Open APIs in a Commercial Market

Changing commercial operations as we know it

Although open retail APIs have made a big splash in current markets, the open concept as a standard has been around as early as 2015 1. So, where are the Commercial APIs?

The concept of open commercial APIs is virtually unheard of and is still in its infancy. Open commercial APIs are a big deal as they provide for a new way to service commercial customers. Open APIs have rooted beginnings in corporations wanting to move faster, be more efficient, and smarter about their product offering to a consumer market. Currently, this new open standard has paved the way for Fintech’s to directly access consumer shopping, banking, and communication information.

We have seen many new successful Fintech start-ups use APIs to sell product directly to consumers. Companies like Acorns, Current, Chime, Simple, and Qapital have been big hits in the mobile application market.

Most fintech’s and corporations have not focused on how Open APIs can benefit their corporate partners and this is seen in the fact that there are very few Open API Corporate or Commercial marketplaces.

Fintech’s venture into commercial Open APIs

To do this, FIs and other Tech savvy groups required an open or public standard which would allow standardized access to commercial institutions data. This open/public API standard can be used by corporations, other third parties, and other Financial Institutions as a foundation for creating new applications that can do pretty much anything in a digital world. This type of API standard has opened the digital world to endless access possibilities.

Lack of corporate or commercial APIs, why is that?

As stated, there is still a large unexplored corporate and commercial API market. Reasons for this include the fact that creation of open commercial APIs are not widely sought after and are mainly undefined, expensive, and don’t provide for a clear and easy ROI. This combination makes for a slow move by Corporate America toward an Open API standard. Another reason that Corporations have not embraced Open APIs is that they don’t have a clear understanding of what to build, a strategy that outlines the customer need for Open APIs, and why they need to be part of the Open API ecosystem.

For these same reasons, institutions that haven’t consider an Open API approach will ultimately fall behind the organizations that have put such strategies in place.

Consider this, back in the day people laughed at, made fun, and balked at the use of an automobile to replace the horse. Ultimately however, the automobile slowly replaced the horse as the main mode of transportation. There are many reasons why this happened, cars are much faster, cars provide climate control, cars are comfortable to sit in, but maintenance costs are certainly one of the largest advantages. The owner no longer needed to feed, clean up after, and care for their main mode of transportation on a daily basis. Even though there are maintenance costs associated with an automobile, they don’t come close to the maintenance fees required to maintain a horse.

As new commercial Open APIs become available, organizations will clamor to them and demand new and more efficient API tools that aid in huge costs savings to their organizations. At that point, corporate institutions will have the information they need to build a correct strategy, business case, and ROI to create or be part of an Open API ecosystem.

Why should corporations use commercial Open APIs

According to market experts, estimates of an Open API ecosystem are in the trillions of dollars2 and some of the major consultants are estimating the growth of Open APIs will triple in the next 12 months3. Open APIs will enjoy exponential growth over the next 10 years and pave the way to new digital technologies.

Use of Open or Public APIs enhances the digital application of exchanging data between systems. Having this ability allows for building APIs that can virtually think on their own to make predictions on business cash flow and forecasting much easier for those companies that use them. Those that embrace APIs will enjoy increases in profits, sales, and higher gains in market share. The open and modular architecture of Open APIs allow for business and IT improvement.

Open APIs will aid in deploying new products, reducing costs, and simplifying operations. They can aid in Financial planning and forecasting by providing valuable information on spending patterns that aid in identifying and planning for new opportunities. Deep dive analysis APIs will provide for a better understanding of their customers and their customer’s needs.

Efficiency and Cost savings are definitely two concrete reasons to use open APIs. There is a large cost savings in enabling ad hoc access to specific information without the cumbersome need to access multiple systems, multiple credentials, and multiple cut & paste steps. This includes a savings in data imports that decrease the time needed to get the job done. Open APIs allow those individuals that pull information, such as corporate system engineers and analysts, to talk directly to corporate applications. This ensures greater efficiency, reduced costs, and reduced errors.


Open APIs and business models that support APIs are still in their infancy. Such models are still working to gain footholds in today’s digital markets, but there is no doubt that commercial APIs can and will increase commercial revenue as well as provide increased savings and efficiencies. Each commercial organization will need to come up with their own individual strategy and plan for being part of an open API digital ecosystem.

