Agile for Non-IT Projects

By Mohamed Khalifa
Project Management Consultant, Coach & PMI Authorized Instructor
PfMP, PgMP, PMP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMI-PBA, PMI-ACP, OPM3, CDA
Project+, HRBP, CKM, CBAP, LIMC, CCMAP, CTT+, IPMO-Expert

Since seventeen people met in February 2001 at Wasatch mountains of Utah to discuss and draft the Agile Manifesto, software projects have been the main focus of Agile. Since this time, Agile became one of the hottest topics in the project management world, mainly due to its proven success on software projects and its ability to deliver quick and real value to customers, reduce the risks and increase collaboration between different stakeholders.

After years of using agile methodologies, tools and techniques many professionals around the world started looking at the Agile Manifesto through lenses other than software development. They proclaimed to very clearly see that the Agile Manifesto, principles, tools and techniques can make the same level of success on different types of projects in addition to software development.

In the current turbulent and fast changing world, we need to go back to the basics, back to the reason which made agile successful which is “be Agile, be Adaptive”. If we start referring to the main Agile Manifesto and do small changes in the statements, we will find that they will work fine with projects of different types.

Let us have a look at the Agile Manifesto which requires preference of:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,
  • Business value over comprehensive documentation,
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The above can work in any project and can be adopted as an organization’s philosophy to deliver fast, reduce the risks, solve the conflict between different stakeholders and clarify the requirements as we work on projects.

To successfully execute non-software projects using Agile, we can use the Agile principles to set clear expectations with stakeholders, bring sanity to project execution, and mine the benefits of Agile. While this approach may look similar to the principles followed in an Agile software delivery project, their applications are quite different when it comes to non-software projects.

  • Define “Working Product or Service” can be used to refer to any deliverable that is produced by the project and brings value to the customer.
  • Define “Customer” can help us to define who is the ‘right’ Product Owner.
  • Define ‘Done’: Work with the sponsors and product owner to identify ‘done’ for each story/deliverable.
  • Measure Business Value: Measuring or establishing the business value of the work done is key for any project.

Since most of the deliverables exist as theories or prototypes, it is important to prepare a business case at the start of the initiative that clearly provides the cost benefit for this initiative followed by articulating the benefits achieved at regular intervals, preferably at the ends of iterations.

Expect the Unexpected: Project scope, objective, and goals are liable to change frequently and drastically. Therefore, go for shorter iterations, joint workshops, paired development of deliverables, continuous expert and peer reviews, and proper socialization of theories and ideas. Having senior strategists, architects, or consultants is helpful, especially if they have a deep experience on the subject matter as well as with the overall organization.

Did you try to apply Agile Mindset in your projects? Is it working? What was good? What was bad? Share with us your valuable thoughts.

Gain more insights at IIL’s Agile and Scrum Online Conference, opening on June 3. Learn more about the event and register here.


Project Management Predictions for 2021


By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D

The landscape for project management changes almost every year. Some changes are relatively small or incremental whereas other changes can be significant. Historically, most of the changes appeared in the methodology, processes, tools, and techniques. Now, many of the changes are behavioral changes.

There will be a significant change in how we define the success (and failure) of a project. This is one of the changes I discussed last year, and I am reiterating the need for this change because some companies are still reluctant to make this change necessary for critical improvements in project management.

For years, the definition of project success was the creation of project deliverables within the constraints of time, cost, and scope. While this definition seemed relatively easy to use, and is still being used today, it created several headaches. First, companies can always create deliverables within time, cost, and scope, but there is no guarantee that customers would purchase the end results. Second, everyone seemed to agree that there should be a “business” component to project success but were unable to identify how to do it because of the lack of project-related business metrics. Third, this definition of project success was restricted to traditional or operational projects. Functional managers that were responsible for the strategic projects were utilizing their own definitions of project success, and many of these strategic projects were being executed under the radar screen because of the competition in the company for funding for strategic projects.

Another headache with the traditional definition of success was that its basis was on the belief that time, cost, and scope are the only three constraints on a project. When PMI introduced the concept of competing constraints, the definition of success had to ultimately change because it may be impossible to complete a project within all the competing constraints.

Today, companies believe they are managing their business as a stream of projects, including both strategic and traditional projects. As such, there must exist a definition that satisfies all types of projects. The three components of success today are: (1) the project must provide or at least identify business benefits; (2) the project’s benefits must be harvested such that they can be converted into sustainable business value that can be expressed quantitatively; and (3) the projects must be aligned to strategic business objectives.

