Andy Murray, Director of Outperform, and lead author of PRINCE2:2009, spoke at the Austerity Debate at Lloyd’s Register in London recently about the role project management plays in this difficult economy.
Each project has an overhead, including the cost of the project manager, the sponsor, a risk budget, the project board and any project support services.
What does it cost if you don’t do projects well? There’s rework, the cost of overruns, poor outputs, under-delivery, consequential loss, and benefits that remain unrealised.
This is the infrastructure related to managing projects and includes any Centre of Excellence overheads, the PMO, support, monitoring, tools, evaluation, assurance, the Portfolio Office and audits.
Pedro Serrador presented yesterday at PMI Global Congress North America on how to become a program manager. There are many career advantages to program management – not least that program managers tend to earn more than project managers. So if you want to move into program management, here are Pedro’s tips.
“A program manager adds more value than just project managers,” said Pedro. He said there are eight principles to being a successful program manager, and shared these from Vincent J. Bilardo, Jr.:
Moving to a program manager role requires you to deliver the goods, he said. There might also be a case for upgrading your education, and learning from others. Pedro also said that prospective program managers should put themselves in a position where they can lead and mentor others, and especially learn to delegate appropriately. “Show that you are a leader, not just one of ten project managers in the group,” he added. Look for the opportunities that arrive and take them. Finally, act the role, he explained. “If you want to become a program manager, act like a program manager. Start to structure things like programs.” If you act like a program manager, your manager will see that you are capable of operating at that level.
“Often it is beneficial to move around,” he said, when he spoke about how to land that new program management job. That could mean moving to a new initiative or to a new company. He explained that outside CEO’s earn an average of 13% more than internal candidates. However, they fail 34% of the time, compared with only 24% of internal candidates, so there is something to be said for sticking with what you know. “Moving is riskier,” Pedro said.
Pedro had some tips for what to do when you get that first program, or you choose to structure your existing work as a program (even if you don’t yet have the title):
Pedro also said that senior managers spend more time planning their own time. “You help the projects managers get on the right track and then go on to something else,” he said. Factor that into your daily schedule and take the time to plan your day (and your schedule in general). It might seem like it takes a long time but it will be effective.
“A big part of your role is to let the stakeholders know the importance of your program and you need to be able to push to have obstacles removed,” he said. His final piece of advice was to have a 30 second status summary in meetings in case the executive you are presenting to gets called away. “Know to stop at yes,” he added.
“It was two years of effort and two years of struggle,” said Steve Wake, describing the work to bring the Earned Value Management certification to fruition yesterday. Wake, the chief examiner for the EVM qualification, was speaking at Project Challenge.
“The best thing that a project manager can do for us is this – it’s status,” he said. “It’s where we are and what we’ve done. To ask a project manager to do more than that is quite a lot.”
Earned Value does ask us to do more than that. Wake explained it as “a disciplined framework for managing work.” His definition is:
“A project control procedure based on a structured approach to planning, cost collection and performance management. It facilitates the integration of project scope, time and cost objectives and the establishment of a baseline plan for performance measurement.”
If not, never fear. There is a new exam you can take to prove you understand the concepts of EVM. “It keeps you out of harms way,” Wake said of the new qualification. “You’ll understand the language and vernacular and when asked to do something you’ll have a grasp of the process.” If that sounds basic, it’s because it is. There is no Practitioner EVM qualification yet, but there is one in the works.
The Foundation exam, like the others from the APMG stable, is a multiple choice, entry level paper. It’s 40 questions, 30 of which are knowing/comprehending questions and 10 of which are applying/analysing questions. Questions are based on the EVM – APM Guidelines. Candidates have one hour to sit the closed book exam and the pass mark is 65% - or 75% if you want to be an assessor. Wake explained that when the pilot group took the exam all but one passed. This has given them confidence that they have set the difficulty levels appropriately.
There is a course that accompanies the exam, although it is not compulsory and you can enter yourself directly for the qualification itself. The course objectives are:
“We have a problem with Earned Value in the UK,” Wake said. “We all use it, those who say they do, but there’s no way to put a stamp on it.” He hopes that this qualification is the stamp, and that it will help avoid differing understandings and applications of EV. However, he was pragmatic about how much a qualification can really increase the abilities of project managers. “If you are confident that the thing is working correctly it frees you from chasing data,” he said. “Exams are good because they determine a standard and also because with this method they give you the chance to manage. With a good method you make good people very good. It won’t make bad people good, though.”
The EV qualification has been put together by APM’s Earned Value SIG, and they are now working on a paper to discussed EV and PRINCE2 alignment. “They are a good overlay to each other,” Wake explained. “There’s limited detail in PRINCE2 about how you measure progress.” This paper will be presented to the Best Practice User Group mid-November and made available after that – watch this space for more on how the two fit together.
Do you need to work effectively when you're not face to face? Project teams are often made up of people who don’t work in the same office. Travelling around for meetings is expensive, so project managers can cut costs by working virtually – for example, using conference calls and online meeting tools to make the most of virtual meetings.
One of the questions I am sometimes asked is "How can I make my team more efficient?" Technology isn't the answer to every problem, but it can often help streamline certain tasks or processes, and that can make your team more efficient and therefore more cost-effective to run.
I'll be presenting to the APM's Women in Project Management SIG on 10 June 2010, and you are invited.
We'll be talking about how project managers can use social media. I'll be presenting this:
There's a revolution happening in project management: social media tools are finding their way from branding and marketing to the hub of companies and project teams that are making new things happen. The old project management methodologies are being challenged by the fact that those working on projects are using social media tools to communicate and collaborate, and the ways in which we work with colleagues and virtual teams have changed forever. Not everyone agrees with that, though, and convincing management that you want to adopt social media tools for productivity gains can be difficult.
This session will look at the theory and practice of using social media tools to get things done in business. Is it hype or do these tools actually work? And how do you get started with a project-based social media initiative in your own company?
It doesn't matter where you are, this is a virtual event (and it's free) so you can come along if you want to. Find out more and book for the event here.