1 – OpenAPI Initiative, November 15, 2015. “New Collaborative Project to Extend Swagger Specification for Building Connected Applications and Services”
2 – McKinsey Digital, October 1, 2013. “Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information”
3 – McKinsey Digital, September 17, 2017. “What it really takes to capture the value of APIs”

Help Small Businesses get back to normal during COVID!

Although we’ve had great news regarding a vaccine that is stated to be 90% effective fighting the COVID virus, we are still months away from delivering this vaccine to the American public. Small businesses need help NOW and our local and federal governments should and could help them out!
Since it is known that COVID-19 is mainly spread through person-to-person and virus-laden droplet contact, it makes sense to provide government funds for small businesses to install HEPA filtration systems, UV Lighting, and humidifiers. 

This would dramatically aid in fighting the virus indoors at a relatively small cost.

The costs to install a new filtration and humidification systems seems to average around $4,000 to $5,000 USD.
The government could grant small businesses these funds to update their business with HEPA filtration, UV systems, and humidifiers. Also, fund employers employees for the time it takes to install the systems, and then follow a process to confirm a successful installation.  A simple installation/confirmation process could be:
This small business opening grant/process should be added to the current COVID-19 phased plans that many states are using to combat the Corona virus. It would also help boost infrastructure through the construction, installation, project management, and operation of these systems.  Considered a win-win!!!  To me this seems like an efficient, effective, and economical way to get our small businesses up and running to capacity during the winter months. 

Fintech Program Manager

Back in 2017, I was fortunate to manage the BMO Harris Bank / 1871 Fintech Partnership Program where we would mentor up to eight fintech companies.  The program was setup to give Fintech companies a good understanding of how to work with large Financial institutions.  Also, it gave BMO Harris the opportunity to work with up and coming technical rising stars. We worked with 1871 to announce the program and to setup an online application that allowed Fintech’s consideration to be part of the mentorship program.
Working with stakeholders, it was determined that the program would run for 3 months with a final judging contest that awarded cash prizes. We worked with 1871 to announce the program and to setup an online application that allowed Chicago FinTech's an opportunity to be consider for the mentorship program.  A selection committee was created to review the applications and to select the startup companies that we wanted to possibly work with as mentees.
At an 1871 TGIF, the program was announced on April 21, 2017. BMO would accept applications and interview technical startup companies with a Fintech product or service to be part of the mentorship program.  From the identified applications, 6 startups were selected to move forward as part of the mentorship program.  Each startup was matched with FI experts from BMO Harris Bank which acted as mentors for a three-month period. At the end of the mentorship period, each mentee gave a 10 to 20-minute presentation in front of several BMO Harris Bank leaders who in turn selected a first, second, and third place winner.
The program was a huge success as BMO Harris Bank selected two Fintech companies, Genivity and SpringFour, partnering with the tech startups to bring their products and services to specific customers.
Due to the overwhelming success of the program, I was asked to manage this program every year until the department I worked in was disbanded in 2019.
If you are an organization that is looking to enter or solidify your presence in the digital and technical world, please feel free to contact me so we can discuss how I can aid you in your success in the digital or fintech world.

What great project managers do during a Pandemic!

If you are in the medical profession you are most likely on the front line with first responders — the guardian angles that work extremely hard to keep us healthy!  For the rest of us, we continue to manage projects. 

I, along with most Americans, find myself in very unfamiliar water.   With a pandemic seizing our country, an unemployment rate as high as 14 percent with 20 plus million people out of work, and an economy that is in recession, there seems to be no chance of a turnaround in the near future. So, what do great project managers do during this type of crisis?

Although there are a lot of jobs listed on social media and jobs sites, the business in my area of expertise are replying with messages such as the following, “Unfortunately, due to unforeseen business circumstances, hiring for this position has been cancelled.”

My background is in program, project, and product management, manufacturing, software development, consulting, and the finance industry.  So what do great project managers do during a pandemic or crisis?

Outside of collaboration on possible new business, self-development, non-profit, or academic projects with others, friends, and colleagues, I have endeavored to tackle, learn from, and complete projects outside of my background industries!  Great project managers can manage projects in any industry, from finance, to medical, and to construction. As proof of this, I offer a few projects that I managed outside of my normal areas of expertise during the pandemic.   I am a great project manager!

