Episode 5: Tales From The Front

Episode #5
Original Air Date: 03.01.2016

35 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Mike Hayes

The team interviews Mike Hayes about his role in the Olympic Games, and he shares some incredible stories about the challenges he faced to meet the strict deadline of the lighting of the torch. Hayes also discusses the Sharepoint update at the CDC. He has an extensive background in managing projects and helping others become project managers.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"We had 700 volunteers to man these badging stations. So that was a whole ‘nother set of stakeholders. Then you actually have the constituents themselves coming in. And so now you have the logistics and the challenge of people coming in who are from Third World countries, don’t speak the language. And you’re telling them, put your hand inside this metal box, and trying to communicate how to do that."

- Mike Hayes

"All the collaborative tools we have, there’s still nothing beats face-to-face communication. There’s just no substitute for it. Maybe one day we’ll evolve the technology to a point where that’s less important. But today it still is. It doesn’t matter how much screen time you get, what collaborative tools you have. Face-to-face communication is just a great thing."

- Andy Crowe

"That daily status report meeting wasn’t – some people see it as an unnecessary burden. It was the valuable tool. When you’ve got large complex projects like the ones the CDC is doing, it allowed the CDC to continue its critical worldwide mission of disease control and prevention."

- Mike Hayes

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ANDY CROWE ● BILL YATES ● NICK WALKER ● MIKE HAYES

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  It’s a chance to meet up and discuss what really matters to you.  Whether you’re a professional project manager or on the road to becoming one, we cover topics such as project management certification, doing the job of project management, and we get input from some of the movers and shakers in the industry.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and beside me are the guys who have your back when it comes to project management.  They are our resident experts, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  They’ve seen the world of project management from inside and outside, from the bottom up and from the top down, and they want you to benefit from their expertise and see you succeed.

Andy and Bill, last time we talked about how project management sometimes seems to have its own language.  So let’s talk about one word in that language, and that word is “stakeholder.”  Let me ask, in the project management space, is a stakeholder the same as a shareholder?  What’s the difference?  Andy, what do you mean by ”stakeholder”?

ANDY CROWE:  That’s a great question, Nick.  You know “stakeholder” is getting the spotlight these days.  Stakeholder management, stakeholders in general are getting a lot of attention.  And it’s probably overdue attention.  So, no, “stakeholder” and “shareholder” might be different things.  Shareholders oftentimes are owners, in one sense, so that kind of makes sense.  But a stakeholder, the way we define it in project management, it’s anyone with an interest in the project.  And here is the catch.  It’s anyone with an interest, and it can be positive, or it can be negative.  This can be people – there are stakeholders who want your project to fail.  And you have to manage those stakeholders, as well.  So it’s a really tricky proposition.

That said, when we talk about stakeholders most of the time, and we use this term within the Velociteach office all the time, when we talk about stakeholders we’re generally talking about a select group that we know as key stakeholders.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, key stakeholders.  So a stakeholder, anyone who holds a stake.  As a project manager, we need to be very aware of those people that are interested or have influence over our projects.  But the key stakeholders, to Andy’s point, the key stakeholders are the people who we look to to define the scope, to help us determine when delivery dates are going to occur, budgets, those kinds of things.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  You typically identify these people before you try and gather requirements, before you flesh out what the project’s going to be about.  You get in touch with the people who have a key interest.  And so this is interesting.  We use a tool to do this.  Bill, tell us, tell us about it.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, we’ve got a stakeholder analysis grid.  There’s a, I think we’ve actually got an automated spreadsheet that we can use to help survey stakeholders.  It’s something a project team would use early on in a project, and may have to revisit it, as well.  But again, what we’re trying to do is survey or ask questions of those stakeholders to determine what is their relative level of interest and influence on our project.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  And you typically plot the interest on the Y axis and the influence on the X axis.  I don’t guess it really matters which one is which.  But the idea is that the people in that top right quadrant, the ones that have a lot of interest and the ones who are able to influence the organization, those get a lot of attention.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  Is all this based on conversations with these people?  Or just your impressions of them?  How do you gather this information?

