Is Project Management Being Devalued By Non-Project Managers?

PM Articles by Project Times. 

As Project Managers, most of us have experienced someone that works in our organisation slapping a on a PM badge and joining the party.  This party is one with an endless bar tab, the end time doesn’t matter drinks are spilled over glossaries containing project buzz words and generic document templates found on Google.

Only us actual PMs are at the party next door.  Having sensible conversations.  With the right people.  About the right things.  And we brought our own coffee.

Project management is changing where we are seeing more people adopt the role of PM in addition to their day job.  This is due to a number of reasons such as the recruitment of a PM will take too long, project management courses are inexpensive so upskilling is easy and staff know the business better than anyone so it can’t not be a success.

Why is this a problem?

Project management requires a specific skillset, ability to quickly assess and understand the corporate landscape and appreciation of how a project fits into the bigger picture.  PMs are trained to expertly balance the science of budgeting, scheduling, resource planning and estimating with the art of confidently managing risks, issues, dependencies, stakeholders and fluctuations in any aspect of the project.

Where a business function problem exists, there is often a tendency to purchase a new piece of software and bend the internal processes to fit.  Someone is selected as the PM, usually someone who is familiar with the team and processes.  They are chosen over Dan the IT guy as he has no capacity at the moment to manage this project.  So an SME is now also a PM.  Let’s call this PM Chris.

After Chris is given the PM role, they Google sales reporting software and finds a supplier.  Chris liaises with the supplier, who guides says they will get the new software implemented within the quoted 3 months and within budget.  Contracts are signed and everyone is happy.

Chris sends some requirements to the supplier, who can deliver 75% of them but the rest is chargeable. There is some contingency in the budget (nice Googling!). Chris says yes as they’re all must haves anyway.

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Chris returns to the project after spending 2 weeks on some priority work at the point of data import.  A sales data spreadsheet is sent to the supplier, which is sent back as some columns need renaming and there’s some data misspelled and missing.  Chris doesn’t have the time to do this so forwards it to a colleague.  When Chris gets it back, it’s forwarded to the supplier, who has more questions.  This 3-way game of data file tennis goes on for 3 weeks.  Chris is now really busy and is feeling the strain.

Testing is overdue so Chris asks a colleague to help but it’s going to take a little longer than expected as the colleague has booked a week off.  The go-live date is no longer achievable and Chris sends an update to their bosses saying go-live is delayed by 4 weeks.  The bosses ask yet again for an update on project spend and a list of deliverables.  Chris forwards a supplier email and reminds them they have a copy of the contract, which should give them everything they need.  It doesn’t.

Go-live day arrives and a short email is sent to the whole company saying the system is live and the project was a success. The broken sales spreadsheet and dodgy monthly report are replaced with a shiny new system. Yaayyy!  However, the budget of £23,000 was exceeded by £5,500 and the project was delivered 8 weeks late and there are no metrics to show what value was delivered.

After a few weeks, it is found that the sales data that was missing from the spreadsheet is missing from the system and the dodgy monthly report looks nicer but is missing the same information.  There are 3 teams who used the spreadsheets and didn’t know they wouldn’t have access to them.  They don’t have another solution so need emergency training on the system.  Most people are asking why they got rid of the spreadsheets.  If the missing information was added to them, this wouldn’t be happening.  People aren’t happy.  Chris’s reputation has taken a battering.  Chris is exhausted and depressed.

We can see that although Chris is knowledgeable about the business area receiving the new system, they are not as experienced at supplier and contract management, requirements gathering and prioritisation, scheduling, stakeholder and role management, testing and communication in a project environment.  Even with experience in some or all of these areas, that experience still needs to be within the project domain or the business will see someone applying generic experience to a complex and sensitive practice, often with disastrous results.

It’s clear that hiring a PM or BA would have meant this project would have prevented damage to a number of areas.  What’s more, that PM or BA could have saved the business from doing the project at all.  The issue was broken processes, which could be fixed with service review, redesign, workshops and training.  Instead, the wrong decision was made, one which probably scared Chris away from project management forever.

Allowing an SME to run a project sends a message that anyone can be a PM.  That doesn’t mean anyone should.  If there are PMs in the organisation that aren’t selected to run the project for whatever reason, it only reinforces this message.  It can massively impact morale, risk the PM’s reputation and affect the organisation’s perception of the value their role delivers.  Having business leaders not understand business analysis and project management can lead to poor strategic decision making.

How do we fix this?

Do we preach defamation of our profession?  Do we mentor the SME/PM through the treacherous journey that lies ahead of them?  Or do we step back and watch the circus that often ensues and hope they won’t do it again?  It’s a delicate balance as we want to help others but we also don’t want to facilitate the erosion of value of our profession.

You can see it’s not just about reading a textbook and applying the techniques.  It’s about rich experience in understanding the purpose of the project and its place within the business.  However, it’s also not just about projects.  It’s about influencing the adoption of project management principles to help the organisation breed a widespread culture of collaboration, accountability and value delivery.  Just like how the Finance department advise us to be cost-efficient or HR advise us to be conscious of how we conduct ourselves at work, we want to broadcast a message to this affect but we can’t do this on our own.

Unfortunately, the company culture is one of acceptance or even worse, encouragement of non-project professionals managing projects. Our leaders must help us raise the profile of project management in our organisations so people appreciate what it means, the value it delivers and just how god damn difficult it is to get right.  Only then will the organisation see that when there is a project that needs doing – only a proper PM will do.

