Project management skills for financial services

People looking at project documents for a financial services project

Since finishing education, my entire professional life has been in project management.

What struck me from the beginning was the organizational element of project management, the ability to make real change without prior knowledge of the work area and even how it can apply to being more organized in your personal life.

Using these skills – including what I’ve learned from PRINCE2® – I’ve also been able to identify and help address the challenges faced by non-project managers in the financial services sector, where I now operate.

Supporting the non-project manager

Looking through my project management lens, it’s common to observe inefficiencies among non-project managers. This can happen with common tasks such as running meetings and to documenting actions.

A lack of standardization in ways of working when scaling projects is one of the most frequent issues I see, which is why I advise colleagues to create default templates; a simple, but effective, change which makes a huge difference to their work.

Another highly visible area where non-project managers can benefit from project management skills is planning. People can be passionate and optimistic about putting across their ideas (which is important) but don’t always focus on what they can deliver to and showcase. Showing clearly-defined timeframes and injecting realism into presentations shows a level of organization and thinking about the bigger picture beyond your ideas.

Adopting project management skills – broad benefits

In financial services implementing best practice has become increasingly important – particularly the project management approaches of delivering on time, within cost and to the right level of quality required.

Today, when facing risks such as cyber security and regulation, financial services organizations need to be even more conscious of safeguarding their businesses.

When multiple teams within an area or across an organization adopts formal project management techniques, it enables a greater acceleration in lessons learned, continuous improvement and a sharing of knowledge across beyond their day-to-day activities. This makes individuals better at what they do within their function and within their organization. The lessons learned can be shared across teams or within teams and this can provide benefit to an entire enterprise, not just an individual project.

For example, a friend who works in the property sector studied and certified in PRINCE2 and, as a result, he not only has a new perspective on his own role but understands better the role of building a plan and construction project management professionals in his organization.

Adopting PRINCE2 and complementary approaches

The value I’ve gained from adopting PRINCE methods is based very much on how I tailor it to a particular project. Often, I use a hybrid approach which combines PRINCE2 for structure and agile approaches to run meetings, with sprints and collaboration to do multiple tasks simultaneously.

As part of this, I think it’s important to help non-project managers recognize that it doesn’t necessarily require a project manager to run an Agile principle or huddle meeting (a daily meeting for team members to reflect on yesterday’s tasks, today’s actions and any blockers or spare capacity); they can do it equally well if they use the right methodology and principles.

And when businesses are planning change in 2021, I believe there should be an even greater focus on identifying risks in resourcing and scope management before they turn into issues or overruns by ensuring there are mitigation actions in place.

The ability to be cautious, risk averse and – ultimately – to achieve quality outputs and higher profitability will be essential and having everyone in the organization familiar with even a few project management principles is a great help to any company.

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Comments

20 Jan 2021 Seth King
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Great read Chris. Although I have only completed ITIL V4, a lot of the approaches are similar. Before I certified, I was PMing and didn't even know it. The Axelos programs and methodologies certainly help us to define our skill set to be more productive.
23 Jan 2021 Keith Baira
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The blend between the rigidity of financial services, and the flexibility required to implement projects successfully requires a lot of negotiation, and rich communication to work.
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