BILL YATES:  Yes and yes.  Fortunately, that’s one reason we created those tools was to be able to be a little more analytical about it.  But, yeah, it’s a lot about what are the impressions of my project team members as we interface with these stakeholders early in the project.  And so, yeah, it’s surveying, it’s interviews, it’s asking the sponsor directly.  The sponsor is perhaps the most important stakeholder – perhaps.  So we want to ask that person’s opinion, what’s her opinion of the people that we should be engaging.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and I would counter that and say, all things being equal, and they never are, the customer is generally the most important stakeholder.  Customer has a little bit more weight than everybody else.  The sponsor – and the customer and the sponsor are oftentimes the same person.  But Nick, the funny thing is, when you walk into a project, when you begin a project, sometimes you have a pretty good list already, walking in day one, of here are the stakeholders you need to really engage, here are the key stakeholders, these three people, these five people, these 10 groups, whatever.  And the bigger the project, oftentimes the longer that list becomes.

NICK WALKER:  So Andy and Bill, all this really is great background for a conversation with our special guest on today’s podcast.  Mike Hayes is our guest here in the Manage This studio today.  He has an extensive background in managing projects and helping others become project managers.  Great to have you here in person, Mike.  Welcome.

MIKE HAYES:  Great.  Thanks to be here, Nick.

NICK WALKER:  Hey, tell us a little bit about yourself, Mike.  Where did you actually begin your career?

MIKE HAYES:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I started serving the Air Force out of high school, about 14-and-a-half years there, primarily working at the National Security Agency, and then the last four years at the Air Force Standard Systems Center.

NICK WALKER:  And we are grateful to you for serving our country, Mike.  Where did you go after you left the Air Force?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  I’ve spent the last 24 years as an IT project program manager on various projects, everything from logistics projects for the Air Force; the infamous Y2K projects at the State of Georgia; network technology projects at Bell South; and then, really notably, it was a great privilege of mine to work for these two guys, Andy and Bill, for three years, teaching their extraordinary course on how to pass the PMP.

BILL YATES:  Hey, that was our privilege.  We still have trophies around here with Mike Hayes’s name on them, I’m sure.  It was great having you on the team.

MIKE HAYES:  Thanks a lot.

NICK WALKER:  So, Mike, you’ve heard our conversation so far about stakeholders.  I’m guessing that you probably encountered some pretty diverse stakeholders in your consulting career.  What jumps out at you when you think about past-project stakeholders?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  When I think about stakeholders, two projects really jump to mind, to me.  It’s one that I did many years ago, back in the ‘90s, with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games in ‘96; and then a more recent one, one that I recently did with the CDC.

NICK WALKER:  I think I’ve heard of those.  Hey, pretty impressive, and two projects that would definitely include a diverse set of stakeholders.  Let’s start with the Atlanta Olympics.  Tell us more about that one.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  My Atlanta Olympic project, I was responsible for building the badging station.  That was the station that would produce approximately 250,000 badges or credentials for all the constituents that needed a credential to get into the Olympics.  And then the second project, the CDC project, that’s the one where we stood up an entirely new infrastructure.  We were migrating the CDC users from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013.  So we built an entirely new infrastructure for that.

NICK WALKER:  So you’ve got a pretty dedicated project team.  You’ve got a group of experts together here.  Tell us how that all worked together.  I mean, we’re talking about a lot of people; right?

MIKE HAYES:  Absolutely.  And so when I – if we just talk about the Olympic project, when I think about stakeholders there, I really had two key stakeholders.  And Andy, you’ve already touched on them, and that’s the customer stakeholder being the primary stakeholder.  I had two.  I had the accreditation department.  They were a customer.  And of course they’re responsible for giving me the requirements of what the badge looked like and what the data was on the badge.  And then I had the security department, and they were responsible for giving the requirements of how a person with a badge gets into a venue.

BILL YATES:  So are these – let me just jump in, Mike.  So this is circa 1996.  1994, ‘95, when is this getting going?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah, great.  ‘93 is when I started.

BILL YATES:  ‘93, okay.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  And so those two departments, security and accreditation?

MIKE HAYES:  Mm-hmm.

BILL YATES:  Are those part of ACOG?

MIKE HAYES:  They are, exactly.

BILL YATES:  Okay, all right.  So you’ve got those.  And then – but this is easy technology, right, right off the shelf?  So you’ve working with people that have that and just go get it?

MIKE HAYES:  Well, you would think so because we’ve got a lot of Olympics before us, right, accreditations at every one of them.  It’s real simple.  But, you know, when the United States takes on a project, we’ve got to show the world how we can do it bigger, better, faster than anybody else.  And that’s where the rubber really met the road there.

