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Corporate Beginnings

1993 – Twenty years before Fortezza Consulting is established, when Founder & Principal Consultant Michael Hannan is a junior program management analyst for NASA’s Space Station Freedom Program, he uncovers a $231M budget overrun that NASA’s world-class PMs and PM tools had missed. At every layer of a complex hierarchy, small-but-growing overruns were hidden, each layer fearful of having to admit issues to the layer above, all hopeful that they could somehow work their way out of it before things got out of hand. It strikes Mike at the time that there must be a way to prevent this “fear of exposing issues early,” but he is not clever enough to figure out how.

1994 – Mike is trained in business-process reengineering (BPR) techniques, and tasked with reengineering the budget-execution piece of NASA’s program-management processes. Two years later, NASA has a top-notch set of process diagrams.

1996 – He leaves NASA, switching into the software engineering field, and begins using rapid-iteration application development techniques performed in close coordination with product owners. There is no fear of exposing issues early.

1997 – Eli Goldratt writes the book Critical Chain, introducing a disciplined set of techniques for dramatically improving due-date performance for projects, and which later evolves to helping boost the throughput of reliable completions for program/project portfolios. The approach includes highly effective methods for exposing issues early. Somehow Mike avoids hearing about it until 14 years later.

1998 – Mike earns his M.S. in IT, accepts his first IT PM position, and is instructed to use a traditional SDLC approach for a large ERP project. The project is delivered on schedule, due mostly to the heroics of an exceptional team, and is declared a success, in spite of being 20% over budget (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say “because of” being over budget, as this generated 20% additional revenue for the company).

1999 – Mike introduces CMMI practices to a project for the first time; it feels good to use a defined set of industry best-practice methods, but there is no improvement in cost, schedule, quality, or customer satisfaction. The project is very successful, due mostly to the heroics of an exceptional team.

2000 – Mike launches the first public-sector Enterprise Java practice of any of the “Big 4” consultancies, defining the architecture for dozens of Internet-based applications for a large Federal agency. His teams use a mix of rapid-iteration application development techniques performed in close coordination with product owners, with excellent results. There is no fear of exposing issues early.

2001 – The Agile Manifesto is published, unifying multiple iterative-development approaches under a common set of explicitly stated values. Somehow Mike avoids hearing about it until 4 years later.

2002 – Michael George writes the book Lean Six Sigma, specifying for the first time how Lean and Six Sigma can complement each other to improve business processes dramatically. Somehow Mike avoids hearing about Lean Six Sigma until 2 years later.

2003 – Mike leads a consulting practice in the iterative design and development of a $600M portfolio of IT solutions to support the U.S. Army’s “spiral development” approach on its centerpiece weapon-systems program. The IT project portfolio is very successful, but the weapon-systems program is less so, and as a result, the entire initiative is ultimately scrapped.

2004 – Mike manages his first CMMI ML3 project, which is an enterprise-wide initiative to modernize a large portfolio of applications. It feels good to use a defined set of industry best-practice methods, but there is no improvement in cost, schedule, quality, or customer satisfaction.  Also, he hears about Lean Six Sigma for the first time, and begins referring to it dismissively as “BPR 2.0” without bothering to read the book.

2005 – Mike launches a start-up IT consulting practice, growing it to $10M within two years using loosely defined Agile approaches. He also earns his PMP certification, which requires no knowledge of either Critical Chain or Agile.

2011 – Mike takes a break from IT, and accepts his first executive position at a management-consulting firm, focused on the sale and delivery of Lean, Six Sigma, and Theory of Constraints (TOC) consulting services. He reads Lean Six Sigma, The Goal, and Critical Chain for the first time, earns his certification as a TOC Jonah, and gains first-hand experience using these techniques to deliver breakthrough performance improvements. Hilbert Robinson joins a few months after Mike, and begins mentoring him in Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM). Mike quickly moves beyond his initial reaction to CCPM, which was “If I’ve never heard of it until now, it must not be worth hearing about.”

2012 – Mike begins to craft ways to integrate CCPM, Agile, and Lean to deliver higher-impact performance improvements to IT project portfolios.

2013 – Mike founds Fortezza Consulting, and is exposed to Koichi Ujigawa’s “velocity-based buffer management (VBBM)” approach to integrating Agile into a CCPM framework. Intrigued by how Koichi converts velocity-based buffers into schedule buffers, Mike begins to ponder simple ways to do the same with scope buffers and budget buffers. Within a few weeks, Mike innovates a hybridized CCPM buffer-balancing approach to IT project portfolio management (PPM), allowing Agile projects to be integrated harmoniously with traditional projects using a mix of buffer types, while incorporating select Lean techniques as well. The company introduces this approach to the market as “ACCLAIM,” an acronym for Advanced Critical Chain, Lean, Agile Integration Method.

December 2013 – Mike searches the Internet to see if others might have their own interesting approaches to CCPM/Agile integration, and discovers a Youtube video of Wolfram Müller talking about “Reliable Scrum” and “Ultimate Scrum,” which together offer a high-powered way to manage a portfolio of hyper-productive Agile software-development projects within a CCPM construct. Mike and Wolfram connect via skype, share their respective ideas, and immediately float the idea of writing a book together.

2014 – Mike is offered opportunities to speak at multiple conferences, many of which offer to host book-signing events. He decides to write The CIO’s Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance, and enlists Wolfram Müller and Hilbert Robinson as co-authors. They put themselves on an aggressive authoring schedule, apply many of the techniques described in the book to get the book itself published on schedule, and release the eBook version just five weeks later, with print versions following shortly thereafter. The book hits #1 on Amazon’s best-seller list for technical project management books.

2015 – The company’s client roster continues to see healthy growth, and we prove out the techniques by helping our first client double their project throughput within 3 months, and triple it within 1 year. Mike is invited to speak at a broader diversity of events and podcasts, spanning PPM, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Engineering communities.

2016 – Mike serves as keynote speaker at Intel Corporation’s annual “Accelerate Results Leaders Forum.” The company’s client roster grows internationally, spanning 6 Fortune 500 companies across the high-tech, automotive, energy, and air-travel industries, as well as the public sector.

2017 – We prove out the concept of “WIP Targets,” which we had innovated in the fall of 2016, promoting single-task discipline as the key driver to maximize flow by targeting optimum levels of task-level WIP. Major task-board vendors take notice, and begin to incorporate the concept as product features. We then follow that up by offering to the market a one-of-a-kind results guarantee of achieving a 30-percent speed gain within 30 days, and brand it as our “30-30” offer.