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Project management for digital disruption companies

  • By Jason Dion – Dion Training Solutions
  • 13 April 2021
Colleagues discussing plans in an office

Digital disruption companies – those going through rapid transformations using emerging technology and business models – face very particular challenges.

The likes of Uber and Instacart are changing marketplaces by offering better services and reduced cost. However, this involves a lot of technology to bring it all together. These companies operate with a rapid pace of innovation and are constantly adapting to changing environments – both internally and how they respond to competitors.

However, from start-up, their typical approach is based on Agile delivery methods and less on the management of change and growth. When the founding team of, say, two to five technical people are working in one room, they often do really well – even when employing up to 20 people.

But, as they start to scale and work across separate offices, this is a tough transition and – without the right governance and oversight – friction starts, with people stepping on each other’s projects or programmes.

This next phase needs management – including culture change and stakeholder communications – to ensure people are not only doing things right but also doing the right things. It’s still possible to work in small teams (e.g. three to five in a Scrum team) but with multiple small teams, each with a team leader that agrees on responsibilities and workflow.

This is where project management comes in which, to Agile evangelists, may not necessarily be “sexy” but is necessary as a disruptive business attempts to work at scale.

Project management with PRINCE2 & PRINCE2 Agile

While Agile practitioners operate with methods like Scrum sprints and Lean Startup to support digital disruption, many may think of project management more in terms of a traditional, linear, waterfall approach lasting many months or longer.

However, what they might not see is the value that project management brings in governing what the business should invest in or not. As small, disruption companies begin scaling, they need all of their people to be pulling in the same direction. While it may be commonplace at the beginning to throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks or to move fast and break things, maturing businesses need to add more processes and systems to maintain their effectiveness at scale.

Therefore, organizational project management can provide an overall business case, helps guide what to deliver in each sprint, what resources are available and where they need to be allocated for maximum benefit.

The PRINCE2 Agile® method provides the necessary oversight and governance required for scale while still allowing digital disruption companies to continue working in a truly agile manner by embracing techniques like Kanban, Scrum, minimizing work in progress and creating minimum viable products to gain rapid feedback from users.

Two essential principles that work

For disruption companies founded on Agile methods, there are two essential principles in the core PRINCE2® guidance that offer significant benefits as they scale.

The first essential principle is PRINCE2’s allowance for tailoring the method to suit your project. While other project management frameworks have strict rules or policies, PRINCE2 (and therefore PRINCE2 Agile) allows practitioners to tailor the guidance accordingly.

For example, a small company doesn’t need a project management office and layers of complexity. It can take the concepts as a checklist and adopt what applies to its unique situation and industry. Furthermore, as the company scales up, it can scale up the amount of PRINCE2 processes and governance as well.

The second essential principle is to manage by exception. With traditional project management in place, people working in the delivery teams might feel like they’ve had control taken away from them. However, manage by exception gives people boundaries; in other words, enough management and governance to provide adequate oversight, while simultaneously empowering them to do what they need to in order to achieve the desired results; effectively, just enough management to keep a project running on track and on budget.

Increased innovation and project management

Covid-19 has increased the speed of change in organizations and especially in implementing digital services.

The pressure to innovate and deliver new services more quickly will continue as people become accustomed to convenience. Once a luxury or convenience is enjoyed by the consumer, it is often hard to take it away again. The convenience soon becomes a necessity; one that must be continued as a vital portion of the business.

To do this – and clean up the messes made by delivering digital services quickly in the past without the governance and oversight – project management is a necessary framework to ensure disruptive companies are building a solid foundation for their future growth and expansion while maintaining their effectiveness and efficiency in future product developments.

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