open” getting that commonality (or standard compliance) allowed for common tracking across all projects in the program.
- Describe your technical experience or domain expertise in the standard methods, decision support tools, and program management technology evaluation, selection, and implementation in the communication hardware & software product development and manufacturing space as it relates to this position.
I will provide the text of a document I put together demonstrating this skill. The following is the executive summary of a position paper I composed highlighting several concerns regarding the technology for an eBond.
The Shell Mega Deal Managed Services eBond is a multi billion dollar contract to manage Shell Global Telecom services. EDS has been awarded the contract to provide the Operations Interface (OI) for the help desk interface. EDS proposes that this OI will eBond with all suppliers using the Third Party Interface Specification (TPIS), similar to the GM eBond. This document outlines concerns the eS&S team has with using the TPIS interface as opposed to the AT&T Managed Services Fault Maintenance (MSFM) WSDL.
1) TPIS is built on the old Peregrine technology. Peregrine has been acquired by HP and now is the help desk component of HP ServiceCenter. It has been stated that Shell wants to upgrade to the latest release of service center. If the platform is being upgraded, the odds are that there will be interface development on the EDS side, probably an entire rewrite.
2) TPIS is old interface technology. Based on cumbersome transaction types and first generation XML, it lacks the dynamics of more current WSDL capability and flexibility.
The following list identifies other concerns.
1.1 Error handling
1.2 Multiple Transaction Types
1.3 Technical antiquated
2.1 Assumption that is exactly like GM
2.1.1 Category schema
2.1.2 Support of new services
2.1.3 TPIS Requirements
2.2 GM Impact
2.2.1 Completely separate instance
2.3 Lifecycle support
2.3.1 Increased development costs
2.3.2 Life span of TPIS
- Give me an example of a time you developed and maintained (or strengthened) a relationship outside/inside of the organization. How did you develop it? What did you do to maintain/strengthen it?
I have many examples as I am a true believer in building personal relationships to strengthen business relationships. I will use an example of how I developed and maintained a relationship with Federal Express. I was involved in doing eBonding work with Federal Express and we shared with them our Project Plans as generated by our InVision Tool. As we went through the project and used several different reports (status, issues, lessons learned) from the tool – I had several discussions with the Fed Ex PM on what we were doing. We would exchange professional emails regarding trends we saw etc. At a PMI Global congress we had a chance to meet and have lunch and discussed several things. After the project ended, we kept in touch via email. Then about six months after the project ended I got a call from the FED EX PMO asking if I could spend time discussion IPMS support tools and processes for adoption. We had a series of conference calls in which we discussed my lessons learned and their challenges. It was very productive and I know Fed Ex implemented several things we discussed. I keep in touch with some of those folks today and have used their expertise to get advice on some of my challenges. So I believe a relationship is created from a need, developed by communication, asking questions, treating people with value. It is then strengthened by interaction and communication. Not sure I would use the work maintain on a relationship, I prefer to think of helping it continue to grow.
- Describe for me a time when you might have been more successful at something had you taken the time to clarify the expectations in a working relationship.
As I am in a mode that involves continually learning, there are probably examples every day where I could have been more successful in clarifying pieces within a working relationship. But, from a professional perspective I would have to say that it probably falls in to a time when I was creating an interface with an external organization to AT&T that was actually part of an outsourced managed service contract and the organization was actually taking work away from AT&T.
I must confess that I had a little bit of animosity towards the whole project, but I did try and maintain a professional basis. With that being said; I was guilty of providing just the information that was requested and not the detailed explanations that probably should have accommodated documents. I didn’t spend time going through the document with my partners to tell them about some of the lessons learned or some of the pitfalls to avoid. The bottom line is that this project ended up having a longer testing and implementation timeframe than was forecast. Part of the cause was because the partner wasn’t as prepared as they could have been if I’d spent more time clarifying expectations. All in all it did work out and I did maintain a relationship with the people involved but I did allow some personal perspective to influence my behavior so I wasn’t as thorough as I should have been
- Tell me about a difficult or complex idea, situation, or process you have ever had to explain to someone. How did you explain it? Were you successful?
