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Re-imagining Project Management for Technology Based Businesses in the New Era

-Prakash Hegde

The changing Business context: a Preamble

In the new industrial revolution fuelled by an explosion of digital technologies, the traditional business models are undergoing a change. Businesses are discovering newer ways to seek, engage and retain customers, deliver value and monetize their core competencies.

“VUCA” is the term used to characterize the business environment in current times:

• V-Volatility : The nature and speed of changes is high.

• U-Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, high elements of surprise.

• C- Complexity: multiplicity of issues, lack of linear cause-effect relationships.

• A-Ambiguity: inability to decipher what is “real”, what direction technology/business may take.

The advent of digital technologies has changed the playing field and rules of the game for industry:

• Traditional large businesses now find competition from smaller start ups.

• Traditional large businesses now find competition from players from a different industry (Google making cars, Uber disrupting the transportation business, Amazon building data centers , Reliance in telecom etc).

Project Managers need to perform Quantitative risk modelling with what - if scenarios and this will be more important than traditional qualitative risk models.

• Heightened consumer awareness and participation means consumer is calling the shots on “requirements”.

pme Jan 201715

• Consumer participation on social platforms means real time “likes” and “feedback” and “complaints”.

• Increasing choices means customers are calling the shots on prices and value.

• Customers are getting impatient with timelines and they need everything delivered “now”.

Implications on Project Management

The question then really is about:

• What are the implications on Project Management?

• How do we align Project Management practices to continue to be relevant to the evolving times?

• Is it time to re-imagine the Project Management models?

Re-imagining Project Management practices

Let us explore how the traditional Project Management practices might need to be re-visited to align them better with the new age business realities, through a set of operating paradigms:

1. Re-imagine the Project Triangle (the tale of the inverted pyramid)

With Agile methods being the de-facto delivery models in order to deliver functionalities at speed, time boxed commitments have become the order of play. From allocation of resources and doing resource loading to arrive at the timelines for delivery, Project Managers now need to figure out an optimum capacity planning model to deliver a set of functionalities in a customer required timeframe.

2. Time to Value OVER Value to Time

Forward mile stone based planning may no longer be relevant. Backward planning from a pre-determined end date is becoming the norm. Associated tradeoffs need to be managed with an non negotiable end date.

3. Dealing with Unknown-Unknowns

Customer requirements and priorities change rapidly. Ability to make sense of uncertainty and put in risk controls that will mitigate the risk of the unknown and yet not impede agility is a balancing act that Project Managers are being called upon to practice. Project Managers need to perform Quantitative risk modelling with what- if scenarios and this will be more important than traditional qualitative risk models.

4. Delivering Value , not just traditional “deliverables”

In order to differentiate, it is important to go beyond contractual “deliverables” to understand and create and deliver Value differentiators. Delivering customer focused innovations will go a long way in enhancing customer experiences and loyalty. Project Managers need to figure out a way to understand and practice value delivery while maintaining hygiene on deliverables.

5. Estimation as a practice versus estimation as an art

Traditional estimation practices were done at a project level and were built on reasonably know requirements; re-estimation was encouraged at every change in requirement or when requirements were elaborated. Focus is now to do “just enough estimation” to get execution going; and do rapid changes as new information comes in. Learning from immediate experiences and weaving back the feed into estimation and continuous re-negotiation with stakeholders is becoming the name of the game. Project Managers need to be skilled in the art of rapid re-estimation and negotiations.

6. Planning the communication vs just Communicating

Rigid communication plans of the past may be passe'. With a plethora of collaborative platforms available, communication can be done real-time on multiple platforms. Project Managers will need to keep the stakeholders engaged with real time information updates using the mediums at their disposal.

7. Quality Assurance and Control to “Prevention”

Quality now needs to be “built in”; so predictive models that help focus on prevention are becoming more useful than reactive, discovery based reviews and inspections.

8. Procurement Management to Managing the ecosystem of partners

Focus and time may now need to shift from evaluation, selection, monitoring to enabling and engaging the partner ecosystem to drive value for customers.

9. Monitoring and Control to Demonstrating and Integrating feedback

Traditional time based monitoring and control may need to give way to actual and frequent demonstration of products/services, obtaining feedback and making rapid course corrections. High degree of customer engagement in the delivery process and continuous feedback enabled through automation, may be the key to keep the project on track.

10. Human resource management to Human resource enablement

With a large number of nextgen, digitally born workforce entering into organizations, Project Managers may need to focus less on managing and control and more on enabling, sharing and mentoring people in order to unleash potential for project and organizational impact.

11. Executing to Plan vs Executing to changes in Plan

The days of laborious mpp based planning may be over. The critical success factor could be the ability of Project Managers to respond to daily changing plans and align and manage resources and execution to meet ever changing customer expectations.

In summary:

These are interesting times in Project Management. Project Managers that pick up the above nuances and build and enhance competencies accordingly stand to make huge impacts to business; for those who don't, their future may become “VUCA”.

“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened – Jim Lovell.”

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