Project Management

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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cyndee miller
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Emily Luijbregts
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Marat Oyvetsky
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Recent Posts

How to Align Stakeholders During the Pandemic

Have Traditional Reports Passed Their Use-by Date?

Building Effective Team Habits in the New Work Ecosystem

Learn to Fail—It’s Just Part of Being a Resilient Leader

Damage Control: Repairing Relationships on Troubled Projects

Viewing Posts by Marat Oyvetsky

How to Align Stakeholders During the Pandemic

Categories: Leadership

by Marat Oyvetsky, PMP

When professional service organizations work with customers to implement technical solutions, teams often rely on in-house technical staff for support and system/network access during implementation, testing, validation and training. And this is happening more during the pandemic. With limited access to onsite facilities, internal customer teams are more involved in the design and implementation process as they facilitate access and internal knowledge vital to the project. This creates management and resource issues that many professional services teams never had to face prior to COVID-19.

It starts with establishing regular communications with customer stakeholders—they’re the first line in advocating for the project’s success. They invested their company in the solution and are the champions of the project. Along with discussing the milestones, budget, issues and risks, project leaders should expand the conversation to include resource allocation for the customer’s project. Transparency is also vital in not only building trust but also in ensuring customer stakeholders fully comprehend what resources—both internal and external—are required for each task and milestone and what the overall level of effort might be. This will allow them to not only plan their own internal company requirements but to work with the project leader in planning their team’s support of the project.

Establishing internal and external customer communication becomes even more vital in situations where the implementation team relies on the customer team knowledge and access to complete certain tasks and milestones. Creating internal team meetings will allow the professional services team to discuss the project, the issues, risks and tasks associated with each milestone and align on all the project. Creating external customer team meetings will allow both teams to come together and review the project in full—addressing the issues, risks and milestones together and following a plan to completion in lockstep.

Project leaders also must be aligned with the customer engineering managers. In many cases, the professional services project leader has all of the responsibility and none of the required power necessary to drive the customer teams to complete certain tasks and milestones as they also have a responsibility to their own jobs. Communicating the tasks, milestones, level of effort and requirements to customer engineering management will allow the project leader to sync with customer management and ensure resource requests for time and deadlines are communicated and planned for. And that will keep the project and the teams on track and on budget.

COVID has created many challenges in working remotely for both professional services organizations and commercial company teams. One of the best solutions? Solid and planned communication between the professional services organization, the customer stakeholders and the teams to ensure transparency, resource planning, milestone, task and dependency alignment.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in aligning stakeholders during the pandemic?

Posted by Marat Oyvetsky on: September 25, 2020 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aligning International Stakeholders During a Global Pandemic

By Marat Oyvetsky, PMP

Global companies often struggle to align their international projects because of competing priorities, changing strategic corporate focus and general budget fluctuations due to performance in different markets.

The coronavirus pandemic has introduced new chaos to a company’s ability to plan its global IT projects for the coming year. To add to the confusion and complexity, many stakeholders have localized their priorities and concentrations. While these actions can help safeguard an organization’s local activities, they can create misalignment in a company’s international program or portfolio. This can add a great deal of risk to a company’s global deployment strategy, schedule and IT budget.

When program or portfolio misalignment occurs, project leadership must help get primary stakeholders on track and ensure that the program or portfolio is prioritized, balanced and communicated effectively.

Here are a few suggestions on how to help your global stakeholders align their priorities, improve their communication and safeguard the organization’s global IT budget during this time:

1. Hold program/portfolio strategy sessions.

The coronavirus has changed nearly every organization’s IT deployment strategy. With more people working from home, companies have shifted their global IT strategies to include end-user security and connectivity, for example.

While localized stakeholders concentrate on their needs to ensure business continuity, it is vital to create a global stakeholder strategy session to ensure that all stakeholders have a chance to meet, align and forecast their planning. Maintaining a weekly strategy session that includes all global stakeholders gives project leadership a platform to align forecasting, planning, budgeting and execution for an organization’s global IT deployment.

2. Review global IT budgets.

The pandemic has also affected nearly every organization’s global IT budget, and, in many cases, has frozen it. With workers being sent home, companies were faced with changing priorities for their IT expenditures. Many organizations’ CFOs and CIOs had to navigate difficult decisions based on planning and execution for their yearly IT spend. Often, these decisions were not communicated to all departments and contributed to stakeholder misalignment.

Project leadership can help align the CFO, CIO and all IT global stakeholders by creating and leading strategic IT financial planning sessions. These sessions will help align all organizational leaders and stakeholders, prioritize the organization’s IT budget and ensure that all company stakeholders have a platform to discuss, review and plan the evolving IT landscape for the coming year.

3. Create a global stakeholder communication plan.

The coronavirus pandemic has made communication and planning twice as difficult, due to the uncertainty of the global shutdown and shelter-in-place orders. Some companies are finding that execution is slower, with many critical action items being missed. Companies are stretching IT budgets to the limit just by chasing incomplete tasks and unresponsive resources.

Creating a global stakeholder communication plan is vital in ensuring that all stakeholders are in lockstep with every IT budget decision, plan, project and program direction and execution.

The global pandemic has impacted every organization differently. But one issue most companies have in common is the struggle to align their communication and stakeholder expectations. Project leadership can help the organization successfully align their stakeholders through regular, mandatory strategy sessions to coordinate forecasting, budgeting and execution. This alignment can create a clearer focus on what the organization can accomplish, and remove confusion and competing priorities.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in aligning global stakeholders during the pandemic?