Example below – it should be self-explanatory.
Wal-Mart Maintenance eBonding Issue
Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest retailer and a significant AT&T customer. Wal- Mart has approximately 20 maintenance tickets daily that are currently handled via phone call. Wal- Mart is not a Managed Services customer and would apply to the eBonding rules for “Retail” customers.
For security, Wal Mart would be expected to use https (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer) and a digital certificate. AT&T supports this over Port 443, Wal-Mart wants to use port 80.
Dave Davis speculates that Wal Mart insists on using port 80 so they have a dedicated URL for all their transactions. They do not want to have any possibility of another company intercepting their data.
Wal Mart use of the eBond
In our discussions with Wal Mart, they initially plan on using the eBond more as a means of gathering ticket status than to make a full fledged application to application integration.
While this does present cost savings to both companies, the business model would have to incorporate total eBonding of the ticket life cycle to realize the complete benefits of eBonding.
De facto Port Assignments
The entire Internet connectivity world is comprised of a combination of communication protocols (http), domain names (att.com), URLs (the values types in the browser), and connection ports (port 80). Each of these components are configurable for communication and security between 2 applications.
There are no hard and fast rules how ports are used for each domain, so they can be configured differently. However there are de facto standards throughout the Internet on how each port should be used. Some examples of these default ports are below
Strictly speaking, HTTPS is not a separate protocol, but refers to the combination of a normal HTTP interaction over an encrypted Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) connection. This ensures reasonable protection from eavesdroppers and man-in-the-middle attacks, provided that adequate cipher suites are used and that the server certificate is verified and trusted.
Port 80 – HyperText Transfer Protocol (e.g. for web browsing).
Port 389 – LDAP
Port – 1080 SOCKS
Port 443 – Secure HTTP – for digital certificate and encryption
There are technical solutions that allow the companies to communicate and still have secure data. Three possible alternatives are listed below.
Wal-Mart add hardware to do a translation
Wal Mart assumes all responsibility and costs to install hardware that will take their “common” port 80 rules and translate them to port 443.
This implies AT&T to be an exception for the Wal Mart eCommerce rules and an additional cost to the customer.
AT&T offer a new URL
Wal-Mart would be expected to conformed to the Managed Services Fault Maintenance (MSFM) Schema.
This would prevent them from scheduling their own testing and other features of the retail schema.
It would also require development involvement and testing.
It will allow Wal Mart to not have an eCommerce exception for communicating with AT&T.
AT&T Use a VPN to accept Port 80 and then translate
AT&T could possibly configure a proxy server connected via a VPN to accept a digital certificate through port 80 and then translate it to port 443 for the standard b2b URL.
This has significant costs for AT&T and ventures into several gray areas. First of which is AT&T does not have an eCommerce Policy for VPN connections.
Secondly, this is a retail customer that is considered truly “off the truck”. By adding a VPN and proxy configuration, the cost of eBonding Wal Mart jumps significantly.
Dave Davis recommends we create a Business Requirement for a new URL for Wal Mart and have product management investigate the feasibility and potential timeline.
See document: walmart drawing.ppt
The issue is that Wal Mart wants to use https to port 80 and AT&T does not support port 80 for https on the “public” b2bi URL.
The linked PowerPoint graphically shows the issues.
One side needs to make a change in order to allow eBonding.
“Standard URL for eBonding customers
Port 443 for HTTPS
AT&T “Standard” for https. This is for security purposed and encrypting data.
PS – The AT&T Management accepted the recommendation and a new URL was constructed.
I routinely performed this capability in both strategic issues and specific customer issues. One of the challenges in the eBonding world with multiple partners is that each organization had their embedded tools and process. These all needed modified in order to meet the customer solution, which already had a negotiated price. Dave worked with all teams to get buy in and alternatives to meet customer needs with controlled costs and ongoing maintenance. Dave was frequently involved in meetings with AT&T executives to help understand the impacts of some of the give and take recommended to meet the customer needs. And sometimes the best solution meant the most cost to AT&T and it was a hard sell to make.