With these three components as part of the project’s success criteria, companies must ask themselves when creating a portfolio of strategic projects, “Why expend resources and work on this project if the intent is not to create sustainable business value?” These three components can also be used to create failure criteria as to when to pull the plug and stop working on a project.

There will be a significant growth in the number of metrics, especially business-related metrics, to be use on projects When we discuss competing constraints, we must realize that many of the new constraints are business-oriented constraints. The business side of projects will need to be understood much better than in the past. This will require significantly more metrics than just time, cost, and scope.

Companies will need to create metrics that can track benefits realization, value created from the benefits and how each project is aligned to strategic business objectives. To do this may require the creation of 20-30 new metrics. Some companies have metric libraries that contain more than 50 metrics. This will undoubtedly lead to major changes in the earned value measurement systems (EVMS) currently be used.

The new project business metrics must be able to be combined to answer questions that executives have concerning business and portfolio health. The list below identifies metrics that executives need to make decisions concerning business and portfolio health.

  • Business profitability
  • Portfolio Health
  • Portfolio benefits realization
  • Portfolio value achieved
  • The mix of projects in the portfolio
  • Resource availability
  • Capacity utilization
  • Strategic alignment of projects
  • Overall business performance

The project-based business metrics must be able to be combined to create this list of metrics that executives need for business decision-making. Companies will have a metrics library since the number of metrics can become significant. Companies may use a set of “core” metrics that are required on each project but then establish other metrics unique to this project. Since each project many have different success criteria, the unique metrics must support the criteria for measuring and reporting success.

There will be a growth in the creation of manifestos attributed to flexible project management frameworks or methodologies that are capable of measuring benefits and business value as the project progresses and after the deliverables have been created. The traditional “waterfall” approach to project management implementation has been used successfully for years, but has the limitation that value is measurable primarily at the end of the project. Companies want to have value and benefits metrics reported throughout the project so that they can cancel or redirect non-performing projects.

Techniques such as agile and Scrum appear to do a better job measuring and report value created through the project than other approaches. In the future, we can expect more flexible project management approaches such as agile and Scrum to appear.

As new flexible frameworks appear, we will also see more documents like the Agile Manifesto that discusses the best ways to use the approach. I would expect most of the information in each new manifesto to be more behavioral that just continuous improvements in the processes, tools, and techniques traditionally used in project management applications.

There will be a significant change in the behavioral or people-oriented skill set that some project managers may need to support the introduction of new and more flexible methodologies. When there exists some commonality among the projects in a firm such that a one-size-fits-all approach can be used during project execution, the skill set for the project managers may be known with some degree of certainty. But when project managers are now responsible for managing new types of projects, especially with flexible frameworks, new skills may be necessary.

Flexible methodologies focus on better people-oriented leadership, more collaboration, and a concern for the health and well-being of the team members rather than just a focus on the creation of deliverables. Some of the newer skills being taught in people-oriented rather than task-oriented leadership on projects, how to conduct brainstorming sessions, design thinking and creative problem-solving.

Conclusions:

It is unrealistic to think that these will be the only changes that will occur in 2021. There will be other changes, but perhaps not as significant as these changes. The implementation of these changes requires that companies try to envision the future and plan for it beginning with changes to the corporate culture. For companies that believe in “business as usual” or “let’s leave well enough alone”, these changes will not be implemented. Those companies that believe in “doing things the same old way” will most likely struggle to stay in existence.


Virtual Learning in 2021: The 7 Trends to Look out for


By Pamela S. Hogle

Digital learning took the spotlight in 2020, as schools, corporations, and organizations of all types abruptly moved to remote learning and working. With hope for rosier days ahead, what does 2021 hold for learning and development (L&D) professionals and online training? These 7 notable trends may influence our lives as L&D pros, learners, and employees:

1. Virtual learning continues to gain traction

Virtual training expert Cindy Huggett, who conducts an annual survey on live, instructor-led virtual training, released her 2020 findings in early December. Unsurprisingly, 90% of her nearly 900 respondents are doing more virtual training this year. Many of them “realize it’s the way to do business going forward,” in the words of one survey participant. LinkedIn Learning’s Leading with Learning report found similar attitudes, with three-quarters of respondents anticipating “a lot more” online learning and nearly 80% expecting increased virtual training even after the COVID crisis ends.

Typical virtual classes are an hour long, and nearly half are part of a blended learning strategy, Huggett reports. The most common challenge reported was technology issues, and a quarter of respondents hoped to move to a different platform. Survey respondents report that the average hourlong virtual class requires 9 hours of development time.

