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
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman

Recent Posts

In the Rearview Mirror: The Year in Project Management

A Guide to Perfect Planning

The Secrets to Business Transformation Success

Specialist or Generalist: The Great Career Conundrum

Project Management Is For Everyone

In the Rearview Mirror: The Year in Project Management

By Cyndee Miller

It’s time to hit the rewind button on 2017 and look back on the year that was in project management.

And dang, it was a big year — full of ambitious projects that packed a punch. I’m still processing the €700,000 Museo Atlántico, an eerily beautiful underwater collection of 300 sculptures off the coast of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands — only possible with the project team navigating complex requirements and skeptical stakeholders. And though not without its challenges, the first phase of the Hyderabad Metro Rail — a massive public-private partnership project — pulled in more than 200,000 passengers on its first day alone.

That wow factor sometimes extends to what some might view as more mundane matters like the schedule. Elon Musk’s latest project adventure, for example, called for installing the world’s largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days — or it was free. Somehow scheduling matters don’t seem so pedestrian when there’s US$50 million riding on the project’s outcome. For the record, Mr. Musk and his team pulled it off.

The project is part of a plan to make Adelaide, Australia the world’s first carbon-neutral city. That push to sustainability is nothing new, of course. But it got real in 2017. Sustainability is no longer swathed in gauzy green layers. It has real strategic objectives — and is held to real metrics and governance.

The U.K.’s Crossrail team, for example, recently released a treasure trove of documentation highlighting its efforts to minimize disruption and pollution on the £14.8 billion rail project, which is expected to be completed next year. The results are impressive and could serve as a blueprint for embedding sustainability in other megaprojects. “Crossrail not only set a new precedent for delivery of a truly ambitious 21

st century infrastructure project, the strategic approach they took in managing the many environment and sustainability challenges was exceptional,” Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, told Railway Technology.

Even as the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement, dozens of the country’s mayors signed their own accord on climate change. And U.S. business leaders — at companies across all sectors and sizes — didn’t miss a beat, launching their own projects to address the issue.

Yet such political disruptions — along with the Brexit bombshell — are clearly rattling the business world: More than half the CEOs in a KPMG survey said the uncertainty of the current political landscape is having a greater impact on their business than they’ve seen for many years. And those same business leaders know they must adjust their strategies. “All of these political events can have consequences on project planning,” John Greenwood, PMP, founder of Grand Unified Consulting, told PM Network.

There’s a reason disruption is such a buzzword: It’s everywhere. Today’s project environment demands an extra dose of innovation and agility (and probably a few extra shots of espresso). Just look at how many retailers and restaurants are experimenting with pop-ups — and relying on project management to tame the chaos. To achieve that so-in-demand-yet-so-elusive agility, you may want to check out the latest PMI Thought Leadership Series.

This is the stuff of Silicon Valley — and it’s fast becoming business as usual. Take cloud computing. Born in the valley, it’s now infiltrating every sector and forcing old-school businesses like telecoms to respond. Next-gen tech is being woven into the DNA of once-Luddite sectors, like agriculture and construction. Even the ultra-staid financial services sector is realizing full-on digitization is the only way to survive. Indeed, that push has spawned the fintech industry that extends to even emerging markets like Nigeria and India. The latter recently launched a project that saw 86 percent of the country’s cash go out of circulation overnight to be replaced by digital payment systems. Demonetization is the wave of the future, Gilles Ubaghs, principal analyst at Ovum, told PM Network. “It is already changing India, and it will change the world.”

That’s the truly spectacular thing about project management. It really does have the power to transform. No big shocker then that organizations are looking for the talent that can deliver those results.

A study by Anderson Economic Group and PMI found the project-management-oriented labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent in 11 countries through 2027. That’s 22 million new jobs. Whoa.

And as the first members of Gen Z are hitting the workplace, they’re already scoping out project management. They appreciate what they see: “I like the way you have to incorporate organizational skills along with people skills,” Myles Wilson, a junior project manager at Virtual1, told PM Network. “The idea that I could interact with many different people on a daily basis to achieve the same goal is something that inspired me to pursue project management.”