BILL YATES:  Okay, gotcha.

MIKE HAYES:  So those stakeholders that we talked about, the accreditation customer stakeholder and the security stakeholder, they then had stakeholders, which were our vendor stakeholders.  And that’s really where the rubber met the road, so to speak.  The accreditation stakeholder, they had a contract with a vendor, which was Kodak, to print the badges.  And the security stakeholder, they had a contract with a vendor, Sensormatic, and they wanted to promote their hand geometry unit, or their biometric technology that they wanted to put into the badges.

BILL YATES:  And just to step back for a moment, so these are the badges that – you have athletes, you have officials coming in from countries all over the world.  They land, and they have to get these badges in order to get in and out of the venues that are a part of the Olympic Games.  So these are the things hanging around their necks.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  Okay.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s exactly right.

BILL YATES:  Got it.  So you’re having to work – so Kodak and Sensormatic.  So these are companies that have already been selected.  So your job as the PM is to work with them to figure out how you’re going to integrate their technologies.

MIKE HAYES:  Exactly.  And Kodak, of course, at the time they had just come out with a new printer to print color photo images and graphics directly to a plastic badge.  And so that’s the product they wanted to promote.  Sensormatic, they wanted – they had this hand geometry unit that was the new biometric technology.  So that was a product they wanted to promote.

BILL YATES:  Okay.  So this is – and I’m trying, I mean, my brain is going sci-fi here, Andy, Nick, I don’t know if it’s – so we’re talking hand geometry.  So this is back – this is 20 years ago or so; right?

MIKE HAYES:  Mm-hmm.

BILL YATES:  So this is the science to read the hand and put that information into a chip, into a badge.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and you know, that’s not new technology.  They had that back at the University of Georgia cafeteria back in the ‘80s.

BILL YATES:  Oh, really.

ANDY CROWE:  You would put your hand, it would take some metrics, read it, and admit you or tie it to your account.  So it’s interesting.  That’s not – that particular thing, I’m sure there were upgrades for the Olympics.  I’m reminded, Mike, of the movie “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and the great quote when they say, “Badges?  We don’t need no stinking badges.”  So you didn’t have anybody try and bypass security that way; did you?

MIKE HAYES:  Right.  No, we didn’t.  And talking about – you’re right, it is old technology.  It was – a lot of YMCAs use hand geometry.  And that technology is pretty simple.  It’s just a box that’s mounted about – box is maybe eight-by-eight cubed, mounted at the door.  And typically you go and you put your hand in it, you register in that box, and it saves your hand.  So when you come up you type your PIN, put your hand in, bam, you’re in the door.

ANDY CROWE:  Mike, I’ve got another question for you.  I read a great book by a local author, Dick Yarbrough.  And Dick was sort of the communications guy for ACOG, for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.  And he wrote a fascinating book, I think the title is “And They Call Them Games,” about how the Olympics were secured, how they were executed, how they were carried out.  And he didn’t have a lot of kind things to say about the media, and sometimes about the City of Atlanta itself, in that book.  But let me ask you this.  You said you had two stakeholders, two key stakeholders, the accreditation and who else?

MIKE HAYES:  Security.

ANDY CROWE:  Security.  But beyond that you really can look at it and say, for the games themselves, and even for this component of the badging, society becomes a stakeholder.  Now, were you buffered from that by other people?  Or did you have to, at times, interface with some of the people who – some of the other stakeholders coming in from the outside?

MIKE HAYES:  Oh, absolutely.  We had 700 volunteers to man these badging stations.  So that was a whole ‘nother set of stakeholders.  Then you actually have the constituents themselves coming in.  And so now you have the logistics and the challenge of people coming in who are from Third World countries, don’t speak the language.  And you’re telling them, put your hand inside this metal box, and trying to communicate how to do that.

BILL YATES:  I’m not going to trust you with that.  Are you kidding me?

MIKE HAYES:  It was really, really some unique challenges.

ANDY CROWE:  Sure.

NICK WALKER:  So you’ve got a lot of people that you’ve got to please.  And of course people say you can please some of the people some of the time.  But is this a situation where you really are trying to please all of the people, all of the time?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  Good, great question, Nick.  Really, when it comes down to it, you obviously have the objective to please them all.  But at the end of the day, it’s the customers, it’s the accreditation, and it’s the security department.  It’s their requirements that we’ve got to figure out, how do we implement?  And remember, this is the Olympics.  This is what makes this project so unique.  The ‘96 Olympics were going to open on July 19th, 1996.  And somehow we had to have 250,000 badges on-time delivered by that date.