Project One (Boat pad retaining wall)

Problem to be solved – The boat pad was built two years prior with the intent to allow me to store and work on the boat when the boat was out of the water.  It was on the side of the house which allowed for easy access to the boat and trailer, but it proved was difficult to work on as there was little room between the boat and the forest.  Also, this forest side had small hill which dumped mud onto the pad when it rained.


The list of requirements include and must:

  • Set back 4 to 5 feet from the existing boat pad  
  • Made up of a strong enough material to hold back three to four feet of soil and forest  
  • Keep dirt and debris off boat pad
  • Look pleasant and appealing


Sponsor allocated 750 dollars to the project or about half the expected cost of hiring a vendor to complete the project.

Project forecast

The budget was based on the following numbers:

Estimated Project Cost (If a vendor is used to complete the project)

10BagsPaver base2.525.00
10bagsLeveling sand2.4524.50


MilestoneIncluded Activities
Area IdentificationMark area, call Julie
Purchase MaterialCalculate needed material, Setup Delivery
ExcavationDigging, picking, sawing, leveling, removing
FoundationPrep, leveling, placing
Wall BuildPattern decision, laying bricks, cutting
CapsCutting, pattern decisions, placing
BackfillDigging and filling, planting

Risks and Issues

Short DescriptionTypeDescriptionImpactDecision
Tree RootsIssueDuring excavation a tree root was found in foundation pathCriticaldig 6 inches back and around root and cut root
BouldersIssueDuring excavation a 3ft boulder was found in foundation pathCriticalRemove 450 pound bolder
Lot LineRiskRisk of building the retaining wall over the property lotlineHighConfirm lotline location
Buried linesRiskRisk of hitting a buried cable during excavationCriticalContact Julie to locate buried cable

Project Completion

Actual Project Cost

10BagsPaver base2.323.00
10bagsLeveling sand2.323.00

Project completed under budget and on time, another project well done!

Project Two (the Garden)

Problem – Garden is too large for a working family to manage.  There are too many critters eating the garden, it is overgrown with weeds, and small trees. The garden is completely unmanageable by the owners.  The garden required an entire rethink and redo.


Working with the sponsor and other stakeholders it was determined that a self-contained which could provide a minimal, viable product for growing organic fruits and vegetables with as little maintenance as possible for a busy lifestyle was desirable.  Working with all stakeholders, it was determined that a small greenhouse would be the proper solution to complete this project.

  • Current garden and fencing must be removed
  • Temporary garden sites must be erected for 2020 garden
  • Greenhouse must be secured to a stable foundation
  • Site location must be marked and approved by stakeholders
  • Greenhouse floor is expected to be filled with organic material that resists weeds


Sponsor allocated 900 dollars to the project as a gift to her spouse for his birthday and Father’s Day.

Project Forecast (if a vendor is used to complete)

4ea4 x 4 lumber45180.00
4eaMasonry bolts2.459.80
2ea8″ deck footing1.83.60
6eaQuick set cement742.00


MilestonesIncluded Activities
Fence removalRemove small trees and dig out roots. Dismantle old fencing.
Greenhouse PurchaseReview product in expected size, quality, and price
Purchase MaterialLocate and purchase greenhouse and foundation material
ExcavationDigging, site identification, picking, sawing, leveling, removal
FoundationPrep, leveling, placing, and installation
BuildErect purchased greenhouse
FillFill in floor and foundation with gravel

Risks and Issues

Short DescriptionTypeDescriptionImpactDecision
Bird NestsIssueA cardinal built a nest in one of the trees that was entwined in the garden fenceCriticalCut fence around the tree. Leave tree alone until birds leave the nest.
Impact to established plantsIssueGrapevines and berry bushes are established, must not be harmedCriticalSite location must be approved.
Greenhouse placementRiskRisk of reduced sunlight during various times of the yearHighStudy solar location for spring, summer, and fall months for optimal location.

 Project Completion

Actual Project Cost

4ea4 x 4 lumber45180.00
4eaMasonry bolts2.459.80
2ea8″ deck footing1.83.60
6eaQuick set cement742.00

Project completed at close to budget. All risks and issues were mediated and closed prior to completion. Phase 1 of this project is complete, but phase 2 and 3 are to be completed in subsequent years.

