Article: A Letter to Santa


Here are some trends in project management software we’d like to see Santa deliver this year.

Well it’s December at last and thoughts naturally turn to the Christmas season.  I’ve always found it interesting that among other projects, Christmas morning never seems to be late.  I mean when you compare your family project of getting presents for the kids, trimming the tree etc. it’s interesting that all of the circumstances that seem able to stop other projects never seem to appear.  You never hear on Christmas morning, “I’m sorry kids, due to technical reasons, Christmas has been postponed a few days.”  Hmmm, the power of Christmas.

I figured that if Christmas is this powerful for project management, then perhaps a letter to Santa on some trends I’d like to see for the next year might find a friendly ear.  It’s not for me of course, just a few things all of us might use for

So here’s my list:

Dear Santa,

I’ve been awfully good this year and instead of asking for something just for myself, I thought I might ask you for something I could share with others in the project management industry.  It’s been a challenging year for project management software vendors and I thought if you and the elves could spare some time, you might be able to find a way to get the following into my Christmas stocking:

My first request Santa is for the pm software vendors.  Is there any way you could get them to all use the same language?  It’s tough enough trying to figure out how these systems work without everyone using different terms for the same thing.  I mean is a task an activity or is a resource budget the same as a requirement?  Is availability the same as a profile?  It’s been confusing Santa and if you could just give us a common lexicon that everyone would promise to follow; we’d have an easier time of it.  It’s not just the list of terms we’d need Santa.  We’ve got too many lists is the problem.  If only everyone could use the same one we’d have it made

While we’re talking about language, the Earned Value people could use some help again.  Is there any way you could help them to use more actual words in their industry?  It’s bad enough that every couple of years, they rename the guidelines they use to define the industry but the acronyms they use reminds me of what Norm Augustin once said.  You remember him Santa?  He was the chairman of Martin Marietta Corporation and once wrote that ‘Acronyms and abbreviations should be used to the maximum extent possible to make the trivial seem significant.’  Now, I’m not trying to say the Earned Value movement is trivial but when a sentence like “While looking at the ACWP and the BCWP in our our SV and CV reports this month I’d like to update our BCWS to get closer to our thresholds.” makes sense, isn’t it time to try to get back to some simpler language?  I mean surely the Earned Value movement must wonder why more people haven’t adopted what is clearly a very powerful method of evaluating project progress.

Santa, I think the software developers have been innovating but frankly it’s tough to tell based on their marketing people.  Apparently this year “collaboration” is in and “desktop project management” is out.  I know lots of people have been asking you for a project management tool of one kind or another under their tree this Christmas.  But Santa, do you think you could get the marketing people of the different vendors to each promote something different so we could tell them apart.  I get so confused at the PMI Symposium in the Exhibition hall when every booth says they have “Enterprise-Wide Collaborative Project Management software” that say they integrate with everything from my finance system to my watch.  Surely there must be some differences between all these products?  Is there any way you could send the marketing people back to classes to learn that first critical lesson called Segmenting the Market?

Also Santa (I know I’ve already asked you for a lot.) is there any way to convince project management software vendors that project management just isn’t that user friendly?  I mean it’s a complex concept at best but according to many of my software colleagues, even a four-year-old could have manage the construction of the Hoover Dam if only they had a copy of whatever pm tools they’re promoting.  Perhaps you could cut the project management training people a break and let prospective project managers know that they are probably going to need some training.

Finally Santa, just one thing for me; Is there any way you could give me something that would help my project get in on time and under budget?  I’d sure appreciate it.

Thanks Santa and Merry Christmas!