Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rebecca Braglio
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

Portfolio Managers & the Internet of Things

Are You Communicating Strategically?

Here’s How to Make Sure Digital Projects Boost Customer Experience

Agile + PM, or PM + Agile ?

Digital PMs: A World of Opportunities

Portfolio Managers & the Internet of Things

By Wanda Curlee

Blogger Stacey Higginbothan aptly notes that the Internet of Things (IoT) is now a part of our everyday lives and will eventually cause upheaval across the mobile industry.

As a portfolio manager, will you be at the forefront of the IoT revolution?

Over the past decade, IoT evolved from an area that only IT personnel really understood or dabbled in to something widely understood—and invested in—by organizations around the world.

Look around. Today, IoT is changing industries and the way our appliances and apps work with each other, and us.

Manufacturing plants can use a mobile app to change a light bulb’s color based on the situation. So, for example, software can monitor how many returns are received and change the light’s color once a certain number is reached. The app can also change the bulb’s color when items have to be packaged, when there’s a safety situation or when deliveries arrive.

The opportunities are only limited by the imagination—and by which information can be measured or reported by an app. Imagine: a fire alarm is pulled, and all the lights in the facility change color.

Forward-thinking companies are taking full advantage of IoT and making a business of it. You may have seen advertisements for the Amazon Echo, which has been “married” with other IoT technologies to create new applications.

What It Means for Portfolio Managers

Having read all this, can you think how a portfolio manager might benefit from the IoT explosion? If you understand the enterprise picture of your company and industry, you’re in a good position to think about IoT applications that your company can use, or an IoT need that your company might fulfill for customers.

The portfolio manager is in a great position to ask questions about how IoT can revolutionize various projects/programs within the enterprise. What about partnering with another firm that produces something entirely different? Is there an area where your industry needs to reduce cost, increase safety or be more effective?

Remember, you could ask the question that sparks the next big development in IoT.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, about how the IoT will impact the mobile industry.

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: July 28, 2016 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are You Communicating Strategically?

By Dave Wakeman

A topic I’ve come back to again and again on this blog is the need to ensure that communications skills and practices give you the best opportunity to act as a project leader—not just a facilitator.

The key tool that we project managers have to manipulate the outcome of our projects is communication. As we spend more and more time figuring out how to become strategic partners of our sponsors, it’s imperative that we think of communication skills as a weapon we deploy to achieve business goals.

Here are three areas that I think project managers can focus on to transform communications skills into strategic assets.

Always talk in terms of outcomes and achievements. I have a client that says, “I’m a big picture guy.” To try to talk with him about tactical things would be doing us a disservice.

To use your communications skills as a strategic tool, you need to take this same approach to your own conversations. Focus on what you are trying to achieve and what the outcomes that deliver value will look like. When you talk like this, you become a stronger partner to your stakeholders and you are likely to inspire a stronger following from your team because you are focused on the outcomes—and not on micromanaging every task.

Have a framework for your communications. As a project manager, I’m sure you love having a framework for most of the activities that you undertake. Why should your communications be any different?

Such a framework doesn’t need to be complex. Try a simple one like this:

1) Motivate: Begin by pumping your team and your partners up so they are excited and energized by what you are working on. You can do this pretty simply by focusing on achievements thus far, outcomes, and progress.

2) Teach: Share what you need everyone to learn. Teach your audience to see the project in the way that you do.

3) Reinforce: Make sure you confirm that everyone is on the same page. This is vital.

Invest the necessary time and energy. To become more focused and strategic with your communication practices, you’re going to have to invest some time in your relationships. For several reasons, but most importantly, you are going to need to know the goals and objectives of your key stakeholders. And you are going to need to understand how they like to be communicated with.

Without these key concepts in your toolbox, your communications are likely to fall flat. There is no real shortcut here. You just have to really be willing to listen and talk honestly with your stakeholders and team members to develop a relationship that can withstand the challenges that every project faces.

 If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. It is my most personal and strategic content delivered each Sunday morning to your inbox. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: July 23, 2016 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Here’s How to Make Sure Digital Projects Boost Customer Experience

By Peter Tarhanidis

 

Happy customers are better customers. Savvy organizations develop a customer experience strategy to make them happy, and savvy project managers understand that the customer experience should drive digital projects forward. Smart digital practices should enable a better customer experience by re-evaluating the customer value of processes and the performance of operational teams.

Here are three tips for project managers delivering digital projects tied to a customer experience strategy:

1. Align the attributes that drive customer experience across projects. Once identified, chart these attributes back to customer journey maps, processes and service level measurements, and integrate them into technology investment decisions. This will ensure funding for digital projects.

2. Automate customer experiences to simplify the journey maps. Analyze the pain points across the customer journey map. Empathize with how they interact with the channels to obtain your product or service. Hone in on the negative areas that drive the experience and create a portfolio of improvement opportunities. These improvements should have a complementary operational cost reduction. Moving away from intense labor-driven activities to automated customer self-service approaches achieves operational excellence.

3. Create a service culture in your organization. While transitioning a project into operations, train teams on providing superior customer service, recognize service representatives who model best practices, and integrate customer experience measures into performance compensation systems to drive behavior changes and reinforce the new culture.  

 

Thankfully, technology advancements in customer relationship management have created measurement tools that make it easier than ever to understand what customers are thinking and want changed. Look to these three categories to help target improvement efforts:

Net Promoter Score defines the voice of the customer and an overall satisfaction rating.

Tools that scan social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to gather brand feedback.

Channel content management tools that highlight the performance and value of various types of customer interactions—whether via email, websites, or phone, for example.

 

The bottom line: Let the customer experience guide the selection and execution of customer-facing digital projects—and then look for boosts to customer experience scores.