Project Three (Patio extension)

Problem – The original deck to the back of the house was built over a hill that would not grow any type of vegetation due to lack of sunlight. Plus, every time it rained a couple of issues would arise to the deck and the walkout patio below. The ground underneath the deck eroded, spilling mud on the deck below and exposing the deck foundation; this could eventually cause a weakness to the structure of the deck! Plus the mud ended up on the current, existing paver patio which houses a hot tub; this was a muddy mess.

Although there are several solutions to the problem. The request of the sponsor was to create a three-tiered retaining wall and an extension to the paved patio. My part of this project is to manage and complete the extended patio.


  • New pavers must be a close match or complement the existing patio pavers
  • New area will cover entire dirt and pea gravel under the deck on the lowest level
  • Costs to be kept to a minimal
  • Pavers must border up to retaining wall and be a level surface


Total budget for the project is estimated at $2,000 if a vendor is used to complete the project. This was based on the following estimated costs.

20BagsPaver base5100.00
20bagsLeveling sand5100.00
1eaBonding Sand4040.00


Milestones Included Activities
Confirm siteConfirm the size and placement of the patio, notify JULIE
Purchase MaterialLocate and purchase patio material
ExcavationDigging, site identification, picking, sawing, leveling, removal
FillPaverbase and leveling sand
LevelLevel area for pavers
PlacementPlacement and cutting
SealAdd bonding sand and seal

Risks and Issues

Short DescriptionTypeDescriptionImpactDecision
Utility PlacementRiskPossibility of buried cable or other itemsLowNone found
Existing ObstaclesRiskExisting patio and hot tubLowExisting items were not a hindrance

Project Completion

Since the work was completed in-house the labor estimate was eliminated and saved us about $1,600 dollars and cutting the estimated costs by about 90%.

Actual Cost

20BagsPaver base2.346.00
20bagsLeveling sand2.346.00


The above projects are only a few examples of the projects that I have completed or continue to work on as I look for new corporate, software development, or manufacturing opportunities. Although I have been impacted by the latest economic recession and a 100 year pandemic, I continue to do what great Project Managers do; projects! It doesn’t matter what industry the project is in, I have a proven track record of successfully completing projects, programs, and products that I have managed. I am a thinker, a doer, and a go-getter. I can successfully manage any program, project, or product in any industry.

I am the great person that you want to manage your projects, programs, or products!

How I Can Help

Product Management

According to Wikipedia, Product Management is an organizational lifecycle function within a company dealing with the planning, forecasting and production, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle. Similarly, product lifecycle management (PLM) integrates people, data, processes and business systems. It provides product information for companies and their extended supply chain enterprise.

As a product manager, I manage the strategic and tactical support of product, process and services. Also, I manage product budgets and costs, work with resources and vendors, provide status on products, produce gap analysis, and perform win/loss analyses. I provide strategic planning through the use of competitor analysis, business cases, and key performance indicators. I build internal product awareness and support from key stakeholders, and work through the product funding process with leadership. I also provide coordination with risk management to ensure proper risk mitigation, avoidance, or acceptance, and work with organizational leadership to plan, define, market, and launch product and services.

From building business cases to developing products, below is a list of some of the FI Products that I’ve managed:

  • New Debit Chip Card
  • IFTTT Savings
  • Mobile peer-to-peer transfers
  • Online Account to Account transfers

Managing these products involved creating business cases, identifying and confirming metrics, developing business plans, completing business analyses, marketing analyses, and product/service benefits. I work directly with and manage resources & vendor manager, support and operations. I perform product planning, testing, and implementation.

Portfolio Management

Mark Langley of the PMI states, “Portfolio management is the centralized management of one or more portfolios that enable executive management to meet organizational goals and objectives through efficient decision making on portfolios, projects, programs and operations.”

Portfolio Management, what I do…
I work with organizational leadership to understand organizational strategy, priority, and allocation. I am in charge of portfolio governance, making policy, identifying strategic goals that align with organizational needs.

I compare ongoing products, programs, and projects to aid in reporting, prioritizing, balancing, and managing portfolio strategic change. I work with Program and Project Managers to schedule, allocate resources, and track performance for projects and programs that are housed within the portfolio. I work with PM’s to understand, monitor, and control risk and track performance within the portfolio.

My Portfolio work has been focused in Retail and Treasury Management. I worked with the executive leadership and direct reports to map out each fiscal year plan for building new products and services across the US enterprise. I sat with direct reports to create business cases, planned and scheduled project implementation, and worked directly with procurement and vendors in assigning resources. I established communication policies, provided training, kept project documentation current, and interfaced with EPMO to ensure projects followed enterprise standards.

