By Christian Bisson, PMP
Machine learning is one of today’s hottest tech topics.
It’s essentially a type of artificial intelligence (AI) in which you give your software the ability to “learn” based on data. For example, you probably notice how YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and many other companies suggests videos or products you should check out. These suggestions are based on your previous online actions, or those of other people deemed “similar” to you.
For some time now I’ve been working on projects that involve this technology. We often have clients who want machine learning even though they do not know if it’s even relevant to them. Since “everyone is doing it,” they want to do it too.
Calibrating a project sponsor’s expectations is often a good idea. While the automated services generated through machine learning may seem magical, getting to that point involves challenges—and a lot of work.
The machine will learn using the data it has being given—that data is the crucial starting point. The data that’s available is what drives how the machine will evolve and what added value machine learning can bring to your project/product. For example, if you are trying to teach the machine to recognize vehicles on images it scans, and all you can teach it with are images of small cars, you are not set up for success. You need a better variety of images.
The machine’s ability to learn is directly tied to the quality of the data it encounters.
Once you have quality data, you need it in high quantities. If you can only provide the machine with the website behaviors of, say, hundreds of users per month, don’t expect it to have enough information to be able to recommend the best products based on user trends. Its sample will be too little to be able to be accurate.
Once you have the necessary data, the journey is not over. The machine may learn on its own, but it’s learning based on how it was built and with the data it’s being fed. There is always room for improvement.
As amazing as machine learning is, it is not cheap. So keep an eye on your project’s budget. Machine learning experts can command high salaries, and there is a lot of effort involved with researching the best approach—creating the models, training them, testing them, etc. Make sure the ROI is worth it.
Have you had a chance to work on a project involving machine learning? What challenges have you faced?
by Christian Bisson, PMP
Several years ago, I decided to put my web developer hat behind me and become a project manager (and eventually product owner). At first I wasn’t sure if I would be up to the challenge given that most project managers have different backgrounds.
But several years later, I don’t regret my decision.
Technical project managers are more present — and required — in the digital world, and I have no doubt that will keep rising. Here’s why.
The Rising Digital World
The digital world is taking up more space in our lives. And it doesn’t stop at what people see, there is also a vast world of data happening behind the scenes.
A project manager that can’t comprehend the technical relationship between every piece of a client’s ecosystem will fail to manage it properly. As ecosystems grow, it will become more of a challenge to ensure teams have the right people at the right time so that everything comes together as planned.
Still, many project managers are not even aware of what a development environment (development, staging, user acceptance testing, production) or even deployments are. Project managers today should know about synchronizing websites, apps and other tools together. If one can’t deploy a site, then there is simply no hope.
A website used to consist of images and text, so not understanding how it worked didn’t matter much if you had the team to compensate.
Today, however, a lot of websites use advanced technologies to provide users with what they want, like powerful search engines or features using machine learning.
Machine learning in particular is becoming the toy every kid wants. It’s also within everyone’s grasp—whether it’s with advanced machine learning expertise or with tools made available by Google, for example. Project managers need to understand this technology in order to bring out its full potential within the projects they manage, otherwise it becomes a trend word that brings nothing to the table.
Everyone knows that communication is key to running any team smoothly. If a project manager can’t understand what the team is communicating, then he or she can’t properly manage the project.
Furthermore, clients are becoming more techy and often have a better understanding of how things work. So if project managers don’t understand the tech behind the project, they can’t have proper conversations with the client. It helps in key project decisions to actually understand what is going on.
What are your thoughts on technical project managers? As the world becomes more digital, are they becoming essential?
By Marian Haus, PMP
Welcome to the age of digital transformation.
New technologies such as 3-D printing, augmented and virtual reality, and digital currencies are becoming commonplace. Connected and autonomous cars, and holographic displays are on the horizon. This is all on top of the various mobile devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops—that we can’t let go of.
All this has changed consumer expectations and behaviors for good. Services must be fast and easy-to-use (RIP user-manual/guide), fully transparent (in terms of product offering, quality, price), always available (24/7) and multi-device accessible (via desktop, mobile, wearables, etc.).
Fearful of being left behind, businesses look to understand and predict consumer needs through deep and semantic web search, machine learning and big data customer analytics.
The Upshot for Projects
But digital transformation is not only changing our lives and disrupting businesses. It’s also reshaping and speeding up project delivery models. The planning and execution of innovative projects in today’s digital era can no longer be done at the same pace, with the same methodologies and tools. To attain increased time-to-market results, speed and flexibility are key—so project managers must adapt their approaches.
So what’s a project manager to do? Here some thoughts.
1) Remain calm and confident! Remember when agile disrupted the well-established waterfall world? Project managers had to adapt their approach, toolsets and methodologies. We can adapt again.
2) Enable organizational and structural simplicity and dynamism. Foster flexible structures, smaller project teams and increasing collaboration within the project team. (Here are some tips on how to set up your team and organization.)
3) Improve execution speed by tailoring and simplifying your approach and methods. For instance, embark on some rapid prototyping as a proof of concept before implementing the final product. Or breakdown the project into several smaller projects that can move independently faster as together.
4) Foster new and innovative ideas. Encourage open-mindedness and increasing failure tolerance.
5) Focus on results, not process. Plans, Gantt-charts, budgets, forecasts, risk plans and stakeholder lists are important. But while prototyping or going through trial-and-error iterations during product development, don’t let methodology and specific techniques get in the way of the needed results.
6) Adapt your communication approach by providing stakeholders with rapid access to real-time project information. For example, establish an online project community that can easily be updated with the latest information. (Here are more ideas on how to improve communication.)
Finally, enjoy the exciting and intense times we leave in, driven by dynamism, innovation and more networking and collaboration than ever.
I’d like to hear from you on how you are managing projects and embracing change in the modern digital age.
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.
By Peter Tarhanidis
New and proliferating digital technologies are giving rise to new competitive businesses while transforming legacy organizations. It’s no longer just about the Internet, but increasingly tech-savvy users and inexpensive smartphones and tablets.
From an organizational perspective, it’s not just a matter of grappling with new technical platforms: The relationship between organizations and their customers is being transformed.
Before, the cornerstone of customer service was the golden rule: treat your customers the way you want to be treated. Customer relationships were facilitated and managed within just a few departments.
Disruptive technologies have enabled a shift to a new paradigm: customer empowerment. This ushered in the new platinum rule: treat your customers the way they want to be treated. Disruptive technologies integrate organizations to their digital customer experience and are simultaneously influenced by social, consumer and professional media portals like Facebook, Yelp, NetPromoter Scores, and LinkedIn.
Now, much of the work and measurement of this activity is shared across the entire supply chain of the customer journey, which requires more cross-team collaboration to report on the customer experience.
So the importation question has become: How can we make the digital customer experience flawless? This is the new competitive differentiator for companies. Those that stand apart in this respect build market leverage.
Project managers are one asset organizations have at their disposal to ensure success with this new digital customer experience dynamic. Here’s a four-stop roadmap for optimizing your organization for the brave new digital world we all live in.
How is your organization adapting to the new realities of our digital customer age? Please take a moment and share your thoughts.