ConFoo 2014 is at our door steps


ConFoo, the conference for web developers, is hosting its fifth edition. It will take place in Montreal at the Hilton Bonaventure on February 26th – 28th. These five days are packed with great technical talks and semi-private trainings on your favorite technologies.

It’s definitely a conference for IT professionals, wether you are a developer, integrator or project manager. With its 150 talks, you are sure to find a presentation that will help you grow your core skills. Among them you can find :

  • Mobile development
  • Cloud computing
  • Project management
  • Databases and big data
  • Development with PHP, Ruby, Java, DotNet, Python and Javascript
  • Web security

Meet the experts who crafted your programming language or framework, and who push the technology to a new level. Exchange ideas with international and local experts in a friendly environment during our many networking activities.

With less then 20 days to the event and 85% of tickets sold, don’t postpone your registration. Get your ticket today before they are all gone.

Calling all developers and Managers to “The Oktober Tour” in South Africa and Hungary my previous article, I mentioned a study that clearly demonstrates that projects with a budget over 10 Million+ dollars fail in one way or another. Either by being over budget, delivered late, or simply under delivering. It happens more often than we may think and sometimes it happens to us. We, managers and developers can help lower these statistics.

Over the years, I have worked on very large projects. Some of them stayed in good health, for others I was brought on board to get them back on track.  While being difficult to manage, these situations are very rewarding when you succeed. They are a great learning experience.

For years, I have been thinking about presenting at conferences, but I could not find a topic that I was really passionate about. Everyone is talking about coding techniques, tools or agile methodologies. What could I bring to the table that would be different and can make a great difference? I decided to share my expertise in project rescue and help managers and developers to identify project at risk.

Join me on The Oktober Tour

This October, I will be on a speaking tour in South Africa and Hungary to share my knowledge on project rescue and software architecture with developers & managers to. I will be at the following events:

At these events I will be speaking about:

Attending such events is very good for developing your technical and soft skills stay up to speed with the cutting edge technologies and exchange ideas with other experts.  If you live near these cities or you are not at the famous German Oktoberfest, join me at one of these events. It will be one of the best investment you will make for your career.

Let’s talk

Can’t make it to these events or would like talk about challenges your project is facing? Send me an email to and let’s schedule a meeting.

See you all very soon.


A project goes off track 1 day at a time you have been in the software development business for a few years, you most likely were involved in a project where there were multiple technical challenges, lots of requirement changes, new requirements being added two days before the release and team members start blaming each other for bugs and mistakes. In the end, you had to work long hours and sacrifice week-ends to make it all happen.

Sounds like a familiar scenario? Don’t worry. You are not alone.

According to a recent research made by the McKinsey & Company on software development projects:

  • 66% go over budget
  • 33% go over schedule
  • 17% deliver less value then predicted

Despite these scary facts, few people are willing to admit the possibility that one of their projects may fail. The psychology is exactly the same as wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or in-line skating. It’s hot, uncomfortable, and you tell yourself that nothing will happen. You have been cycling since your early age and you are now riding slowly on bike paths.

Most people don’t want to wear a helmet until they have witnessed or have been involved in an accident. This mostly occurs because of our past experience, overconfidence in our skills and ego. They may also feel that admitting the possibility of failure will distract them from achieving their goal.

Many project failures could be prevented if a business and technical risk assessments would be done prior the project’s launch. Once the project is launched stay alert, watch, listen for warning signs and be willing to take action.

The main issue with projects in general, is that there are only two statuses: On track, Off track. Just like the frog in the boiling water, you never realize your project is heading for the wall until it’s critical. Here are few reason why this is happening:

  • Trust
  • Estimations & buffer
  • Communications

Because of the creative nature of software development and with the arrival of new technologies, it’s very difficult to accurately estimate a project. You need to plan for unexpected issues, calculate the project’s complexity, plan your resources will executing the project as you estimate. This is very important since a person with less experience will take more time to accomplish a given task than a more experienced developer. Also, the quality of the work may differ due to the lack of experience. For this reason, you will have to plan more time for quality assurance. This is why project managers secretly add extra buffer’s just in case developers underestimate the time required. Finally, the product owner will most likely add more buffer just to be on the safe side. So far, the process is fairly normal since you can never be too cautious.

How did we get there?

As the project moves forward, various technical problems occur which may or may not be reported in daily status meetings. Most developers will wait until the buffer is almost all used up before raising the issue with the team lead. Some issues (technical or not), may be raised and fixed right away. Other will come back and haunt the project for a long time. Since the project manager & CTO have an overall buffer for the project, in the grand scheme of things individual issues are not really a problem until the buffer is entirely gone.

Upper management is known to be very patient and tolerant, until it starts looking at the project and realize the true progress or the overall budget. Only then, the project gets flagged as an off track.

The main issue here is that most people count their buffer as part of the overall budget/time allowed to complete the project or task. This results in people not raising the red flag until they start digging into their buffer or even worse when their buffer is no more buffer. In this case, raise the flag is too late. In reality, the buffer should not be seen as part of the overall budget but rather as an emergency reserved.

You should only pull your money out in case of emergencies or unpredictable scenarios!

How can we prevent overtime, headaches and project failure?