I prioritize project work for sequencing, funding, and implementation; review project scope; and track work breakdown structures to timelines, as well as budgets, to ensure schedule and project success. Also, I validate all milestones and deliverables through completion to meet their sponsors’ requirements.

Program Management

What is a program – The PMI defines a program as a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually. Program management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet program requirements. Organizations with mature program management are far more successful than those without it, according to their research.

Programs differ from projects such that projects are of narrow and focused scope and programs are over-arching from departmental to organizational scope. The program is much broader and has a broad impact to the organization.

Programs are expected to follow the organizational mission and are measured on how much value is returned to the organization based upon the investment made into the program.

Program Manager Responsibility

As a program manager, I am a leader who mentors and provides direction, guidance and a means for success to all of the program projects and teams. I provide overall reporting of each project within the program which includes providing updates on project metrics, project status and performance, and ensuring the projects remain on track to successfully meet the organizations goals.

As part of my program responsibilities, I work with C-level executives to determine, plan for, and confirm organizational goals are met. I provide governance for each project within the program by setting policy, providing guidance, and giving project direction. I am responsible for program communication addressing progress, status, and alignment to corporate goals. Additionally, I oversee projects within the program, providing control and monitoring progress, and manage the program budget, forecast, and actuals.

Back in 2011 through 2012, I had the privilege of managing the GTM integration of the M&I treasury management products, services, customers and accounts into BMO Harris Bank. This included the following products and services – ACH, Lockbox, Remote Capture, File Transfer, Wires, Customer Experience, Collections, Disbursements, Correspondent Banking, Healthcare, OLBB, and Liquidity Management. Each of these products/services was a project in itself and wrapped up to me as the Program Manager.

In 2016 and 2017, I managed the Retail Strategy Product and Segments from inception to implementation; this included the following projects: CD and Money Market Products, New Checking Products, New Lending partners (Freddie Mac), New Investors, New Lending Products, HMDA updates, Addition to ATM Network, Electronic Deposit Account opening, and update to retail promo-codes.

From 2017 to 2019, I managed the BMO Harris Bank/1871 Partnership Program, small business account conversions to new systems, updates to SalesForce CRM, introduction of contactless debit cards (to the US market), and system updates to move from LIBOR to prime rates.

Project Management

I deliver products and services to market.

Delivering projects is not about using a single software development methodology, it’s about using the best development method that suits your project, the stakeholders, the organization, and the client need. I have successfully managed many types of software development projects using methodologies from Waterfall to Iterative and Incremental Development.

I am the person that takes leadership ideas, dreams, and strategies to fruition. The execution of a new product into the market is done through me. The PM is the person that works with organizational, customer, and procured stakeholders to ensure that the product meets requirements, budget, time, and quality expectations.

The PM is the resource that raises risks, issues, possibilities, solutions, corrections and actions to leadership for a final decision.

It’s not always about the project methodology — please keep in mind that methods are only tools — it’s how the tools are used to make the final product that counts.

I am the person that is accountable for the project meeting organizational objectives. I am considered the voice of the client and am responsible for meeting the client needs within moral and ethical constraints. I will not do anything that is considered illegal, immoral, or unjust.

I work with project constraints – Resources, time, cost, and scope. I follow the corporate organizational process and enterprise environmental factors which is a fancy way of saying that I follow an organization’s plans, policies, procedures, guidelines, values, mission, and objectives.

Project managers are usually responsible for planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Since projects, by definition, have a beginning and an end, they are not permanent in length and are handed off to a customer, Operations, or Product Manager as part of final delivery.

All this work must be expertly managed to deliver the on-time, on-budget results, learning, and integration that organizations need.

My tenure with Project Management goes back to 1997 when I managed part of the US version of Canada’s mBanx, the virtual online bank which has evolved into BMO Harris Bank’s online banking presence.