So at least one thing didn’t change in 2017: Project management still rocks.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: December 15, 2017 10:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Fast Forward: A Peek at Project Management in 2017

Categories: PM & the Economy

by Cyndee Miller

Now I love a good futurism piece as much as the next person. The illustrious and insightful folks at Forbes, take a decent stab at predicting 2017. But the reality is that no one can predict what’s really going to happen. (It’s a heck of a lot easier to look back. Hence, my last post on the good, the bad and the ugly in project management 2016.)

Still, there are some pretty safe bets. Project managers can certainly expect some of the bleeding-edge innovations—machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, predictive analytics—to leave the theory room and enter the profession in a much more meaningful way. Even now, we’re seeing project managers combining IT and infrastructure to build smarter cities that not only deliver benefits to citizens, but also help urban areas address climate change and massive population growth.

And project management left 2016 with a massive win: In the United States, for example, President Barack Obama signed a law aimed at improving program management practices and bolstering workforce development through a formal career path for federal program managers.

What’s next? Well, that’s where the art of making predictions gets a little sticky, thanks to a little thing called disruption. Yes it’s an over-hyped, borderline ridiculous word. But it’s also a pretty succinct way of summing up the stuff that happens that no one saw coming—and changes everything.

One survey found nearly three-quarters of CFOs cite uncertain economic conditions as the top risk to their companies in the coming year. Even a small twitch in the geopolitical landscape can fundamentally alter the project landscape—for better or worse. Will Colombia’s bold commitment to peace translate to a boom in project investment or not? How will U.S. president elect Donald Trump’s wildly ambitious infrastructure vision play out? And then there’s Brexit, which one think tank predicts will result in a decade of disruption for the United Kingdom. Uncertainty continues to swirl and the repercussions are real. Yet at least one PMO director spotted an opportunity to showcase the value of project management.

Indeed, in such a volatile environment, companies, NGOs and governments around the world increasingly recognize the power of project management—if it’s done right.

The new program management law sparked some serious celebration. But the big question for 2017: Will it inspire similar action in other governments and corporations? Over at A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, Elizabeth Harrin put a focus on professionalism as one of her list of top trends to watch in 2017. “Project-related work and jobs are growing too quickly for our approaches to professionalism to keep up. I think we’ll quickly see companies that don’t have professional methods for project management in place wanting to shift away from planning on the back of a postcard to taking more robust approaches to doing projects,” she writes.

The PM Network 2017 Jobs Report shows strong demand for top project talent, especially in growing economies like India, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, not to mention upstarts with rocketing GDPs like Vietnam and Botswana. Organizations want people with strong strategic thinking, leadership, change management and communications skills. But what they really need are forward-thinking project, program and portfolio managers who understand that things aren’t always black or white. (Gray should be their favorite color.) In an age of ambiguity, organizations will seek out the project professionals who don’t just deliver on time and on budget, but have the agility to adjust on the fly.

No matter their sector or level of experience, project professionals must actively anticipate future needs. That requires far more than integrating the latest and greatest trends into project plans. It means finding creative ways to juxtapose long-term strategic thinking and day-to-day execution.

Project, program, portfolio and PMO managers have the power to change the world. What have you got planned for this year? Dare to share what you see on the horizon and how you’re future-proofing for 2017—and beyond?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: January 03, 2017 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

3 Steps to Outsourcing Success

By Peter Tarhanidis

When leaders use outsourcing it is often in an effort to enhance the organization’s value proposition to its stakeholders.

Outsourcing allows leaders to focus on and invest in the firm’s core services while using cost effective alternative sources of expertise for support services.

When services are outsourced, management and employees need to prepare for a transformation in organizational operations—and project managers must establish a strategy to guide that change.

 

Creating an Outsourcing Strategy

Project managers can help to create an effective outsourcing strategy based on a three-part structure:

1. Assess the current state

This assessment should define the firm’s:

  • Labor expertise and associated labor costs
  • Value versus non-value support services
  • Baseline of operational measures and service levels

 

2. Consider the “to-be” state

The to-be state should be designed based on a comprehensive evaluation and request for proposal, including a good list of best alternatives to negotiated agreement items.

The to-be state must consider:

  • Access to low cost, high expertise labor and the marketplace arbitrage. This may evaluate onshore, right-shore, offshore and hybrid labor models.
  • Whether the firm should invest to “fix and ship” its processes or to “ship and fix” and adopt the providers processes.
  • Productivity gains that may be measured via the labor arbitrage, process capability improvements, speed to software application and deployment, automation of processes and IT management services, robotics, etc.

