Online Music Surging

I enjoy downloading music to my computer and portable digital music player. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I was at a music retailer. I’m a convert. I prefer listening to music samples on the Internet and buying only the songs that I want and not wanting to buy an entire disc where I may like only a few song tracks. This is the reason why iPods from Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) have grown exponentially in popularity to the current cult status. A friend of mine received a 30GB iPod for Christmas and trust me you have never seen someone so excited.A 30GB iPod can hold up to 7,500 CD quality songs. That is impressive. Apple is a trendsetter in my estimation. From its MAC to the iPod, CEO Steve Jobs has a keen knack for trends. These portable music devices have so much memory because he probably expects a massive shift to CD burning and downloadable music. Apple’s iTunes Music Store is booming.Just last week, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released its research into the digital music industry and the results were not a surprise. Just like how online DVD movies have dominated the video rental market, dominated by Netflix Inc. (NFLX), and pushing incumbent Blockbuster Inc. (BBI) to the sidelines, the exponential growth of the online music business has been on an explosive upward path.According to the research, sales of digital music globally increased by over 300% in 2005 to $1.1 billion. The research said digital music accounts for about 6% of total music sales, up from very little two years back.The competition in the industry is fierce and expected to ramp up going forward. This could lead to consolidation in the industry down the road and result in lower prices. We could see the bigger and more established players taking out the smaller up and comers.Besides Apple, there are a slew of online music sites. Probably the most well known is Napster Inc. (NAPS). Napster reported it has over 500,000 subscribers but has yet to turn a profit and is not expected for the time being. But the company has minimal debt and a whopping $128 million or $2.91 per share in cash. Given that the current share price is 3.08, this implies you are paying a mere $0.17 for the company’s asset and potential. This is pretty good and enticing for speculators, but then Napster must deliver profits. Napster could be the dark horse in the digital music business.In addition to Apple and Napster, there is also the growing Rhapsody music service from RealNetworks Inc. (RNWK) and Yahoo Music from Yahoo Inc. (YHOO).Other providers include, MSN Music, AOL Music Now and Musicmatch. You can even download music at $0.88 per track from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT).Long lives digital music.

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CMM and Project Management – Tracking and Oversight

The goal of the Software Project Tracking and Oversight Key Process Area (KPA) is to provide sufficient insight into project performance so that the project manager can detect variances between performance and the plan and take preventive or corrective action. This KPA influences all PMBOK knowledge areas and is most closely associated with the Monitoring and Controlling group of processes. As with the other KPAs Software Project Tracking and Oversight is organized into goals, commitments, abilities, activities, measurements, and verifications.Goals
The goals of this KPA relate to and support project oversight and corrective actions. The goals are that results are tracked against project plans, that corrective actions are taken when there is a variance between planned results and actual results, and that corrective actions that change the project plan are agreed to by the affected groups. The abilities and activities all support the achievement of these goals.Commitment to Perform
Commitments to this KPA are required at the executive level. The first commitment is that a software project manager be assigned to the project. This commitment will be made by default for most IT projects. The project manager responsible for the entire project is likely to be someone who is considered a “software project manager”, or at least has experience managing software projects. When larger projects require a sub-project for the creation of a software system or application to be defined, this commitment requires a project manager to be assigned to manage the sub-project. This is an organizational commitment, but might require you to identify and assign a project manager to manage the software sub-project if you are the overall project manager.The second commitment is also at the organizational level and it is that project management follows a written organizational policy for managing software projects. PMs working out of a PMO or PMC should have such a policy to follow. If you are a project manager leading the charge for CMM/CMMI certification you should undertake the writing of this policy to govern your project and future projects for your organization.Ability to Perform
There are 5 abilities required to meet CMM/CMMI level 2 criteria. The first ability is that software project has a project plan. The second is that the software project manager assigns work to the project team. This means not only that the project manager defines, organizes, and schedules the work in their plan, but that they direct individual team members to do the work. I believe that meeting the criteria for this ability requires the software project manager to be given the authority to direct the project resources work for the duration of the project. The best way for this authority to be officially granted is through the Project Charter which governs the project.The third ability calls for adequate resources to be provided for tracking and oversight activities. Planning of the activities will be supported by the project’s plans and schedule. Adequate funding will be demonstrated by the budget for resources to perform oversight and tracking activities being part of the approved project budget. Ability 4 requires the software project manager to be trained in managing the “technical and personnel aspects” of the software project. I would argue that there is no better way of demonstrating this ability than by the certification of the software project manager as a Project Management Professional (PMP®). The Project Management Institute oversee this certification and are recognized globally as the leaders in the area of project management certification and project management best practices. Certification of your software project manager is straight forward, providing PMI’s criteria for project management experience are met. Providing they are, the project manager can choose from a host of quality PMP® courses or PMP® exam preparation training products to prepare them for the certification exam. These courses will train project managers in Project Management best practices and their implementation, as well as helping the project manager pass their exam.The final ability calls for first-line software managers to receive “orientation in the technical aspects of the software project”. CMMI defines a first-line software manager as someone who has direct management responsibility, including responsibility for providing technical direction, for staffing and activities of a single organizational unit. This definition matches the PMBOK®’s definition of a functional manager. The first-line manager should be educated in the tools, processes, procedures, and standards used for the project.Activities
Activities called for by CMM include:Use the project plan for tracking activities and communicating project status. The plan should be updated with information for work completed and made available to project stakeholders. Your MS Project file will satisfy this criterion and will convert your WBS/schedule to several formats that can be accessed by stakeholders who do not have MS Project on their desktop.