Posted by Marat Oyvetsky on: June 24, 2020 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

The Project Manager’s Survival Guide to Leading Teams During a Global Pandemic

Categories: Project Leadership

By Marat Oyvetsky, PMP

Global companies often struggle to get international projects across the finish line because they have to mitigate risks or issues that are outside of typical budgeting and resource availability constraints. In many cases, companies must work through issues such as language barriers, cultural differences, varying time zones and international team cohesion. All of these can cause serious delays in successful project completion.

However, when a global pandemic strikes that quarantines a large portion of the planet, new risks are introduced that can completely derail or destroy a company’s international projects.

While the COVID-19 pandemic introduced challenges in completing many international projects on time and on budget, it didn’t completely eradicate the finish line for many international projects.

Here are a few tips to consider when working to successfully complete global projects during a pandemic:

1. Seek out executive sponsorship: Every project has stakeholders who will be the main champions for the project’s successful completion. During a global pandemic, it is even more vital to ensure that there are executive sponsors involved in the project. The crisis has affected global manufacturing, the global supply chain, banking and a horde of other institutions that projects and project teams depend on to complete tasks and reach milestones.

During the pandemic, executive sponsors can provide support and quick approval for additional budgets and emergency funding that can help projects stay afloat and allow the most vital projects to be funded to completion.

2. Adjust hardware lead times and balance international resources: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every business around the globe, from slowing down the supply chain to completely shutting down many factories. This has impacted hardware lead times, from computers to network systems. Instead of measuring shipping in days, companies were finding that lead times for hardware delivery had either been postponed indefinitely or been delayed by weeks or even months.

Reviewing all lead times across every global project, project leaders can work to prioritize projects that are vital to the company as well as those that have workable lead times and can still be completed, even with an extended deadline. Working with executive leadership, project leaders can also prioritize which projects need the most resources globally and help refocus attention to those projects to help drive them to completion.

3. Increase team meeting frequency: When running international projects, many project leaders manage resources in a matrix environment globally. This means that there are resources on the project team that are internal company resources as well as external customer and consulting resources. Communication is vital to ensure that all tasks and milestones are coordinated and completed efficiently within the planned time and budget.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown extreme chaos into project timelines and budgets. Project leaders can communicate more effectively with the global team by planning shorter but more frequent meetings. Increasing the recurrence but decreasing the meeting duration can improve communications between all company resources. Tasks and milestone assignments can be reviewed quickly, assigned or reassigned, as well as updated and forecasted to ensure that the entire team is not only in lockstep daily and weekly, but is also prepared for the extended lead time durations, project timeline baselines and changing budgets.

4. Balance the portfolio: COVID-19 has impacted nearly all global project timelines due to its effect on the global workforce. Project leaders will need to work with executive leadership to identify projects that fit into two categories: projects that are vital to the business and projects that can still be completed, even with increased timelines and dependency lead times. Once these projects are identified, project leaders will need to work with their teams to ensure that resources are balanced appropriately across the portfolio, targeting the most strategic projects with the most realistic completable timelines.

While the pandemic has crippled the global workforce and economy, project leaders are still leading international programs and projects to successful completion with global teams working together through extended timelines, adjusted budgets and augmented requirements.

Share below: What are your lessons learned from leading international project teams during the pandemic?

Posted by Marat Oyvetsky on: May 18, 2020 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

A Seat at the Table: How to Build Trust With Clients

Categories: Project Leadership

By Marat Oyvetsky, PMP

Organizations often hire consulting project managers to help move their large, strategic projects across the finish line.

However, many companies still hold internal leadership planning sessions to discuss proprietary information that cannot be shared with external resources. This presents a risk, as external talent needs to be part of these discussions to plan for proper budgeting, shared resources and overall dependencies that may exist with other strategic projects.

It happened to me this year when a company hired me as an external consultant to manage a portfolio of their strategic programs and projects. The organization needed leadership planning sessions to properly balance resources and finances to reduce risk and align deployment with its 2020 business objectives.

The dilemma: Whether or not to include me on their internal strategic discussions, as I was not an employee of the company. In the end, the decision was made to include me, and I was the only non-employee who was invited to the leadership discussion table (with proper NDA signatures).

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips on how to build trust with the client to get a seat at the table and help craft the future strategy:

Executive Leadership Sponsorship: As an external resource, consulting project managers need to work diligently to build trust with the customer executive leadership and stakeholders. Align with each executive stakeholder to ensure that the portfolio dependencies that you are managing are all documented and managed per their expectations. Each leader and stakeholder has a clear vision of their territory. As a consulting project manager, you must maintain a view of the entire field that includes all areas for each leadership team and stakeholder.

Communication: Create recurring meetings with all executive leadership stakeholders to ensure that they are aligned to the execution of the portfolio that you’ve been hired to lead. In this instance, over-communication is key to ensure that all leadership questions are answered, and all executive stakeholders know the status of each relevant project.

Reporting: Create an executive dashboard outlining all timelines, budgets, commitments, accomplishments and risks. Each executive stakeholder will have their own reporting requirements. You should be able to tune each dashboard to communicate the desired information in the format that meets each stakeholder’s requirements. This will help build additional clout with each executive stakeholder.

Fiscal Alignment: Align with the chief finance officer and chief accounting officer for all strategic projects. This will help provide transparency for the funding that they are currently spending on each project and help them plan for future projects and deployments.

By aligning with all executive leadership stakeholders, consulting project managers create the necessary communication, reporting, management and fiscal transparency that is required to get a seat at the leadership table for future planning discussions. These actions will help make you part of the leadership team and build trust with the client that you’re supporting.

What are some of the ways you work to get a seat at the table with your clients?

Posted by Marat Oyvetsky on: April 17, 2020 12:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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