The very first rule, is to break down your large projects into smaller ones and do an estimate for each one. This makes it much easier to estimate and reduce the risk of the overall project.

When doing an estimate always provide 3 scenarios and color code them (green, yellow, red) : optimistic, normal, pessimistic. Reserve one column in your project management software for each of these estimates and track the progress. Closely monitor the progress or your project for any yellow flags. Request that any access to the emergency fund be logged and require approval by one of the superiors.

Here are a few additional things you can do:

  • Watch and listen for warning signs
  • Do not discard information that is accompanies each sign.
  • Keep the upper management in the loop and involved in the project
  • Be honest with all team members including upper management
  • Raise the yellow flag when you are at 50% of your allowed budget/schedule
  • Raise the red flag at 75% of your allowed budget/schedule
  • Get an unbiased opinion from someone outside the project or the company regarding the status

Keep in mind that a projects never goes off track in one day. It goes off track one day at a time.

Every time someone says this will only take a few extra hours to do or fix, it really means those extra hours will eat your buffer and that you may trigger the project to be yellow or red flagged.

What signs should you watch for?

Join me this October in:

  • Cape Town, South Africa on October 3rd-4th at PHP South Africa
  • Johannesburg, South Africa on October 9th at Tech4Africa
  • Budapest, Hungary on October 11th-13th at RuPy

You will discover

Can’t make it to those events? I will be publishing a book on the warning signs in IT projects soon.


ConFoo: The conference for web developers is looking for speakers.

ConFoo: Be a modern warriorConFoo is currently looking for web professionals with deep understanding of PHP, Java, Ruby, Python, DotNet, HTML5, Databases, Cloud Computing, Security and Mobile development to share their skills and experience at the next ConFoo. Submit your proposals between August 26th and September 22nd.

ConFoo is a conference for developers that has built a reputation as a prime destination for exploring new technologies, diving deeper into familiar topics, and experiencing the best of community and culture.

  • ConFoo 2014 will be hosted on February 26-28 in Montreal, at the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel.
  • We take good care of our speakers by covering most expenses including travel, accommodation, lunch, full conference ticket, etc.
  • Presentations are 35min + 10min for questions, and may be delivered in English or French.
  • ConFoo is an open environment where everyone is welcome to submit. We are simply looking for quality proposals by skilled and friendly people.

If you would simply prefer to attend the conference, we have a $230 discount until October 16th.

Your project is an investment, treat it with great respect.

When starting a new project, many people make the mistake of not only defining the wrong goals, but also don’t analyze the potential outcome. It’s understandable, since it’s much more exciting and rewarding to go and start implementing a cool project than talk about what could happen. However, it’s much wiser to fully understand what can happen in case something goes wrong. A person that took the time to do the exercise will take all the necessary precautions to prevent bad things from happening.

In Quebec, we have what is called the RRSP season. Most people visit their bank and talk to their financial advisor regarding retirement investments. A good financial advisor will take the time to ask a few questions that will help them identify their ability to take risks. For example, a few month ago, I wanted to make an important personal investment. Before suggesting a solution, my advisor asked me: “What happens if you lose all this money? How will you feel? Will it be the end of the world?” Today, I am glad I haven’t invested in gold back then. For those who are not aware, gold lost about 44% of its value since September 2011.

If your advisor didn’t ask you these questions, I suggest that you move all your investments elsewhere. Your advisor does not have your best interest in mind.

Your IT project is an investment too, and you should threat it with the same respect. Since you and your team will spend multiple weeks discussing and implementing the project, everyone on board should see it as a personal investment. A great way to do that is to imagine all the great things you could accomplish with that time or money. You could spend that money on a vacation or invest it in your retirement plan. You could spend all that time with your family, on your favorite hobby, sport, vacation or you can spend it on this project.

Seeing it as an investment helps put things in perspective. Make sure everyone in your team understands this concept. Doing so will translate into higher commitment, higher quality, efficient solutions and shorter delivery time.

Before we move on, let’s define what is a project risk.

RISK = Potential out come ÷ ability to handle the situation.

Let’s identify the potential outcome in case of failure of your project. The main question you should answer is: What happens if I fail this project? Here are some great point to explore:

  • How will this outcome affect my relationship with my boss, partners, peers?
  • Will they trust me with such project in the future?
  • Will they trust my judgment when I give advice?
  • Will my investor be willing to give me another round of financing?
  • Will the company be able to recover from this loss?
  • How will this impact the company financially?
  • How will this impact the company’s image and reputation?
  • Will my boss lose his job, will I lose mine?
  • How will I personally feel after investing all that time and energy into this project?

To help you visualize everything, I invite you to download and print my risk assessment guide. Write down all your answers in the grid. To each point, assign importance and ability to cope with the risk.

At this point, I assume that you already defined your goals according to my previous article: Is your project a success? If you haven’t done so, take the time to do it now. This is crucial for the success of your project.

Print your project’s objectives, potential outcome in case of success and potential outcome in case of failure. Put them side by side. Take the time to fully understand the implications.

These documents are the cornerstone of you project. Keep them close to evaluate the success of your project and use them as motivators.

You like this article?

Stay tuned for more upcoming insight on identifying project threats and establishing safeguards for the success of your project.