 

3. Consider the governance required to sustain the future state

A new internal operating model needs to be formed. This includes establishing teams to manage the contract, such as senior sponsorship, an operational management team or a vendor management team.

Then the outsourcer and the outsourcing organization should focus on continuous improvements that can be made to the process.

 

Avoiding Outsourcing Pitfalls

Project managers can avoid a few common pitfalls in their outsourcing projects:

  1. Add procurement and legal outsourcing experts on the project team to construct the agreement.
  2. Engage senior leaders to steer the initiative and align it to the business mission.
  3. Garner senior leadership support with change management actions to help guide the organization across this journey.

Overall, if done with a defined end in mind, leaders can capitalize on outsourcing by reducing operational costs, reinvesting those savings in core services, and providing access to expertise and IT systems that would normally not have been funded via capital appropriation.

Have you been a part of any outsourcing efforts? What advice would you offer to project managers involved in similar projects?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: August 26, 2016 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

3 Tips For Understanding Strategy and Project Management

by Dave Wakeman

In my posts from the last few months, I’ve been discussing strategy and how you can make yourself a more strategic project manager. A lot of project managers still struggle with this idea.

One source of this struggle seems to be uncertainty about what strategy means in relation to being a project manager and part of a larger organization.

First, let’s start with a simple definition of strategy: a plan of attack designed to achieve a major goal. So where does that apply to project managers? Pretty much everywhere.  Here are three ways you can look at it.

1. Think from the end backward, not from the start forward.

A few months back, I wrote about managing for the right outcomes. And that means starting with the end in mind. In being a strategic project manager, at its simplest, you are really just starting out by planning your project with the end in mind. Considering that we are all supposed to begin our projects with a planning phase, it makes sense to not just plan, but plan with the intention of fitting everything into a commonly focused outcome.

Think about it like this: The planning process is designed to make sure that you have the time and resources available for your project and that you know where you are going. In being strategic, you just need to make sure you always make your decisions with the end in mind.

2. Don’t become wedded to one course of action.

What I’ve seen in working with organizations around the globe is that it’s very easy to become wedded to one course of action. That can’t be your position if you want to work strategically.

When you’re approaching tasks and challenges and the inevitable same old ideas and solutions come up, ask simple questions: “What are our options here?” “Is there a different way of approaching this?”

All you’re looking for is opening up your actions to different avenues for success.

3. Lovingly steal from everything around you.

I’m not advocating a life of crime, but one thing you want to do is start stealing ideas from the businesses around you.

This is important because in too many cases, we become locked into one idea, one way of thinking or ways that projects have always been done. This is especially true in industries that have always been closely associated with project management, like construction and IT.

How should you go about stealing ideas that may be helpful to your projects?

To use a personal example, I found a use for my project management background in politics. In politics, many titles include “strategist” or “manager” or something that elicits the idea of project management and structure. But due to the intense nature and timeframes of a political campaign, most of that planning and structure is quickly tossed out of the window.

In my work in politics, I introduced the role of a traditional project manager and applied that framework to every aspect of the campaign and process. Essentially, I added a layer of change management and monitoring foreign to many in the industry.

Now think about what you can learn from outside your industry. Can you discover a management tactic from a TV show? Or is there a parallel in another industry that gives you a useful piece of insight?

Am I off base or what? Let me know below! 

By the way, I write a weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: February 29, 2016 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

The Customer Is Always Digital—So Make the Experience Right

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.

  1. Establish a plan to:
    • Identify current customer journey paths.
    • Optimize those paths into one consistent and simple location.
    • Digitize that journey and make it available online, mobile and global.
  2. Build the requisite foundation required to sustain the digital journey (e.g., big data analytics, and mobile-first and cloud infrastructure).
  3. Transition customers from legacy operating approaches into the new digital journey with a change management plan that leads to sustainable adoption.
  4. Improve the experience by acting on key performance metrics that gauge the quality of the customer’s entire journey—don’t just rely on the customer service department for quality control.

How is your organization adapting to the new realities of our digital customer age? Please take a moment and share your thoughts.

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: November 17, 2015 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
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