10 Jan

Embed Project Managers into Business Units

PMNetworkNot only was it an honor to be included in the Project Management Institute’s magazine, PMNetwork, but it was a topic that I am very passionate about…moving Project Managers out from the dungeons of IT and getting them embedded into business units.  While there is tremendous value in the basic blocking and tackling tasks of project managerment (templates, scheduling, etc), an organization can shift this discipline into a competitive advantage in the industry.    The essence of project management comes down to communication and relationships.  Unfortunately, over the years, many organizations have productized the discipline in an attempt to communicate the ease and value of implemeting their turn-key solutions.  There are a few major issues with this…

  1. Project Management is not easy.  Either your organization is entering into an unknown, innovative territory or they are trying to solve legacy issues that engineers and exectuives have not been able to resolve for some time.
  2. The marketing efforts of some have dumbed down the discipline to an administrative task of tracking timelines and populating templates.  The benefits realized are significantly reduced and the percpetion of skill required to be successul severely underestimated.
  3. PMOs and project managers tend to get buried under the CIOs organization, next to operations and support.  Considering the investments being made in project initiatives, this is a big mistake.  The PMO director needs a seat at the table (CPO…Chief Project Officer) and Project Managers need to be Project Leaders.

To truly capture the benefits of Project Management, the organization must remember the early challenges of business-to-tech communications.  Project Managers were the translators between the business and systems folks to ensure everyone understood one another and that everyone understand the needs and challenges from both view points.  Through the years, end-users have become much more technically savvy and are now driving technology decisions vs being trained and caught up on the implementations.  However, just as the organization has become more savvy in this space, so have projects become even more complex.  With massive ERP systmes, global teams, big data, collaboration and BYOD…shared services adds a new dynamic to the project landscape.  Regardless of the changes and advancements, the core of a successful project culture is communication and relationship.  That is where shifting the PMs from IT-centric resources and embedding them into the business begins to pay off.  Just as I listed 3 issues created by stripping down the project management role, I would like to share 3 benefits of embedding PMs into the business units…

  1. Comprehensive Solutions – End users can back up their data, speak cloud, and talk specs but they are still not proficient in systems architecture and software development.  In that same spirit, developers are gaining a much better handle on how their efforts contribute to the bottom line, but they can not begin to talk market share, margins, and distribution channels.  A project manager that understands the business, internal and external influencers, market trends…essentially the business, they will be able to provide better guidance to IT on what customer success looks like, why the business operates in a certain manner, and provide forward thinking guidance based on industry/business trends and strategy.
  2. Reduced Meetings/Streamlined Communications – All too often, a project manager (template populat’er) doesn’t know the business drivers or process and can’t answer questions from the developers.  On the flip side, they can not explain the software design or system limitations to the business.  This results in a meeting setup to get everyone on the same page and both sides to explain…painfully slow.  Having a project manager sitting in the business who can answer questions quickly, will maintian confidence of the organization and keep the project moving forward.
  3. Portfolio Planning – Typically, project requirements are broken down into tasks and then funneled into a developers queue (silo/bubble) to be completed.  At this point, the requirement is so far removed from the larger organization that no one can tell how this effects the portfolio at large.  Having a project manager sitting in the business and collaborating on strategy, is a tremendous value-add.  At this level, the PMs will know if there are limitations from a legal perspective or if multiple products in the roadmap will have an effect on IT systems.  Rather than simply catching project requests, the PM is now in a position to provide guidance on the business approach/roadmap to ensure efficient use of resources.  It would be a waste to hire a developer for 6 months only to need them again 1 month after you launched project A.  Even in this economy, they may not be around for long and the cost/time to aclimate a new developer is a waste.

  Think about the game of telephone and how things are lost in translation.  What about the idea that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line.  I think you get the idea.  Reducing the steps in your value stream adds both efficiency and standardization  to your organization and that is no different with project teams.  Having a leader that understands the business, adds guidance for sustainable solutions, and is able to provide a holistic view of the business for IT and business planning is crucial to the success of the portfolio…not just a single project.