The project plans are revised according to a documented procedure. This procedure will be your Change Management plan, or Integrated Change Control System (ICCS). The various components of the project plan specify how changes approved by the ICCS/Change Management plan are to be implemented. The activity also calls for a review of the revised project plan.

Commitments made to external groups, and any changes to those commitments, are reviewed with senior management according to a documented procedure. In the context of tracking and oversight this activity will be described in the project’s Change Management plan.

Approved changes to the software project are communicated to the members of the software engineering group and other software-related groups. Your Change Management plan, or Communications Management plan, should describe this.

The sizes of work products, or changes to the work products are tracked and corrective actions taken as necessary. CMM uses the word “size” to refer to the number of lines of code,.html pages, or pages of documentation produced. The idea is to compare the actual size with the estimates for the purpose of identifying actions required to correct the estimation procedure and future estimates.

Effort and costs are tracked and corrective actions taken when necessary. The cost management portion of the project plan will govern monitoring and controlling expenditures and identify how corrective actions are to be identified. The Change Management plan governs how changes to the cost estimates are to be made. Since software development projects frequently aren’t governed directly by budgets, this may be accomplished in the Time Management plan for the project.

Critical computer resources are tracked and corrective actions taken when necessary. These will be tracked, along with other project resources, in the resource management plan.

The schedule is tracked and corrective actions taken when necessary. The Time Management portion of the project plan will describe how this happens, including the analysis of late and early delivery dates on the plan.

Technical activities are tracked and corrective action taken when necessary. Technical activities refer to the methods, procedures, and processes used to develop and test the software. Testing activities will be described in the Quality Management plan. Most of the methods, procedures, and processes associated with development of the software should be captured in the Configuration Management plan. Activities not covered by the Configuration Management or Quality Management plans should be described in a separate plan.

Project risks are tracked. This is accomplished by the Risk Management plan

Measurement data and re-planning data are recorded. This includes estimates and data associated with the estimates, plus data measuring completed work. Estimates will be captured in the WBS and schedule. Estimating tools and methods such as Function Point Analysis (FPA) will be described elsewhere.

The software engineering group conducts periodic internal reviews to track technical progress, plans, performance, and issues against the plan. The software engineering group includes the first-line managers and software project manager. This activity is covered by your weekly status review meetings.

Formal reviews to address accomplishments and results are conducted at selected project milestones. These formal reviews will correspond to your Gate Reviews.Measurement and Analysis
The effort required to perform the tracking activities is measuredVerification
Verification is performed by senior management who review the tracking and oversight activities periodically. This will be satisfied with the Gate Reviews planned for the project and by any Steering Committee or Project Sponsor reviews scheduled. Verification is also done by the project manager. This requirement can be satisfied with regular status review meetings in addition to the Gate Meetings. These two verifications also require you to produce a status report after each meeting.The 3rd verification calls for reviews or audits of the project by a Quality Assurance group. Since CMM regards the Quality Assurance group as an entity outside of the control of the project, the senior management of your organization should be responsible for this verification. If you are assigned to manage the project by a PMO or PMC this group may provide the audits or reviews required by CMM.The tips and tricks described in this article implement some of the best practices promoted by the PMI (Project Management Institute). These are taught in most PMP® courses and other PMP® exam preparation training products. Visit the three O web site for a sampling of some of the products available in this area, including AceIt©, our downloadable software training tool:

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Indian IT Resources – Are They Action Ready?