BILL YATES:  250,000.

MIKE HAYES:  Thousand.

ANDY CROWE:  Wow.

MIKE HAYES:  And 90 percent of that 250,000 were produced in the last two weeks, just before their [crosstalk], because that’s when it all – that’s when all the data comes together.  That’s when everybody’s approved.  That’s when all your stations are in place.

ANDY CROWE:  Do you remember how exciting it was when Muhammad Ali ran up, were you surprised, and lit the Olympic torch?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah, mm-hmm.

ANDY CROWE:  So did he have a badge?

MIKE HAYES:  That’s a great question, Andy.  I can – I don’t know about Muhammad Ali.  He may not have.  But I do know, speaking with Nick here, I know you’re with the Weather Channel.  You’ll remember Al Roker and Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, they were “The Today Show.”  Well, I produced badges for them.  I produced badges for Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter personally.  So that level of VIP do get badges.

ANDY CROWE:  I am really, really sorry that we didn’t know each other in 1996.  You would have been a great guy to know.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s right, yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Can I get a badge?

BILL YATES:   No kidding, yeah.  I need some access here, Mike.

NICK WALKER:  So you’ve got the Kodak people saying, okay, we’ve got to print on the plastic badge all of the security information, their photograph, everything that’s going to get them in the door.  Plus you’ve got the other folks who’ve got to install this chip somehow within the badge to get the biometrics.  Okay.  Seems like easy enough; right?

MIKE HAYES:  Right, exactly.  Well, we’ve talked about the hand geometry unit, how it’s old technology.  Problem is it’s designed to hold your hand geometry code in the unit itself.  That method doesn’t work for us.  I couldn’t take 250,000 people, take them to a hundred different access points and say, register yourself here.  We had to get your hand geometry unit into a microchip, into a badge, so that it was with you, so when you got to a location it would read your badge, and it would match the code in your badge to your hand.  So that was the technology challenge.  Well, Kodak’s wanting to print to a plastic badge.  We say no problem, we’ll just embed a microchip into another plastic badge, we’ll encode that hand geometry unit, and you’ll be all set.  Not so easy.

NICK WALKER:  What made it particularly difficult?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  The Kodak badge is a very, very thin badge that goes to that Kodak printer.  So now we spent two years, I spent two years with Sensormatic in an RT project, trying to manufacture a badge that was thick enough to embed an RF chip into it, but thin enough that would actually go through the printer.  The project never planned for two years of R&D.

NICK WALKER:  And how did that work out for you?

MIKE HAYES:  Well, after about – because of that hard deadline we talked about earlier, we finally had to abandon it.  We got really, really close, I can tell you.  I tested so many badges.  We got really close, but we never could perfect it in time.  So at the end result we had to fall back to our contingency plan, was print the photo badge on a Kodak badge, and then produce a thicker plastic badge, a second badge, to embed the RF chip into, and then marry those two badges together on a lanyard, is what ultimately happened.

NICK WALKER:  And that was the result of how many years of…

MIKE HAYES:  Well, yeah, it was, for me, it was two-and-a-half years of work just to do that, just to produce that badge.

NICK WALKER:  Amazing.

BILL YATES:  So Mike, during that time, I’m sure you had some technical hurdles to overcome.  You had to keep going back to your key stakeholders and asking the people in that area, okay, what’s a negotiable and what’s not?  As you pointed out, Muhammad Ali was going to light the torch.  The Olympics were going to happen.  Within the project management world we talk about what are the – or when bad things happen, we want to know upfront with our sponsor or key stakeholder, what’s negotiable and what’s not?  You know, is scope negotiable?  Is the quality negotiable?  Is the budget?  Is the time?  The Olympics were going to happen on that date that you quoted.  It was going to happen.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  We had to be ready or not.  And then, you know, back it up a few weeks, people are going to start landing, getting off the plane and going into the facility to get that badge.  So you guys had to really have your act together.  So as you were talking with the key stakeholders, how did you – how did that conversation go when it came to, okay, what’s negotiable?  What’s not?  Help me to keep my team focused on the ball here.