2. Agile Project Management is hot

As an approach that excels at coping with frequent change, iterative and nimble Agile Project Management seems ideally suited to the COVID and post-COVID work environment. Benefits to using an Agile Project Management approach include “MVP” or the minimum viable product concept and the flexibility to adjust the project scope as it progresses. MVP prioritizes getting a simple “draft” version of a product into the hands of stakeholders — ideally, people who will be actual users of the end product — as early in the development cycle as possible. For an eLearning product, that would mean initial testing of basic iterations with real learners. Their feedback provides information that improves future iterations of the product. Using Agile Project Management can improve efficiency and quality.

3. Adopting Agile and Scrum approaches in L&D

In tandem with the embrace of Agile Project Management is the increasing use of Agile and Scrum principles and tactics. With an emphasis on collaboration and continuous improvement, these approaches strive to “delight customers.”

Scrum is a framework often used to implement Agile. It formalizes some project management best practices, like having regular check-ins with the entire team, regularly reviewing the work-in-progress with the customer, and conducting reviews of team performance with the goal of identifying and correcting weaknesses and continually improving processes. Agile Project Management teams might include a “Scrum master” to support the team in implementing the Agile approach.

4. Hiring managers are turning their gaze inward

Internal recruiting is a win-win. Companies that are known to promote from within or facilitate internal transfers are attractive to employees, who consistently express interest in skill-building and career-advancement opportunities. Organizations benefit by retaining top performers, reducing recruiting and hiring costs, and reducing employee turnover. LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends report called recruiting and L&D “the new power couple” and encouraged businesses to implement or improve their formal internal hiring processes. One suggestion: Map current employees’ skills and link them with upskilling opportunities.

5. … And turn to upskilling & reskilling current employees

The trend toward reskilling — teaching workers new skills needed for a new position — and upskilling employees — updating existing skills to improve a worker’s ability to perform their current job — was tagged in early 2020 in a McKinsey report. Changes forced by the pandemic dramatically increased the urgency of teaching new and updated skills to employees as their businesses pivoted to remote work, online ordering, or contactless delivery, and adopted new safety and operating protocols. 

In May, McKinsey predicted that reskilling will become even more central to companies hoping to emerge strong and resilient from the COVID crisis. The ability to “produce and deliver digital content rapidly to a broad base of employees” will enable companies to build skills needed for the “distance economy,” adjust to changes in how people work, eat, shop, and travel — and cope with shifts in global supply chains, according to McKinsey. Companies that reskill with an eye to helping employees in key parts of their business respond well to changes and will be positioned to respond effectively to whatever challenges the COVID and post-COVID eras present.

6. Increased demand for training focused on power skills

So-called “power” skills including critical thinking, communication, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability top lists of in-demand skills for jobs at all levels, but especially leadership roles. Training for these skills, which improve team performance, business relationship management, and leadership across industries and business functions, is also in demand. 

7. Peer / learner-generated content

This power-skills training is apparently paying off in greater collaboration among peers. Peer-to-peer learning and learner-generated content are among emerging trends for 2020 and beyond. This reflects learners’ experience as self-directed learners and consumers, as well as an emphasis on sharing knowledge in companies with strong learning cultures. Peer-to-peer learning develops leaders within the organization, preserves and passes on institutional knowledge, and deepens relationships among peers and colleagues.

Looking ahead at professional development trends in 2021

These trends indicate a bright future for online training designers, developers, and vendors. Remote work leapt into the forefront of many business plans and learning at all levels will remain heavily focused on digital options for some time. 


Family Project Management: What You Need to Know

By Hilary Kinney, PMP - Strategic Communications and Project Management Consultant, Vision Realized

Are you working at home during quarantine and parenting/home-schooling at the same time? Considering how to handle things this summer? Here are a few project management principles that can help.

Set a Realistic Plan/Scope and Get Buy-in

First, it’s important to set a realistic plan and get buy-in from your family. What are you trying to accomplish during this time, what are you not trying to accomplish? In other words, what’s your project scope? You and your partner need to be aligned on the same plan. Get input from the kids, because they will be more apt to participate and may have some great ideas like helping with cleaning.

• Are the kids just submitting required schoolwork, or are they doing extra?

• For the summer, what are the kids’ roles and responsibilities?

• Are your work hours being adjusted?

• Are the kids’ screen time allotments changing?

• Are projects around the house included?

Have a Kick-off Meeting and Daily Check-ins

Once you’ve decided on your plan/scope, share it with the entire family. Have a kick-off family meeting to set expectations and explain roles and responsibilities. Communicate to the kids what’s expected of them. Once the plan is in place, have daily meetings to see what work is being accomplished, how much screen time the kids have had, etc. We usually do this during breakfast and also try to have lunch together.

