The field of Project Management, especially in digital transformation projects, is challenging. Projects run late, suffer from scope creep, unrealistic timelines, demanding customers and questioning bosses (see the main challenges arising). Yet, the satisfaction of a project managed well to go-live is priceless. The issue plaguing our business at present is where have all the project managers gone? While this may be an unfair question, the real issue is what has changed in the project management profession.
Project managers have become navigators, creators of plans and paths. Routes to follow and roads to avoid. They have, for the most part, ceased to be captains of their crafts. They are at best co-pilots, at worst passengers. We need more captains. More people deeply invested in the positive outcome of projects and more people who understand what it means to fly a complicated route, manage risk, and land safely.
Modern project managers follow a tightly defined methodology, often agile in nature but heavily constrained by product convention or vendor prescription. Accelerators and templates have diminished the role of the modern project manager. While this has the benefit of ensuring adherence to the chosen vendor methodology, and in many cases, mitigates risk, it has significantly modified the role of Project Management to that of a Project Coordinator. The question is, how can project managers still be relevant in this new normal.
The 4 steps to follow for effective project management:
Manage the customer
New implementations or migrations may have a template that needs to be followed, but no one told the customer. Project managers still need to drag customers to meetings, manage risk logs and ultimately ensure sign-off and acceptance of project milestones. Keeping a tight reign over the customer, the Project Manager can significantly increase the chances of a positive outcome.
While the scope is typically predefined in most cases, no project is without changes, and many assumptions made at the scoping stage of a project often fail when tested. Accepting the need to be flexible, Project Managers need to take a tough stance on scope creep. Customers and Project Managers often fall into the trap of conflating agile with unbound scope. Processes need to be put in place to manage changes effectively, and the Project Manager needs to keep customisations to a minimum.
Gone are the days of blank chequebooks and multiyear projects. Most projects today are quick, targeted interventions and are costed as such. Hybrid delivery models are challenging to manage, and the temptation to deviate from these can upend a tightly costed project. Working with the customer and ensuring an accurate view of the road ahead can mitigate this, and keeping surprises to a minimum will ensure budgetary compliance.
Project Management isn’t just about scope and budget, and methodology; it is primarily about people. A good Project Manager is part psychologist and part headmaster. Managing complex human relations but still being prescriptive is a delicate balance. To be an effective Project Manager is to be an effective people manager.
It is important to remember that a good (useful) project manager doesn’t have a parachute. The only exit plan needed is a successful go-live.
Project managers need to embrace the responsibility that comes with being a captain. Only then can we guarantee success.
Discover the resources that will help you towards an effective Project Management process available at: OTT services.