MIKE HAYES:  Right.  The key thing is, the security stakeholder, obviously their number one responsibility is to protect the constituents of the Olympic Games.  And so that’s a trump card that they had that was extremely difficult to work around.  They were going to have hand geometry.  And to the vendors themselves, these vendors aren’t just wanting to put their name on something.  They’re coming with tremendous amounts of goods and services and technology and product.  Nobody at the Olympic Committee is going to ask those vendors to take your goods and go home.  So you have to recognize they’re almost an immovable object, as well.  So those are some key things that you have to keep in mind.

NICK WALKER:  So you have to identify who’s in power, who has the influence.  I guess those are the two big things.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s exactly right, Nick.  That’s exactly what drove the decision-making.  When it gets down to the 11th hour, what are we going to let go, and what do we have to move on with?

BILL YATES:  There’s one other thing, and I think I may recall this from some of our conversations that we had when we were on the team together, Mike.  I recall when we’ve talked about this project in the past, there was, I mean, we talked about one of the technical hurdles, trying to create one badge that has the chip in it and will go through the Kodak printer and all that.  There was also a matter of computer capabilities and speed.  You didn’t want former President Jimmy Carter standing in line for 15 minutes to go through and create this badge.  So you guys had to struggle with that a bit, too; didn’t you?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah, absolutely.  We had to – the 700 users that we’ve talked about, they had to be trained.  But speaking of Jimmy Carter, there is an interesting story that probably nobody knows outside this room.  So it may be a handful of people, I can list them on one hand, who know the story.

NICK WALKER:  They will now.

MIKE HAYES:  When we were meeting with our accreditation stakeholder for planning purposes, me and Bob Pound, my developer, it was his idea, he said, “There needs to be a backdoor into this badging station.”  Because the technology of the badging station is real simple.  You sit down at a computer.  That computer is connected to a network.  When you walk up, Bill, and say, “I’m here for my credential,” we would put in your accreditation number.  That computer would go off to an IBM mainframe to find your credentials.  Who are you?  What’s your title?  Where are you allowed to be?  So when we got that information, we would print that to the badge.

Two weeks before the games, I’m headed to the Atlanta accreditation, the Atlanta Airport accreditation center.  I get a call from Johanna Asher, who was my accreditation stakeholder, my customer.  She says – and we had talked to her six months before about a backdoor.  She said, “I don’t think we need a backdoor, but it’s your deal.  You guys don’t – if you do it, don’t tell me about it.”

ANDY CROWE:  And you know why, because she saw “War Games,” and she knows what happens when you put in a backdoor.

MIKE HAYES:  That’s right.  So she really did not, wasn’t comfortable with this idea because of the security implications.  Driving to the airport, I get a phone call from Johanna Asher.  She says, “Mike, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter are on their way to the downtown accreditation center, and we do not have a connection to the IBM mainframe.  The network is down, and he will be here in 15 minutes.  What are we going to do?”

Like Superman, put my cape on, go into the downtown Atlanta accreditation center.  I call Bob Pound.  He meets me there because nobody else knows the backdoor.  He takes Jimmy Carter to one badging station.  I take Rosalynn Carter to the other badging station, and we backdoored it.  We were told what their credentials should be.  We entered them into the badging station without any connection to the mainframe system, printed their badges, press was there, Billy Payne was there, they were all there.  To this day, nobody knows what Bob Pound and I know, and that is that, without the backdoor, there would have been a massive press incident that the system was down.

BILL YATES:  Oh, my goodness.

ANDY CROWE:  Wow.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Headline story averted.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.

NICK WALKER:  That’s what that – that’s great.  Great stories, Mike.  Really appreciate it.  Lots of things that we can learn from.  Well, we have some time left.  Let’s talk a little bit about the project at the Center for Disease Control that you’ve recently completed.

MIKE HAYES:  Great, thanks.  Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is the full title, and that is – the headquarters is here in Atlanta.  And that is the global entity for fighting disease and prevention of disease around the world.  It is the premier organization for doing that kind of research.

BILL YATES:  Now, just to jump in, if someone watches “The Walking Dead,” they may think the CDC no longer exists.  But it’s still there; right?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah, absolutely.  Matter of fact, you know, it’s in the news today.  The Zika virus is in the news today, and the CDC is the lead stakeholder there in researching that particular and managing that event.

NICK WALKER:  Right.  This was a SharePoint project.  Explain a little bit about what SharePoint is.