Recent projects that I’ve successfully managed include:

  • Branch Activity Board – Bring unified activities across the US enterprise
  • Retail product projects – New Savings products
  • Updates to Online Banking
  • Small Business Online Banking
  • Standardization of credit facility risk types
  • EMV Debit Cards
  • Customer Credit Pre-approvals
  • Integration of M&I Global Treasury Customers, Accounts,s Products and Services into BMO Harris Bank
  • Customer account alignment – (numerous from M&As)
  • Credit Streamlining
  • Past Due Remediation and reporting
  • Over Draft Litigation

How I Can Help

I am passionate about success, clarity, leadership, direction, and full service management to an organization. Some managers focus only on technology and forget about things like change management, customer impact, communication management, and employee impact. I’m a full service resource who is customer focused and success driven. I work well in either waterfall or iterative and incremental life cycles.

I have proven track record of project work and products that remain in today’s markets. I work on and build cutting edge systems to support the business, and participate and partner with the business in planning, requirements definition, project management, and external team development. I evaluate and aid in decision making around the use of new or existing technologies and tools. I work as an entrepreneur to deliver value incrementally and frequently.

I drive direction of the larger Fiscal Year projects and programs, and constantly and consistently engage with other programs, projects and teams in the company. I build relationships and partnerships, helping to identify existing components and technologies that can be leveraged to deliver on organizational goals. I represent both the technical and business teams to senior leadership across the organization. I am a self-starter who works well in fast-paced and ambiguous environments, and I’m a fast learner who quickly understands the business as well as the businesses systems. I work with the line of business, legal, compliance, finance, and risk teams to assess and prioritize requirements. I act as problem solver, manager, analyst, reporter, deliverer, and leader. I work with leadership, sponsor, key stakeholders to ensure we move forward. I report both summary and detailed status to leadership and raise risks and issues as needed. I look forward to my next corporate family.

Don’t take my word for it, hear from a few of the colleagues I worked for and with:

Many more can be found on LinkedIn…


Difference between Centralized and Decentralized Resource Project Management

I’ve been asked several times about the differences between centralized and decentralized resource project management and which do I feel is more effective.

Centralized Resource Project Management – All project, program, and portfolio managers are in one group within the organization, usually under the EPMO. The thought here is that all resources are pooled under one group and any project, program, or portfolio manager can work on or manage any project, program, or portfolio within the organization since the management life cycle or process is very similar throughout the firm. This lends itself to an agnostic approach to project management. It does have its pros and cons.


  • All under one PMO following a single standard
  • A single enterprise source or repository for project and program management talent
  • Provides for easy rotation between business segments
  • Consistent work inputs and outputs


  • Not aligned specifically to business unit
  • More difficult to become a Subject Matter Expert for the business unit
  • PM usually doesn’t report directly to the Business Leader
  • Normally works in functional or matrixed environment with less authority
  • Additional overhead of a PMO

Decentralized Resource Project Management – Project, program, and portfolio managers work directly for a Line of Business. They will most likely become functional or projectized managers. They work directly under a Line of Business and are usually considered experts in their respective field. Usually reports directly to a director, VP, or CEO.


  • Typically, a projectized environment, so the PM has more authority over the project(s) and associated resources
  • The PM is most likely a subject matter expert (SME) in the line of business
  • PMs usually report into Line of Business managers so there is not as much overhead as a PMO


  • Siloed to one business unit; more ramp-up time is needed if the PM moves to a different business unit
  • Business unit may not follow a standard PM methodology
  • Lack of an adherence or cooperation to project management best practices

My answer to this question is that it depends on what the organization is looking to accomplish.  Both approaches work well in most organizations depending on how the firm determines to use their PMO and resources.

If the organization is looking to standardize their approach to Project management and would like to ensure that the PMO standards are used company wide, are looking for their PM resources to work in any segment or channel in the firm, and wants a single point of contact for PM resources. The centralized approach works to the benefit of everyone within the organization.  The centralized approach offers the one shop stop and standardized approach to project and program management.

However, the decentralized approach is better for an organization that is contemplating their PMs to be become an expert in segmented field of work or as a functional manager.   Also, this approach is better if the enterprise is not looking for a standardized management approach or doesn’t want the overhead of running a PMO as part of the enterprise.   The decentralized approach can be very effective if the segment specializes in an operational discipline.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had this AI or the next big things!

Back in 1977 George Lucas and 20th Century Fox released one of the greatest movies that I have ever seen. To this date, Star Wars: A new hope has made more money for Fox studios than any other film of its time; kudos to you Mr. Lucas! This movie gave us a glimpse of what we might expect in the future and I loved it.

