What you should do to improve project success and achieve value has been high on the agenda this year.
Equally, the increased uncertainty in the economy has raised awareness of the need for increased professionalism in project and programme management (PPM). In short, we’ve got to be good!
For 2018, I see three areas of increasing importance for project managers and project management:
1. A resurgence of project/programme management offices (PMO)
2. A greater emphasis on aspects of change management among the project management community to prepare the way for change.
3. Experiential ‘in the workplace’ learning.
The topic of PMOs featured in AXELOS’ 2017 PPM Benchmark Study and, while they have been less visible in recent years, I believe the value of the PMO is gaining prominence again.
In my view a good PMO, particularly at corporate portfolio level (regardless of size of organization), is an essential value-add function. For example, if you have doubts about the clarity of reporting and status of your projects, the culling of failing projects or general predictability of delivery within your portfolio then a central PMO is ideally placed to remove those doubts for the organization and its PPM community.
From a board’s perspective this clarity enables timely and effective decision making. It permits executive boards to focus on the right areas to realize the anticipated value and benefits from the investments. And from the community perspective it provides a ‘go to’ place for advice and support and the best place to learn. Time spent in a PMO can be worth its weight in gold if you want to broaden your horizons.
Preparing the way for change
Where there’s significant change happening, any initiative that relates to that change must become an organic part of it – otherwise it may become an obstacle to it achieving the desired outcomes. Project managers need to be collaborating with change managers/leaders about the impact their project’s deliverables (products) will have on the business, and fostering this collaboration is an essential role for a central PMO.
This relationship must be symmetrical. Change managers and leaders need to collaborate pro-actively and purposefully with project managers: creating in them an awareness of the need for preparation and handover, encouraging and supporting project managers to have greater engagement with stakeholders, leading to higher levels of stakeholder engagement skills.
Although a project manager’s primary responsibility is to deliver the outputs successfully (on time, on spec, and in budget), a project can only truly be considered a success if the outputs cause the outcomes required, which they can’t do in isolation. The full set of deliverables from a project includes the artefacts and the impacts; a project in today’s world is best considered as a vehicle for delivering planned change to the business.
It’s more than just delivering your outputs and walking away; it’s about enabling the benefits and value to be realized. My question is: have we the right skills and experience to do this effectively?
Experiential ‘in the workplace’ learning
In the current economy, companies are likely to start tightening their belts regarding training; of course training courses will continue, but I believe there will be a greater focus on learning in the workplace.
Although not always considered as such, learning ‘on the job’ is a significantly better value-for-money option. Learning by professionals is most effective when it is relevant to their day-to-day experiences. When the learning can be immediately applied, the impact on the individual and the organization is high and the return on investment in capability development obvious. When considering the development of project managers the most valuable return is making delivery safer, more predictable, and more valued by the business community.
Learning-on-the-job also places a greater emphasis on individuals owning their development and ultimately supports the overarching desire, in times of uncertainty, for organizations to do ‘more for less’. But it’s worth remembering that there is always an important role for formal courses; to gain knowledge, to develop ongoing professionalism and, critically, to gain relevant certifications.
But my big message for 2018: I believe the PPM community will struggle to become truly professional unless it acknowledges its role in the ‘bigger picture’ of enhancing and changing organizational capability.
In its very broadest sense, the PPM community needs to consider aspects beyond the limited remit of their role; they should start horizon-scanning to understand and contribute to the bigger picture.
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Jane Nichols
6 top tips for faster and smarter best practice learning
The agile imperative for project managers
5 winning ways with agile and programme management in 2017
Qualifications – something for the CV or a long-term career plan?
Making day-to-day use of knowledge gained through your best practice qualifications
Which PPM qualification is right for you? A guide for practitioners and employers