MIKE HAYES:  Sure.  Microsoft’s SharePoint platform is really a collaborative environment where users can coordinate meetings, coordinate calendars, coordinate workflows, store documents.  It’s really an all-encompassing office product.

ANDY CROWE:  And, Mike, it’s trivial to implement; right?  You just plug it in and turn it on; correct?

MIKE HAYES:  Exactly.  Not so much, Andy, but nice try.

ANDY CROWE:  Sorry, I’m reading marketing brochures.  No, I’ve deployed SharePoint before.  It’s been quite a while.  And I’m aware it can put some gray hair on our head.

BILL YATES:  But an upgrade, I mean, that’s simple; right?  They were already using SharePoint.  All you did was upgrade it.  Come on.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  Yeah.  And like every product, there are vendors, third-party vendors, who are constantly building bolt-ons to SharePoint.  And talking about stakeholders, these are two stakeholders – Microsoft’s a stakeholder, vendors are stakeholders – and they don’t always meet and even talk to each other.  They just build it and say – and plug it in.  Well, now it’s our job at the CDC and for this particular project to migrate our 2010 platform to a 2013 platform.  Primarily my job is around the infrastructure, is standing up the iron to host SharePoint 2013.

NICK WALKER:  So we’ve got people who are – you’re trying to get them all on the same page here.  They have maybe limitations to their vision of the project.  How do you pull all this together?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah, the most – the core stakeholder I would see for this particular project really was my project team.  They’re the ones who had to do the heavy lifting.  So I’m assigned the team that does the 24/7 operation and care and feeding and support of the existing SharePoint 2010 infrastructure.  So that sounds like the right group; right?

NICK WALKER:  You’d think so, yeah.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  So that’s who I’m assigned to.  So I get them.  And about four or five months into the project, I’m finding this is just not working; right?  And so what I realized was, just because you are doing support of an existing environment, existing platform, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got all the skills to go build a new infrastructure, an infrastructure that was designed, now designed to be five times bigger.  SharePoint 2010 runs on about 30 servers.  SharePoint 2013, we’ve got it deployed to about 150 servers.

ANDY CROWE:  Wow.

BILL YATES:  Wow.

MIKE HAYES:  So…

NICK WALKER:  So you’ve got a project team with limited bandwidth to support a project, not necessarily all the technical skills needed for the project.  Any other components to this?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, let me – Mike, one thing I’ve got to jump in with.  I mean, the CDC has incredibly smart people; right?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  And my understanding is there are a lot of silos there.  There are areas of specialty, you know, depending on the scientist who’s running a department, perhaps.  So I would think, if you’re doing this organization-wide, you’re going to have – you’d have a – I would have a hard time figuring out who is my key stakeholder.  It seems to change every day as to whoever the loudest doctor or professor happens to be.  How did you manage that?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  For the most part, because this was an existing, we were really trying to migrate what the doctors and those centers and those offices do.  We were trying to take their current content and migrating it to a new platform.  So there wasn’t a great deal of that kind of customer stakeholder influence, other than the fact that we could not disturb their world.  The migration could not – they couldn’t be down.  And so all of this had to happen, it was President’s Day weekend last February, where it was a three-day weekend, and that’s when we had to do – it was a forklift of everything over that three-day weekend.  So our team probably didn’t sleep much at all from Friday night to Tuesday morning to get all the stuff moved.

NICK WALKER:  With so many stakeholders here, you’re trying to herd them all together, it seems like communication becomes a real key element here.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah, it really does.  And you were talking about how big the organization is and the silos, Bill.

BILL YATES:  Right.

MIKE HAYES:  Well, another thing that creates the same kind of silos is because of the size.  We have multiple campuses all over the City of Atlanta.  So I worked for the PMO office, and I’m at one campus.  And I’ve been running infrastructure projects there for seven years.  And for the most part, you can do them via Lync conference bridge, and you have your weekly meetings.  And that usually will get you through the difficult pieces of planning and executing a project.  This one was too big.  This team was too covered up.