Now-a-day, we enjoy some of the devices as shown on Sci-Fi movies and shows such as mobile phones, self-driving cars, and personal computers; but I was hoping for much more.  For example, in the Star Wars movies, they had holographic communicators; by now we should at least have see through phones.

Holo-Comm See-thru phone
Why are manufactures having trouble building the products people want?

Working with Technology

8 easy things to remember…

I wrote this guide to provide business partners with thoughts on an easy and efficient way to engage their technology partners.  It’s not always easy to embrace technology as it can be rather complex, my aim was to provide a simple guide to working with technology in order to drive project success.  Although the post is long, I’m hoping that you find it useful and will share it with others.

A blog for success by Richard Kottke
 Business to Technology Engagement History

Just as there are several ways to manage a project, there are many ways to engage in technical projects.

In the early to mid 20th century the modern computer was developed. This gave us the advantage of a computational machine that would complete business related tasks in a fraction of the time that it took a human resource to complete. At nearly the same time, computer science related project management became recognized as a discipline instead of the ad-hoc process of managing projects through a scheduled number of tasks.

Prior to this time, formal technology engagement was virtually non-existent. An assigned business lead would reach out directly to the technologist and provide them with spec’s on what was to be built. Most of the time the Research and Development group fulfilled the role of the technology group. There were no PC’s at that time and most main frame computers were leased from the major computer manufacturers or universities.

As the costs and size of computers came down, the need for project manager engagement with technology began to rise. Organizations discovered the numerous reporting capabilities of systems and requested technical projects from these systems. However, the engagement was undisciplined and unruly causing many delays and setbacks in project completion.

History of Advanced Computing Technology

Advanced Computing Technology – starts with the evolution of computing machines and software

Although there are several methodologies, programming languages, and hardware not included in the above timeline, the items listed have had a significant impact on today’s technological advances. With the innovation of the of the modern computer (CPU, memory, and peripherals), technology has moved forward in an unprecedented pace.
Technology has the ability to meet business needs at a much faster pace than it did in past. However, the ability to harness that power has been a challenge over the last 60+ years. Machines don’t speak a “human” language, nor do they comprehend human abstract thought. Thus, we rely on human technologists to explain/relay human thoughts to technology. The problem with that is we are all individuals and have unique ideas on how things should work. Applications developed through technology must be carefully planned in order to deliver expected results. Some of this is seen through the business use of methods that were developed specifically for building software applications, i.e. – Waterfall, Spiral, RAD, and Agile methods. Although these methods have their origins in software development, they have become ingrained in project management and are frequently discussed with business partners to ensure that the business receives expected product.


Through the 50’s to 70’s the need for a separate Technology team for the average to large company was rare. The equipment was expensive and the technologist were specialized and limited in ability. The existence of business administrative applications were also limited and those that did exist were mainly financial in nature. Because of these limitations, the technology teams that existed were managed and reported to the finance department.
The need for technical teams within an organization came about with the mass production of smaller hardware, faster software, the creation of online/mobile applications, and the ability of computers to perform complex tasks. With the rise of modern computing systems, leadership redefined their organizations similar to the image below. Several new departments were created to handle the technical needs.

In most current environments, these departments don’t report to business management. This would suggest that these resources are viewed as performing a separate function within the organization and thus work under a separate agenda. This may differ from the businesses itinerary.

Business, Technology, and Others…

Technology has a symbiotic relationship with other parts of an organization. It must work hand-in-hand with others to complete finished products.
  • Technology is responsible for producing products based on Business specifications.
  • The Business is responsible for creating products that meet the organization’s objectives.
  • Other parts of the organization are responsible for the guidelines and quality that are used to manage technology and confirm a quality product

Easy things to remember when working with Technology

The organizational funding process can be complex as it involves the entire organization. Since it is organization wide, the funding request from each group differs and may lead to disorder between the groups looking for funds. This misalignment usually causes a number of problems for both the business and technology groups, examples of these ‘direct impact’ issues are listed to the right.
Projects are expensive, not having startup funds to investigate, the time-frame, requirements, and resources to develop a new product can lead to problems. The business would like to create new products that not only meet customer needs, but follow the organizations direction and turn a profit for the organization. In order to realize the project’s cost benefit, there is a need for a high-level estimate of what the product will cost to build and get into production. There may be a thought that the tech partners will provide such a high-level estimate for free, that is not always the case.

