|By Michael Nir||
|February 6, 2014 03:53 PM EST||
Did you notice that when something happens to you, it seems to occur to other people as well? For example when you have toddlers, suddenly you see toddlers everywhere - and naturally they are all misbehaving compared to yours J, or when you're planning your wedding, all around you, people are planning theirs, and white dresses become scarce. Lately I had this feeling myself; I was reading a David Baldacci thriller, when half way through, he introduces NP problems and the consequences of finding that P=NP. In addition, I have lately been reading many articles about Critical chain project management. I feel compelled to contribute and provide my take and insights.
There are two kinds of problems, the easy ones which we solve at school, and the hard ones. We might remember the method to solve a quadratic equation by using the x = [-b/2 ± √((b/2)^2 - ac)] /a formula. We are less sure on advising a salesperson how to plan a sales trip to 20 cities in which he can visit every city once and has a limited budget (travelling salesperson problem). When it comes to packing for the holidays we are truly baffled. How are we supposed to fit all the stuff into one checked-in luggage? After continuous deliberation, we land in the exotic resort only to find our bathing suit missing...
Unfortunately and also luckily (more on the luck aspect - later) most of the problems around us are unsolvable, or should I say - not computable in an optimal manner in a reasonable amount of time.
How is this related to project management?
The difficulties we are experiencing managing projects successfully in a resource constrained environment stem from the fact that the Resource Constrained Multi-project Scheduling Problem is very difficult to solve in an optimal manner. Moreover it can't be optimized at all. Multi Project Resource Constrained Scheduling (acronym MPRCS) is known as a NP complete (or NP hard - until this day I am not sure if I understand the exact difference) complexity type problem. In a nutshell, NP problems are very complex mathematical problems. Actually, as mentioned above, most of the problems that we are facing are of NP complexity. For example, those of you who like to travel to Alaska and need to choose equipment from a long list of possibilities, with capacity constraints, are facing an NP problem (knapsack problem).
The theory claims that if we solve one NP problem we can solve all of them. As a byproduct of the solution we would receive a noble prize, render the entire world of encryption useless, and probably get kidnapped by the NSA and never heard of again. So far this hasn't been the case and NP problems are not computable in an optimal manner in a reasonable amount of time. Hence - luckily for us - long encryption keys are at present undecipherable in a reasonable time, which enables secure global communication networks. Conspiracy theorists maintain that governments have already developed computational abilities that can solve NP problems - rendering encryption as we know it useless. Dan Brown in his bestseller book Digital Fortress and David Baldacci in his book Simple Genius venture down this path.
Back to project management. Since scheduling is a NP problem, we can't optimally solve a multi project resource constrained system.
Wait just a minute - am I saying that there aren't computerized tools to optimally schedule a bunch of related projects who share resources??? Truth be told, there are tools offering nearly optimal solutions and granted, while they do not provide an optimal solution they calculate, using complex algorithms, a good enough solution. The time required for providing this solution can be very long, depending on the complexity of the problem. There are environments which benefit from these sophisticated optimization tools. Consider for example a medium-size factory with 100 machines and several thousand components. Running the scheduling software for the defined production floor is lengthy and can take up to 3 days. The specific output of the software is a production plan for the explicit setting. The drawback is that once implemented, any unforeseen change in production requires: either rerunning the optimization software which doesn't make sense duration wise, or applying quick fixes which render the nearly optimal production plan obsolete. If ever you watched an operating factory, you have seen the chaotic nature and constant changes with which it is plagued.
There are industries in which nearly optimal scheduling is vital and as the environment is complex, they must invest in a sophisticated software optimization tool (do remember that the solution is nearly optimal). One example is the airline industry. They can't manually allocate numerous aircrafts and particular crews across several hundred destinations worldwide. When Lufthansa allocates specific aircrafts, along with the constraint of having each aircraft operated by a predefined crew, it makes sense to purchase an advanced and pricey optimization tool. Indeed, once a month the scheduling team runs the optimization application which serves as the basis for aircraft and crew allocation, ticket pricing, and routing worldwide. However if one of the pilots is having the shrimp in coconut sauce for dinner and suffers from food poisoning the next day, entire segments of the optimized schedule collapse and emergency escalation protocols are initiated. The central scheduling team in Frankfurt must find a quick fix to the shrimp ordeal.
Ok - for most of our projects it doesn't make sense to invest so much in building the infrastructure to solve, in a near optimal manner, the multi project resource constrained problem. Especially as the plan is useless once changes occur. All it takes is for a critical resource to be sick one day, for the entire plan to go bust. What is then the alternative? Heuristics - or as we better know them - rules of thumb. These enable local and semi global optimizations. The two famous heuristics to resource constrained project scheduling are: Agile and critical chain. One handles the local optimization and the other semi global optimization. While Goldratt who wrote about critical chain project management knew about heuristics and global optimization, Agile proponents don't really think of it as a local optimization mechanism, but we will leave it for future articles.
More on critical chain, and Goldratt's approach to solving the complexity of resource constrained scheduling, some other time.
You can check out my book: The Agile PMO - leading the effective, value-driven, project management office. - - where I further discuss these concepts:
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 1,206
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
Dec. 19, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 872
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Dec. 19, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 2,317
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,874
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Dec. 19, 2014 07:00 AM EST Reads: 2,186
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Dec. 19, 2014 06:30 AM EST Reads: 2,182
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Dec. 19, 2014 05:00 AM EST Reads: 2,002
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Dec. 19, 2014 04:00 AM EST Reads: 2,003
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:45 PM EST Reads: 1,042
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,308
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
Dec. 18, 2014 06:00 AM EST Reads: 839
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:15 PM EST Reads: 1,341
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 1,395
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,375
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Dec. 17, 2014 06:30 PM EST Reads: 1,280
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:45 AM EST Reads: 1,505
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Dec. 16, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,337
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Dec. 15, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,697
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Dec. 15, 2014 10:30 AM EST Reads: 6,886
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
Dec. 15, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,964