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I research, consult, and write about open dataproject managementnew mediastandardsgovernment transparencymobile technology, and collaboration. I’m currently working with BaleFire Global on developing open data programs and with Michael Kaplan PMP on SoftPMO project management services. Scroll down for recent “Managing Technology” posts:

Entries in Project Management (103)


Getting Real About “Open Data” Part II

When it comes to the “open” data associated with the program, some users will want raw data to do their own thing, some will be satisfied with self-service tools that allow them to interact with the data in various structured or defined ways, and others will be more comfortable relying on the services of intermediaries that understand the data, the tools, and are qualified to interpret the information requirements of those they serve.

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When are collaboration “barriers” good for innovation?

I’ve seen too many instances of “bottom-up” or “middle out” innovation where groups of people got together, grabbed the tools at hand, and started working together without waiting for senior management or central IT to show the way.

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Problems With Résumé Driven Hiring

By Dennis D. McDonald. Ph.D.
Michael Loukides’ O’Reilly Radar article Resume Driven Development laments how too much hiring in the software development world is based on what resumes say about easy-to-label software tools and not enough on the applicant’s actual design and decision-making skills.

It’s probably too easy to blame HR for latching on to what programmer resumes say about tool experience and certifications. Who can can blame them for “taking the easy way out” in screening when each advertised position generates a flood of resumes?

Having been involved in hiring both technical and nontechnical staff I can attest that this situation is not limited to the spheres of programming and software development. It’s true with any profession where there’s a constant turnover in tools and techniques. Applicants are taught to incorporate certain keywords into the resume to please automated tools that perform initial screenings. Figuring out what the applicants’ real judgment, design, and decision-making skills are requires actual time-consuming conversations with knowledgeable individuals who understand what target positions actually require. That process can be expensive when done right.

There’s another simple truth underlying the hiring process for technical positions: who wants to take the time and money to train someone on Tool X if you can hire a Tool X person somebody else has already taken the time and money to train?

Given that so many technical jobs are short term or temporary contract positions, the expectation of prospective employees is that staff will jump from project to project as they acquire experience and skills. Add constant tool advances to a job hopping culture and you can see how any effort to shorten the hiring process will be tried, especially in organizations with a tendency towards bureaucracy and functional or departmental specialization.

Which gets us back to the “meat” of Loukides’ article: the need to reach beyond tool knowledge and certifications to more subtle and difficult to measure skills. I have a similar reaction whenever I see things like “Microsoft Project” and certification such as “PMP” on applicant resumes. I know these things are important but I always want to to ask, “But can you actually manage a project?

I’m no hiring expert. I figure that professionals in HR field hear these kinds of complaints all the time. As someone with a lot of small and midsize business experience, though, the process of hiring often is done in a hurry and on top of everything else that has to be done in servicing clients and running a company. Things don’t always work in an ideal way. The result is that hiring — and firing — often get to be skills learned on the job while using whatever tools are at hand and familiar.

Breaking out of such a rut is hard and hopefully one can do so without making too many bad hiring decisions!

Related reading:

Thanks to Thomas Gideon (@cmdln) whose initial tweet brought Loukides’ article to my attention.

Copyright © 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a project management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. He is currently working with Michael Kaplan PMP on SoftPMO project management services and with BaleFire Global on open data programs. His experience includes consulting company ownership and management, database publishing and data transformation, managing the integration of large systems, corporate technology strategy, social media adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. His web site is located and his email address is On Twitter he is @ddmcd


SoftPMO Mobile Communication Strategy Survey

The SoftPMO project management system (see employs reusable and customizable process “templates” that help project managers rapidly plan and efficiently manage critical project management processes.

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Dear Project Manager: What's Your Mobile Communication Strategy?

You’re a modern project manager. You use modern tools to help run your project and communicate with your team, your project sponsors, and your stakeholders. Where do mobile technologies like smart phones, tablets, and wearables fit in?

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Management Needs Data Literacy To Run Open Data Programs

Whether you have useful information stored in documents or in data sets you also need at some point to have the ability and skill to manage or at least understand the processes involved in gathering and analyzing the data.

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Don’t Let Tools Drive Enterprise Data Strategy

Isaac Sacolick’s Friend or Foe? How Microsoft Excel 2013 Creates New Data Governance Challenges is a refreshing look at the challenges organizations face as the capabilities of data management tools outstrip the policies and processes for governing how such tools are used.

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Data Transparency Needs Data Strategy!

We want systems and processes to be more effective and transparent, we want to be able to take advantage of improved standards and technologies when they make sense — but we also need to balance the cost benefits of change in a fiscally austere and change resistant environment.

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How Should DATA Act Implementation Impact Federal Project Management Practices?

While a central program management operation can define detailed technical requirements, technical approaches, and management tools, implementation work needs to be occurring locally – while the “train is still running.” How this overall governance process is managed will determine how long DATA Act implementation takes, how much it costs, and whether or not it is successful.

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Real World Project Management: The Communications Management Plan

you need an online place to go where all the project “basics” are available to all team members and stakeholders as well as up to date information about ongoing work.

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