Tell me about a time you encountered significant resistance or a major setback on a project you were working on, but managed to work through it anyway.
As I was implementing the AT&T “write to us” channel on ATT.com site I was inquiring to different work centers handle certain types of customer questions. After I had agreement from a work center in Kansas City to handle customer inquiries regarding 800 service and calling card, the company reorganized and that work center was closed. I was then forced to scramble, with my project sponsor, to find another organization that had the skills, knowledge, and capacity in order to be able to handle these types of inquiries. We did find a new center, but it was not in time to meet the original release target. We decided to defer these services into a second release of the interface as there were funding and other support issues required. Bottom line is that an external event happened that we had to react to, we adjusted expectations and still was able to deliver value and benefit realization to the company.
- Tell me about a problem that you’ve solved in a unique or unusual way. Were you happy with the outcome?
One of my job responsibilities throughout my career was to configure packet assembler disassembler’s for data communication networks for large customers AT&T had one part of the federal government STS 2000 contract that included providing data connectivity from one point to another. The Department of Defense had some very strict security requirements insisting any data transmitted over a public network needed to meet class a orange book security I was involved in the team looked at the problem and took a creative approach using a packet gateway to convert the X.25 information from one network identification to another and then reassemble it back on the other hand with this encryption in enclosed user groups and other X.25 capability we were able to meet all of the Department of Defense requirements for the security. None of the competing telecom companies, including MCI, Sprint, Global Crossing, and Cable and Wireless Inc. Were able to meet these requirements. This innovative and creative approach won AT&T over $2 million annual revenue from Department of Defense data communications. By working with a small team and prototyping different scenarios we provided a unique solution to a significant problem. All parties were happy with the outcome and it was quite proud moment in my career to be able to meet the technical challenges with the tight timeframe and high acceptance criteria.
- Tell me about a big project you had to plan and manage for work. What is your planning process?
I was assigned as program manager to implement the AT&T E bonding capability for providing mobility services to signature customers throughout the world. This was a program to make a repeatable process that would help define a customized catalog of services for each customer yet a common interface to performing suppliers that would actually fulfill the orders for example a customer may have mobility needs in multiple countries throughout the world one in South America one in Asia one in Germany warning the Netherlands one in United States one in Mexico etc. etc. and there was no common wireless carrier they could fulfill all these orders. In each country had its own set of rules and data sets that made a single interface impossible to implement. My role is program manager involves several different steps:
first I had to determine whom were the key stakeholders in the program. I was given the charge to implement program manager but they were in evening any formal documents that made such an announcement. So I created a program charter and had an executive sign it and email it to his peers to authorize resources to plan the program.
I then assembled a small team from the product house, operations, and IT to create a joint definition of work effort.
We shared this document with multiple organizations to assemble a core team of stakeholders and a responsibility matrix.
I took ownership of a program plan in which you he defined various work packages and the time box timeframe for certain deliverable. Among these deliverables were a business requirements document. Benefits realization plan, and a governance model.
We then developed these planning documents and obtain buy-in from key stakeholders.
We created a roadmap of work packages that would bring the greatest value to Corporation.
We then had a kickoff meeting with key stakeholders to define in much detail, all of the business rules, constraints, and transformation requirements in order to meet the objectives.
We then developed seven project charters to implement the work efforts. Three of the charters were specific to IT development one of the charters was to the marketing and technical implementation plan two of the charters were specific to process and lifecycle support, and final charter were specific to developing a repeatable process for catalog management.
We then mapped cost of the project based on a high-level order magnitude to a benefits realization plan and established the expectations for the deliverables.