The world knows that India is riding high on its IT tide, but with every tide there is a powerful undercurrent – It’s the nature’s balancing act. Be it the American Manufacturing revolution or the Renaissance or the Restructuring of Japan’s economy after the Hiroshima & Nagasaki or The establishment of West German Industrial powerhouse – the shortage of skilled labor was the common pain point for the architects of these economic giants.It is natural that the trailblazers of Indian IT phenomena are having sleepless nights with the acute shortage of skilled IT resource. A lot of concerted effort is underway to mitigate this demand and supply lopsidedness. Infosys, Wipro, Hexaware, Accenture, and some others have started their own IT finishing academies which polish the pedagogical skills of fresh graduated into battle ready IT skills.Why is this industry so demanding? Are the technical & coding skills not sufficient? Are the educational institutions listening? We will answer these questions below, but let’s look at some facts to bolster our point above -
¨ Only 10% of the 300,000 IT employable graduates every year have the requisite skills for on-boarding a project – According to NASSCOM Vice President, Mr. Ganesh Natarajan.
¨ India will face an acute shortage of 500,000 skilled IT resources by 2010 – According to a joint Nasscom-McKinsey Study.
¨ Only about 10% – 15% of the 2 million Non-engineering graduates are employable in the BPO industry – They need re-skilling in personality development & accent modulation
IT Industry – Looking beyond the curriculaIn my various encounters with educational institutions heads, one common thread I could identify, barring a few exceptions, was the absence of clarity vis-à-vis the IT industry needs. The perception of a skilled resource ends at the programming and algorithmic expertise – which is far from truth. This calls for a tighter synergy between the Industry and the Educational institutions.If we are to maintain our position as the preferred Global Software destination, then the syllabi in our schools and colleges have to add a window for IT corporate skill-set. Most of our course framework is at best archaic and out-of-sync with the reality. We, as a nation are one of the most highly qualified but woefully under-skilled. The onus lies on the architects of our educational system – We need to have more industrialists and entrepreneurs on the decision making bodies so that not all our learning is ‘lost in translation’. Why the Gap? The growth momentum has to be sustained – but how? The world looks up to India for its software & services needs – the projects keep rolling in. IT powerhouses scour the campuses for ready-to-work resources in vain. The resources are highly skilled and with top IQ, but not yet delivery material. Some soul searching attributes the gap in our educational system & industry needs to the following-
¨ Absence of project & vocation based course structure in majority of the institutions
¨ Except for a very selective group of institutions (e.g., IITs, IIMs, XLRI, Symbiosis, and some RECs), Industrial and departmental tie ups are minimal – This eliminates any opportunity for a job-oriented framework in the syllabi
¨ Lack of government or Corporate sponsored funds for innovation & Industrial research in institutions. Majority of the universities in US & Europe get a large chunk of their research funding from corporate houses.
¨ Antiquated British era syllabi in institutions which have lost their relevance with the current market dynamics and economic eco-system. Revisions, if any have failed to do justice to the students.
¨ Emphasis on theoretical & empirical concepts rather than on product creation, and innovation. This framework saps the latent creativity and at the same time makes rote masters out of students.
¨ Project, Program, and Portfolio management are integral to any IT practice – Majority of the computer science syllabi do not have the slot for these
¨ Quality Assurance and Software Delivery Methodology form the core of any project framework. They are conspicuous by their absence in our syllabi.
¨ Personality development, Community work, Event management, Extra-curricular achievements, Leadership development – These find few takers among the decision makers of our institutions.
The Silver bullet India is an emerging economy – but still not a developed nation. The reason – We don’t need to look far – We are still trying to revamp and modernize the British age processes and infrastructure instead of daring to create new ones using our indigenous talent and creativity. But, times have changed and with the need came the impetus – The impetus to march in sync with the industrial growth. Necessity gives way to invention and so came the concept of “IT Finishing schools”. What are these? Are they autonomous or affiliated?These are re-skilling institutions and can be private, corporate, or government sponsored. The purpose of these academies is to bridge the gap between the educational system and the IT corporate needs. Students graduate from these academies with a ‘certificate’ of being ready to on-board a live project. These new concept centers provide the missing links in the areas of – Personality and communication skills development, Project Management & Software Delivery Methodology, Quality assurance, Programming and coding methodology standards, and Client and Vendor relationship management etc.It’s high time our educational system is revamped with an eye on the future so that the students are in tune with the reality. The need of the hour is to incorporate the IT specific skills into our course framework.

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