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: July 19, 2016 08:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Agile + PM, or PM + Agile ?

 

By Kevin Korterud

As project delivery methods have evolved, so has project leadership. Hybrid approaches have emerged: Traditional waterfall project and program managers are now faced with the prospect of having a portion of their work use iterative agile approaches. Agile Scrum Masters and product managers executing rapid iterations of new products now have to contend with budgets, financial forecasts, release schedules and business case benefits, as well as with aligning implementation of products with other projects across the enterprise.

With this as a backdrop, a frequent question that comes up from my colleagues is whether an industry needs a project manager who knows agile, or agile leads who are competent in more traditional project management practices. In today’s complex world of delivery, we urgently need both.

 

1. Project Managers Need to Understand Agile

It’s inevitable that a project manager will at some point oversee an agile delivery process. So it’s important that project managers start their journey to competency as soon as possible. This journey can begin with training in agile methods as well as shadowing an agile lead to see how the iterative process works.

As the journey continues, project managers will start to immerse themselves in advanced areas such as agile metrics, alignment of agile to testing and release processes as well as the people factors. A project manager will soon see what sort of projects can best be delivered through agile vs. waterfall methods, as well as the linkages to enterprise functions required regardless of delivery approach.

 

2. Agile Leads Need to Understand Project Management

Agile leads typically have experience with iterative methods used to quickly shape and deliver solutions. In addition, they typically have a strong business analysis background that comes into play when defining user stories.

In the past, these skills alone were sufficient for agile delivery efforts.

With the complexities of contemporary delivery, however, many agile leads now encounter similar expectations when it to comes to schedule, budget, product quality and business case realization as their waterfall counterparts.

These expectations compel agile leads to gain skills in traditional project management areas such as estimation, forecasting, resource management, technical requirements as well as testing and implementation practices. Acquiring these skills will enable agile leads to deliver higher-quality products in a more timely and efficient manner. 

 

3. Everyone Needs Enterprise Function Support

As hybrid project delivery approaches become more common, the considerations for aligning delivery activities to produce the most value to an organization become more numerous. These considerations can include (but are not limited to) the speed at which agile produces product iterations, business and technology complexities, and the increasing expectations of consumers.

All of this amplifies the importance of enterprise functions such as portfolio management, release management and resource management. These and other traditional enterprise delivery disciplines have been identified by the Scaled Agile Framework (“SAFe”) as being key to success.

It’s not so much that the SAFe framework has had a “eureka moment” around enterprise functions as new innovations. Rather, it has identified the critical need to have these functions in place and engaged for all types of delivery. Both project managers as well as agile leads can be more successful when tightly integrated with enterprise functions. Without having robust enterprise functions in place, organizations will struggle with more frequent schedule, resource, dependency, testing and implementation conflicts. And those conflicts dilute the business value of projects regardless of delivery style.

 

What do you think? Do organizations need agile leads with project management knowledge, or project managers with agile knowledge? I welcome thoughts regarding delivery successes and failures relative to either or both roles.

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: July 14, 2016 07:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Digital PMs: A World of Opportunities

By Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Project managers come in all kinds of flavors. During my 15 years in the biz, I've been lucky to use all kinds of methodologies and frameworks to deliver a variety of projects. These last few years, I’ve mainly been a digital project manager.

But just within the digital world, there are many different kinds of project managers. Here's a brief overview of a few. There are nuances to every role, of course; these are broad-stroke descriptions.

Tech PM: This designation used to include all things digital before digital splintered off. Now a tech PM usually works in the IT/infrastructure realm.

These PMs are the keepers of the critical backend of your business—email, broadcast pipelines, data storage, cloud systems, security, software integrations, etc. They’re leading large enterprise-wide initiatives to enable organizations to adopt new tools and processes.

OTT device and app PM: PMs in this area often work on products related to "over the top" (OTT) video platforms. AppleTV, Roku and Amazon Fire Stick are all OTT devices. So are gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation.

PMs in this area may manage development of the device itself, but more often they are leading app development initiatives that focus on getting video/music content to customers.

Mobile app PM: Direct to your phone or tablet: no muss, no fuss. PMs in this area often strictly focus on delivery of apps (and their requisite updates) for various handheld smart devices.

The reason why this isn't rolled into OTT is because mobile devices and OTT devices are very different beasts! An app may look and even act the same on both OTT and mobile devices, but the backend of both are quite different. There are thousands and thousands of apps in the world. You could make your career as a brilliant PM just in this area alone.

Web/mobile/livestreaming PM: PMs in this area lead projects in the dotcom space at organizations like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Twitch.tv, etc. There is often crossover from mobile app to web/mobile because most businesses have app offerings, but this PM isn't strictly app-focused. He or she is leading teams to develop engaging desktop experiences while simultaneously being focused on how that desktop experience translates to a mobile device outside of an app.

That's why using Twitter in a web browser on your laptop looks almost exactly like it does in a browser on your phone. Want to add in more complexity? These PMs understand how livestreaming (and soon VR) affects their organization and work with teams to figure out how to leverage both for their customers.

Web/mobile ecommerce PM: Just a few days ago, I bought my groceries online. I'm sure it will become the main way I shop for food! An offshoot of the web/mobile PM, the ecommerce PM is an expert in helping teams deliver all manner of web shopping portals.

Big box retailers with online presences, independent artist Etsy-type sites, auction sites, Paypal and subscription services are all where these PMs live. This PM has to understand the nuances of payment types (both domestic and international), billing and recurring charges, payment funnels and how customers move through them, customer accounting and requirements for handling extremely sensitive data.

From gaming to video-on-demand SMEs, there’s a world of opportunities out there for digital project managers—and they’re changing all the time. What other common digital PM roles do you know of?

 

Posted by Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina on: July 11, 2016 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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