by Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
In a small business, like a startup, organizational project management (OPM) may seem too big. At a large blue chip, layers of OPM may be standard operating procedure. But what if your org is somewhere in between? On one hand, you're past the days of moving furniture yourself, on the other hand, you're not yet cutting paychecks for 2000+ employees.
First, let's establish that OPM is a good thing. Linking strategy with implementation across an organization to deliver on portfolio promises and realize value is, trust me on this one, a good thing. But OPM at scale is even better. And that is because if you don't scale OPM to where your org is right now, it may seem that OPM is too complex to even attempt at all.
And if OPM is a good thing, then no OPM is probably not so good.
I've seen what happens to a business that doesn't have an OPM strategy in place. The business is moving along successfully but then the stumbling starts, and then maybe stops, but then it starts up again and continues unabated. Teams are frustrated that progress has halted and find they're taking the blame or blaming each other. Leadership pushes the same answers to newly arisen problems—work harder, faster, longer.
The Benefits of Scaling
OPM at scale ensures the strategy that your entire enterprise is about to adopt is the right fit.
Too light (but it may work for a startup), and your undertaking becomes inconsistent, priorities become ever-changing because there's no clear focus. The entire system is not reliable enough to deliver.
Too rigid (but it may work for a Fortune 500), and you may get in your own way with bottle-necking processes, decision-making by committee, waiting for an approval exit gate that never arrives, wasting time because the system is not flexible enough to deliver.
Where too much process is a hindrance (but may work for a large org) and too little is volatile (but may work for a fledgling company), start with some core principles that are key for your org and build from there.
An OPM at scale strategy could look something like this:
At your next quarterly review, examine how your custom OPM framework is doing. Are you all still aligned on, not just the goal of your portfolio, but the goal of your OPM strategy? Ready to go bigger and start maturing your framework? Or instead do you need to scale back?
What experience do you have with implementing OPM to scale?
Want to see a fully baked standardized model, take a peek at PMI's Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®).
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?
By Conrado Morlan
If you’ve been a project practitioner for a long time, you’ve probably heard a variety of opinions about you and your colleagues. Many of those opinions may have reflected an oversimplified image of the project management profession. In other words, you and your colleagues were stereotyped.
The project management profession has given me the opportunity to travel across three continents and to work with people from different cultures and generations. I lost count of all the different stereotypes I was associated with, which involved my country of origin (Mexico), the country I lived in (the United States) and people’s previous experience with IT project managers, But many of the stereotypes were common despite the different situations where I worked.
Being stereotyped gave me the opportunity to change people’s oversimplified idea of me and my profession. On top of my daily duties, I had to transform that bad and/or ugly perception into a good one. Even when my title was IT project manager, my role was not purely technical—in many projects, the business function was also part of the project team.
Working with business and technical functions put me between a sword and a wall. On the business function side, people stereotyped me as too technical, while on the IT side, co-workers assumed I was not technical at all and too structured. In many meetings with business functions and IT team members, I had to show that the “real me” did not fit the stereotype they had in mind.
My credentials exacerbated the situation a couple of times. When team members learned I had several certifications, they feared I was going to “play by the book” and make them change the way they had been working.
Instead, I merely promoted discussions in which the team realized there were areas of opportunity in their way of working that could be improved.
The “manager” stereotype popped up quite often. Team members openly told me I was not their direct-line manager and did not have authority over them. I had to address this stereotype and help people understand I was not there to manage but to lead.
So I held meetings with team members and their managers, in which roles were defined, the importance of the project was communicated and lines of communication were established.
At the end of the day, it’s incumbent on projects managers to face the stereotypes that are out there and work to change negative perceptions. As a project manager, how do you react to stereotypes? What are you doing to erase the stereotype you have been associated with?
By Kevin Korterud
It’s typical for new project managers to be assigned to a small project to build their skills. Why? Small projects have a limited value at risk, a modest budget, a shorter schedule and a smaller team. But project managers early in their career who have successfully led small projects often ask me how they can move on to leading big projects.
Small projects, to some degree, can be more difficult to lead than larger ones. You are given much less in the way of reserve budget, schedule and resources. However, big projects are not just smaller projects with larger budgets and longer schedules. They have inherent complexities relative to stakeholders, scheduling, resources and deliverables not found on small projects.
My recommendation to project managers wanting to move to larger projects is to “think big” while running smaller projects. Thinking big involves adopting, where possible, practices required for large projects.
Here are two ways project managers can think big on projects. My next post will offer two more tips.
1. Leverage Support Resources
Many times, project managers running small projects attempt to perform all of the project operations activities themselves. This can include creating new work plans, calculating progress metrics, scheduling status meetings, and performing a host of supporting activities for the project.
While it may be a source of great pride to a project manager to perform these activities, they represent an opportunity cost. In other words, the project manager could instead be working on higher-value activities like stakeholder management or risk management.
Employing support resources even on small projects can save valuable time and costs. It also means the project manager doesn’t have to spend time becoming an expert in the tools and internal project operations processes. By having other people assist with the mechanics of building project plans and producing metrics, the project manager will have additional capacity for running the project.
2. Implement Quality Assurance Processes
Project managers on small projects tend to become immersed in a level of detail not possible on large projects. The small project also allows for deep interaction with team members that may not be effective on large projects.
In addition, a project manager on a small project may be tempted to start serving in roles akin to a business analyst or technology designer. This can distract the project manager from actually running the project.
To keep focused on project management activities, quality assurance processes should be implemented. Phase gate reviews, deliverable peer reviews, change control processes, quality performance metrics and the definition of project acceptance criteria are all good examples of quality processes. With the implementation of these processes, project managers can focus on deliverables and outcomes without getting too deeply immersed in the details of the project.
Check back for my next post on more ways project managers can develop a big-project mindset while executing small projects.
By Conrado Morlan
Over the years, I’ve had many discussions about whether project managers should pursue the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential. Some people argue that extensive experience is much better than the knowledge they can acquire through the PMP credential.
I appreciate the value of my counterparts’ experience and respect their opinions. Before I earned my PMP certification, I shared their views. But while studying the PMBOK® Guide—my employer required all project managers to be certified within six months of hiring—I found that my experiential knowledge was enhanced by the new tools and techniques I learned about. I wished I had known about them during previous projects.
My eyes were also opened by a quote from Lewis E. Platt: “The danger of success is to think what made you successful in the past will make you successful in the future.”
The project management profession, like many others, evolves constantly. As a responsible practitioner, I need to keep my skills and knowledge current by reading the latest PMBOK® Guide edition, as well as being familiar with evolving methodologies and standards in project management.
Here’s an example of why not keeping up with the latest publications and standards can be problematic. I often hear people talk about the “triple constraint.” But that concept is not in the latest edition of the PMBOK®. Nowadays, project management is a strategic competency for organizations. It enables them to tie project results to business goals—and thus, better compete in their markets.
Finishing a project on time, on budget and within scope doesn’t necessarily help an organization meet its business goals. Today, organizations need to respond quickly to internal and external influences, which may lead to sudden changes in scope, budget, and schedule.
The need for competent project managers will persist—PMI projects that between 2010-2020, 15.7 million new project management jobs will be created in just seven project-intensive industries.
Organizations no longer look for project managers with technical skills only. They’re looking for people whose technical skills are complemented by business, strategic management, and leadership skills.
The project management profession is changing, and pursuing a certification makes it more likely that you’ll stay up to date with the times.
What’s your view on the value (or lack thereof) of the PMP certification? Share your thoughts below.