And so finally I realized I – I’d look at the stakeholder in the mirror, Nick, which was me, the project manager, and say, you know what, I’ve got to pack up.  I’ve got to move into the other campus to where my project team was.  Until then, I was – I didn’t even have – most of these people I had never even met face-to-face.  I was just a name.  So moving in allowed me to put a face to a name.  It allowed them to begin to trust me, that I wasn’t just some faceless person throwing work at them via email and not appreciating their normal daily responsibilities.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, Mike, all the collaborative tools we have, there’s still nothing beats face-to-face communication.  There’s just no substitute for it.  Maybe one day we’ll evolve the technology to a point where that’s less important.  But today it still is.  It doesn’t matter how much screen time you get, what collaborative tools you have.  Face-to-face communication is just a great thing.

MIKE HAYES:  Absolutely.  It saved my tail.  It saved the project.  It allowed – it opened me up to seeing the strengths and weaknesses of my team, seeing the need for additional skill set to the team; and then I was able to go back to my sponsor stakeholders and intelligently justify and lobby, here’s why I need another skill set.  Here’s why I need another body.

NICK WALKER:  So what is the state of SharePoint 2013 at the CDC today?

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  Proudly to say it was successful.  We got through that weekend.  And it’s been up for a year now.  So it’s doing very well.  We still do these – we still do our daily stand-ups.  When I moved in, we started doing daily meetings, not weekly meetings, and that was really a critical factor, similar to the scrum idea, which I’ve heard you guys talk about before, that it helps you to find out what did we do yesterday; what are we going to do today; and, collectively, what are the obstacles in our way that we can all figure out and work through to keep us moving?

The project’s over, but I’m still there.  There’s still plenty of work to do to continue to enhance SharePoint 2013.  So what we’re doing, we’re now back to our daily meetings, down to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Matter of fact, there’s a meeting going on right now, as we speak, our Friday morning meeting.

BILL YATES:  So a couple of nuggets that I’ve heard from you, Mike, just with this example with the CDC and SharePoint upgrade.  You realized during the project that you needed to amp it up; you needed to be face-to-face with your team, be in touch with those stakeholders at a whole ‘nother level.  And that was a breakthrough for you.  So that’s a great takeaway for us.  The other, just the need to even go further and have like a daily standup, like you said.  It’s almost like an Agile or a scrum practice was needed because of the urgency.  And I’m sure as you guys got closer to that President’s Day weekend, and that no sleep, the need to have frequent communication just became very important.

MIKE HAYES:  Yeah.  That daily status report meeting wasn’t – some people see it as an unnecessary burden.  It was the valuable tool.  When you’ve got large complex projects like the ones the CDC is doing, it allowed the CDC to continue its critical worldwide mission of disease control and prevention.

NICK WALKER:  Mike, great stuff.  Thanks so much for being our guest here today in the studio on Manage This.  We love the stories that you brought from project management trenches.  And what a great way to drive home the importance of strong stakeholder management.  We appreciate your time, your expertise, and your candor, as well.  And as a token of our appreciation, we want to present you with this coveted Golden Goblet Award, better known as the Manage This coffee cup.

MIKE HAYES:  Love it.  Thank you very much.  It was a privilege.

NICK WALKER:  Drink from it with pride.  Hey, before we sign off, Andy, you told us a little bit about your writing projects last time.  How are those coming along?  Any updates you can share with us?

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, they’re coming along well, Nick.  It’s funny with me.  What works for me is I will write about 30, 45 minutes a day.  And I’ll sit down, I’ll get somewhere quiet, and I’ll keep a jot list, and I’ll turn ideas, and I’ll just work some each day.  I budget time.  It warmed my heart the other day, I saw my son carrying around a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point.”  And it just reminded me, that’s kind of how these projects go is I’ll make notes, I’ll make notes, I’ll massage those notes, I’ll turn some of it into copy.  And then at some point that reaches critical mass, and sort of the project takes on a life of its own.

So that’s where I am.  Things are moving forward continually, and I’m excited about it.  And I’ll have more to share at some undisclosed point when this whole assignment actually tips and turns into something real.  But right now it’s coming along well.  It’s a good creative time for me, thanks.

NICK WALKER:  Great to hear.  Yeah, we look forward to that time when we can hear more.  Andy Crowe, Bill Yates, thanks again for sharing your expertise.  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on March 15th for our next podcast.

In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And be sure and tweet us at @manage_this – that’s @manage_this – if you have any questions about project management certifications, whether it’s the PMP, the CAPM, PMI, ACP, CSM, PgMP, or PfMP.  Or maybe you’d like to be a guest on the show.  We’d love to hear your stories, as well.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

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