Bad Project Scope

Bad Project Scope - PMLinks.com

A bad project ‘Scope’ can leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It is difficult to control / manage a project scope if it’s not well defined. There is an overall project scope and scopes of work within a project. All should be well managed / documented to understand impacts and ensure all project stakeholders are on the same page with impacts.

Simple change control processes and logs are essential for project management.

Manage the project and don’t let the project manage you.

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#projectmanagers #businesssolutions #projecttemplates #projectmanagement #projects #projectscope

Are you ready to implement an Enterprise Project Management (EPM) or a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution?

To EPM or Not to EPM - PMLinks.com

Michael Davis, PMP, ITIL v3, GWCPM - PMLinks.com(PM Links OpPap (Opinion Paper) / Blog)
Topic: Enterprise Project Management (EPM) / Project Portfolio Management (PPM)
Author: Michael C. Davis, PMP (PMLinks.com), ITIL v3, GWCPM
November 17th, 2016

If you say you are ready to implement an EPM / PPM solution, let us define ready.  Ready can mean a lot of different things.  It could mean you or someone from your company heard the buzz words of EPM or PPM and thought it would be a cool thing to do.  It could also mean you have corporate / management support, understand the real benefits of enterprise project management or project portfolio management and what it takes to implement.  You may even be somewhere in the middle.

Before I get started, let’s make sure we are all on the same page when we talk about EPM or PPM.  I snagged both definitions of EPM and PPM from the trusty Wikipedia site.

Enterprise Project Management (EPM) – Source: Wikipedia, in broad terms, is the field of organizational development that supports organizations in managing integrally and adapting themselves to the changes of a transformation. Enterprise Project Management is a way of thinking, communicating and working, supported by an information system, that organizes enterprise’s resources in a direct relationship to the leadership’s vision and the mission, strategy, goals and objectives that move the organization forward. Simply put, EPM provides a 360 degree view of the organization’s collective efforts.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) – Source: Wikipedia, is the centralized management of the processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices (PMOs) to analyze and collectively manage current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics. The objectives of PPM are to determine the optimal resource mix for delivery and to schedule activities to best achieve an organization’s operational and financial goals, while honoring constraints imposed by customers, strategic objectives, or external real-world factors.

Now, on to the show…

Too many times a great sales person puts on an incredible show of bells and whistles of the latest ‘solution’ to real business problems dealing with high project workloads and resource management.  The problem is that for the most part, once the smoke clears from the fountains and sparklers, most people walk out saying ‘we have to have that’.  What they may have missed, or even it may have be omitted from the demonstration, is the amount of work that must occur by your IT department, resources, project managers, resource managers and executives to make ALL those pretty blinky lights blink and dashboards dash.  This is why I ask if you are ‘ready’.  To have a usable EPM or PPM solution you must put stuff in to get stuff out and that stuff must be good stuff.  Otherwise garbage in, garbage out.  That good stuff mentioned includes but not limited to:

  • Executives activating projects using a pipeline with appropriate budgeting data and customer completion expectations.
  • Resource managers properly balancing their resources and assigning to projects.
  • Project managers loading and maintaining project schedules with resources and baselines
  • Resources entering / tracking their time against the projects (if time tracking is required).

There are a bunch of back end things to consider as well. Who will gather the requirements of the solution that you want to implement.  In many cases I have seen consulting companies do this for businesses however this may become a never ending dependency (YAY FOR THE CONSULTING COMPANY).  Who will administer the solution (User management, infrastructure hardware and software, adding / changing the solution based on new or changing requirements).  Don’t freak out though, you just need to pick your starting point.  Start with identifying the business problems you are trying to solve?  Here are some typical business problems many businesses face when considering an EPM or PPM solution:

  • We need to be able to make accurate data driven decisions related to our projects.
  • We don’t have a good way of knowing if a project is truly on budget and / or on schedule.
  • We don’t have a good centralized way of knowing the health of an individual project the portfolio of projects.
  • We don’t have a good way to be able to prioritize projects.
  • We don’t have a good way to know a project is about to be in trouble until it’s too late.
  • We don’t know if our resources are over or under allocated.
  • We don’t know which resources are available for projects.
  • We don’t have an easy way to report on projects or the resources assigned to them.

I could go on and on based on my experience with several solution rollouts with different companies.  Just like when selecting a car to buy, it’s always best to know what kind of car you really need before a car sales person talks you into what they want you to buy.  So with that being said, MAKE SURE to define your business problems FIRST before you say you are ready for an EPM or PPM solution.  You also need to know what stuff you expect to get out of a solution before trying to determine what to make it look like…. BLINKY LIGHTS!  Don’t let yourself get caught up in all the ‘COOL STUFF’ a solution can do, because not all of it could be what you TRUELY need.

There are a lot of companies and solutions out there, so make sure to shop around with your business problem list and any requirements that you may have already gathered.

I am available to help with making that first step before you really make it. I’m kind of like a crawl instructor with graduation being that first step.  Please feel free to contact me using my contact form on PMLinks.com.

Thank  you for taking the time to read this OpPap from PMLinks.com (Michael C. Davis, PMP ITIL v3, GWCPM)

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Knight Business Solutions – New Member

Knight Business Solutions Logo

PMLinks - Project Management - LogoWe would like to welcome Knight Business Solutions to our directory and as a member.  You can see all of their project management related services using this link – http://pmlinks.com/directory/listing/knight-business-solutions.

If you are in the field of project management and would like to also be added to the directory, you can by going to the PMLinks.com website – http://pmlinks.com/directory/add-directory-listing.