To summarize, my planning processes first to make sure I have owners and executive sponsorship from the business, next it is to do a program charter the authorized organizations to commit resources to the planning, next is planning the roadmap and the business realization plans, next is to issue a program plan which outlined how work package are aligned which then will generate a charter for each project that will help meet those objectives. Once the charters are defined a project manager will be assigned there will be responsible for implementing the requirements of the work. Tools and techniques that I use in this planning process is constant communication and dialogue with key stakeholders and a small work team. Interacting with knowledge workers through facilitating meetings with different organization to define business rules, program requirements, baselining documents and using the concept of progressive elaboration to monitor control their evolution from a planning cycle until project implementation. Finally, the process involves interacting with the teams through a defined governance model so all organizations know the protocol for handling issues, communicating status, and reporting task completion.
- Describe a project assignment that at the beginning was absolutely unstructured, disorganized or in complete disarray? How did you approach this situation? Were you successful or not & what were the key critical aspects that contributed to the end state of the project?
State Farm insurance Corporation with a major customer AT&T, in 2002 State Farm was in the process of providing an internal private line intranet to all agents in State Farm offices throughout North America. The customer had strict requirements to perform an electronic interface to request service to locations via their implementation plan and have a completely hands-off status report approach. AT&T agreed to this without having the tools in place support the work. One development group it built a utility that transformed the State Farm interface into a work list that was HTML-based, but it did not incorporate any of the tools used by the works. AT&T was still in the process of developing it e-bonding organizations and every report going the executives had this project in a red status jeopardy with a high probability of losing the business.
I was assigned as project manager to bring it back under control, which we were able to do for a variety of reasons. First and foremost I was able to get a dedicated small team of people that were empowered to make decisions and make things happen. I assembled that team and we started to do work first defining what is the current state what is the future state what we need to get there. We then teamed with State Farm to implement a phased approach that included obtaining agreement from the work centers to implement changes to their workflow processes. We had a small budget in which we could implement a few changes so we prioritized the work effort and developed some work arounds (such as using Excel Spreadsheets for reports) to meet the business needs.
I developed a “Back To Green Plan” and we obtained confidence from both organization’s executives to give us autonomy to do the work. Then this team worked together to make it happen through sacrifice of time, contribution of knowledge, and dedication to quality. So we were successful after we did our assessments and provided a new program/project plan. We actually beat the target dates for total implementation, reduce the headcount needed to process the orders, and exceeding customer satisfaction rates on status delivery.
- Think about a favorite work experience, something you felt was exciting, energizing, and personally fulfilling. Please describe it and tell me what it was that gave you satisfaction?
There have been many wonderful work experiences in my career that have excited me. I would have to put the success that I had with implementing Project InVision as the top work experience. I really enjoyed the ability to take raw materials, knowledge, process, business need and implement a tool in order to make these needs realized. I was able to be used many different creative approaches learned how to administer the application and also due to hands-on data drilling in report writing in order to help the business control multiple projects. So it allowed me to combine my business desires with Mike technical desires in order to create an effective way to run a business. Accolades came that were well appreciated, but the best part was being a member of a team that took a dream of mine and made it happen.
- Values are usually formed through an early youthful experience, sometimes difficult or uncomfortable. What experiences helped shape your values and character?
Again I been fortunate in my career to work with many wonderful people had different folks were both mentors, coaches and good friends to help me learn and grow throughout my career. And not that all these people were in my professional sphere of influence. I have had great relationships with people, such as pastors in my church, in order to help maintain my spiritual perspective and acceptance of my own limitations and limitation of others. I have had business mentors that have helped me prepare handling difficult situations or communicating ideas to reluctant audiences, Finally I have had great co-workers who have teamed with me in a common vision to obtain business results.
I had high school football coaches who taught me the importance of preparation, work, dedication and pride. My father was a wonderful example of a man who was extremely resource at solving last complex issues with limited materials. He taught me to respect tools how their proper use can make work easier. My family has been supportive of helping me be comfortable with myself and accepting my flaws, my good points, and even some of my dreams, but most of all learning that I can accomplish more with teamwork than you can possibly accomplish unilaterally.