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Face The Interfaces

Mirror MirrorInterfaces

One of the happy paradoxes of good Enterprise Project Management Software is that the more information users find and believe, the more information users believe they will find.

That extra information often lives in other tools; and rightly so. But to be effective, it often needs to be visible along side our Project Based Work. For those of us managing such Project Management Tools, this leads to an inescapable truth: eventually, we’ve got to face the Interfaces.

A Spectrum of Options

Modern PPM Software offers a plethora of choices when it comes to data integration. Recently, I had a client ask me to help them decide which route made the most sense for them. So I took the opportunity to build up this Interface Options matrix in Excel:

The Requirement section:

  • Has a Description of the overall objective (e.g. To Push Workfront Hours to an External System Twice per Day)
  • Lists each Option in increasing degree of technical difficulty (e.g. Manual Push/Pull by User, Email Pull to User, Email Pull to [Email] Agent, Webservice to WebService, or WebService to Database)

The Interface Steps section:

  • Lists the functional steps in the interface
  • Notes for each Option which resource has responsibility for each step

The Comparison section:

  • Lists the difficulties in the interface (e.g. Reliances, Manual Efforts, Programming Efforts, Costs of Developing, Costs of Operating)
  • Uses a somewhat subjective (but rather telling) High (Red) / Medium (Orange) / Low or None (Greeen) score of each Option against those difficulties
  • Boils each Option down to its most appropriate use

The Cost Estimate section:

  • Runs over 2 years (to allow for a more fair comparison)
  • Lists the assumptions for Hardware, Development, and Operating Costs
  • Computes the total costs for each Option

Upon Reflection

Once I set up my Interface Options, it was easy to use the same criteria for a second requirement (e.g. To Pull Cost Information from an External System into Workfront Twice Per Day). Having the two options on two tabs in Excel let me flick between the two scenarios. While doing so, I noticed some interesting comparisons, and it forced me to rethink a few assumptions.

Now that it’s set up, I think that my Interface Options matrix will help me provide better estimates more quickly. You are welcome to download it and change it for your own use.