Why, because in most cases technology is considered a profit center. This means that the business will need a cost center to bill tech project work, this includes providing high level estimates. If the project has a technical component, the business team will need to engage technology to get an initial project cost estimate.

The lack of required project approvals will slow down if not stop project work. Without these approvals, in most cases the project will be doomed for lack of support from stakeholders within the organization.
It is key to ensure that those stakeholders impacted by the project support the project. Stakeholders that have a perception the project will negatively impact their world must be notified of the project. They must have a good understanding of how the project will benefit them and the organization. Without stakeholder buy-in, the project is likely to fail. Getting approval up front will aid in project support, even from the nay-sayers.
The usual required  approvals:

  • Business case and benefits
  • Stakeholder approval
  • Funding
  • Risks, issues, and changes
  • Project Charter – PM authority to work on the project
  • Governance Document – project resources
  • Project Management Plan

In order to succeed, Technology must work with all parts of an organization. However, as part of that success it must not be tied directly to one specific part of the business. Technology must manage it’s own resources independently to be successful. It shouldn’t be aligned directly with others.
Technology uses a complex series of actions and steps to build product. This process has at least five phases and is used as the foundation to successfully meet customer’s requirements. The process includes steps for initiating, planning, designing, estimating, developing, managing, testing, and delivering the final expect product. The process is used to control project budget, risks, issues, resources, and communication.

Incorrectly engaging the technology group can lead to many problems such as cost overruns, unidentified risks and issues, project delays, incorrect estimates and so on.
Engaging Technology too early can lead to scope creep, funding issues, time delay and additional project costs. You may encounter project bias, early project spend, unneeded resourcing, and unwanted features.
Business product managers spend a lot of time researching and developing the right product. The product analysis should be complete prior to engaging technology. Allowing technical influences at this time would cause a deviation from the planned product.

Direct impacts to the product/project would include:

  • Additional Time
  • Stagnate or additional resources
  • Monies spent on non-project work

If engaged too early in the process, Technology partners may want to impose their thoughts on the finished product. This is not within their realm and can lead to a product that is not usable in the market…

SDLC is a process for working through the development of a new product.

  • The process starts with an initiation phase to confirm requirements and to get ready for design
  • Once design is complete, development or the build phase begins
  • After development is confirmed to be complete the project moves to the testing
  • This is where the Business will do UAT testing and approve the project to move forward into production
  • The final piece is approval and acceptance of the completed product.
  • Once approved, the product moves to production and the team moves on to the next technical project

In past years, technology would perform testing. This included such groups that supported the testing effort. In modern times, testing is managed by test management. This team is responsible for testing the product to ensure the final product meets approved requirements.

Testing Management – the Technology PM works with the testing management team to assign a Test Manager. The Test Manager provides the Test Management Plan.

Test Managers – Test Managers create the test schedule, review the plan and schedule with the project team, and obtain test planning approvals. Once approved, the testing team will move on to building test cases that tie back to requirements.

Project Testing – Testing is usually broken down into testing types such as:

  • Unit Testing – Testing done during development
  • System Integration Testing – a testing process to test coexistence with other apps or systems
  • User Acceptance testing – UAT is the last performed testing prior to acceptance. The results are usually used to secure product acceptance and approval

Developing and implementing new products may have a direct impact on the current organization systems. Depending on the product, the impact can be so great as to impede existing organizational products in production and lead to higher than expected errors and defects. The Test Manager or Project team should have a plan to manage and control cross system project impacts, most larger organizations have a separate group that manages the cross-system impacts.

Business partners may be unaware of a department within the organization known as Release Management. Release Management is the team that identifies, manages, and controls project implementation as well as cross-system impacts. Without this type of management, a project may impact another organizational system in such a way as to cause it to fail. Obviously, this would have a negative impact to the organization and needs to be avoided.

The RMO:

  • Monitors and controls all implementation activities
  • Confirms System Cross Dependencies
  • Plans and Schedules release work on a yearly basis

The inability to hold your technology accountable for their work will cause project delivery issues.

Impacts include:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Delays
  • Rising costs
  • Unclear expectation
  • Additional risks
  • Unclear design
  • Not getting the product you want.

Keep in mind, your Technology Partners are there to help you.


If you have any questions, need clarification, or want to learn more…

Contact your IT Director or Program Manager if you have any questions about working with Technology. These resources can aid in pulling in other technological groups (the PMO, Technology, Leadership) as required.