Make an Action Item List

Feeling overwhelmed and disorganized? Make a list of each task, who’s responsible for it, and when it needs to be completed. Include chores and schoolwork. I have found that a whiteboard of daily activities works well for us. I list what needs to be done each day, and my son enjoys erasing things from the list when they’re done.

Recognize the Limitations / Be Realistic

All projects have constraints, including time, cost, and quality. Cost considerations include, for example, whether you pay for meal delivery services and tutoring. Quality and time considerations affect how much focus is spent on work, school, and play. Realize that spending more time and effort on one activity will affect the others. Keeping these constraints in mind can help you decide how to manage them.

Be Agile

Ensure the plan is delivering the results you want in school performance, family dynamics, work productivity, etc. Focus more on results than process. Experiment and adjust as necessary. I’ve learned that my son can focus better on school in the afternoon after we play outside in the morning, rather than doing his schoolwork first. If some of the online learning isn’t working for you, try a more hands-on approach. For example, cook dinner together and learn about math and chemistry.

Make it Fun & Positive

The main goal should be to develop a loving, productive environment among your family team members with shared objectives, trust, commitment, and accountability. Recognize and celebrate accomplishments, both large and small. Praise and thank you notes are great, but try to think outside the box. For example, have an ice cream night to celebrate milestones like all the chores getting done that week or the completion of a school quarter.

Combining how we approach work and family can help us focus and feel more integrated. Are there any other parenting ideas that are working for you during this time? Please share in the comments below.

To learn more about this topic, click here to register for IIL’s IPM Day Online Conference. Hilary will be presenting “Project Management for Parents", sharing business principles to navigate this new reality and help your home life go more smoothly even when the pandemic ends.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. Republished with permission.

About the Author

Hilary Kinney works with companies to achieve their vision through strategic communications and project management.

She has 17 years of experience successfully advancing business priorities and deploying major projects for large corporations. Her achievements range from facilitating a C-suite-sponsored customer recognition program across 7,000 properties globally, to directing special projects from the President’s office at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

Hilary earned a B.S. in Hotel Administration from Cornell University. She holds a Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification from the Project Management Institute, as well as a Change Management Certification from the Prosci Change Management Leadership Center. Hilary lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where she enjoys outdoor activities with her family.


How to Use Artificial Intelligence in Project Management


By Marcus Glowasz – Project & Product Lead, Fortean | Program Manager, UBS

It is the end of project management as we know it.


When googling about Artificial Intelligence in Project Management you’ll find loads of articles talking about how AI will revolutionize and transform project management, how it will automate processes, etc., and how it possibly will eliminate the project manager role all together.

Reading most of those articles, you are getting the idea that AI indeed has the capabilities that we all know already — processing large amounts of data quickly, finding patterns in data, learning from it, making predictions. It is also clear that the project management practice where capabilities of forecasting project scenarios and outcomes, predicting the impact from risks and issues, estimating work, etc. are critical building blocks, is an obvious use case for the application of AI. There is therefore no doubt that AI will have a significant footprint in the project management area.

The most important question though is what it will do to project management from an organizational point of view, to established processes, methodologies, frameworks, etc.

Will AI just be another tool that will make the project manager’s life easier, just like Microsoft Project, Jira, Slack, etc.? Project managers appreciate such tools just like accountants appreciate tools like Microsoft Excel which made their life in many ways significantly easier.

Will AI be like a new project management methodology, just like Agile? Agile methods had a significant impact on project management, especially in technology/software development projects, which also led to new software tools (e.g. Atlassian Jira) and required a new mindset for adoption.

The impact of AI in project management however will be much broader and truly disruptive. AI will not be just a new tool nor just a new methodology, instead we can expect that it will fundamentally redefine the project management practice.

The reasons are in the nature of AI, alias in the domain of Machine Learning, and also in what project management is all about. When you look at project management processes, there are 3 elements that define project management in its core nature, which in my view are also the 3 major pain points in projects:

1. Uncertainty
The expected outcome from any project always will be uncertain. Nobody can guarantee a project delivery on time, budget, in scope, and with agreed quality. It simply is not possible with current practices — unless the project manager has the unlikely ability to read the future from some crystal ball.

2. Forecast
There are many techniques to forecast project activities and tasks, durations of tasks, potential bottlenecks, etc., and build a realistic plan around this in order to meet a target delivery date.
What needs to flow into such planning as well is a forecast of issues that potentially will occur along the way, hence some diligent risk management and tracking is critical. We usually are horrible at forecasting — this is just human nature and we usually estimate too optimistically.

3. Learning
There are not many domains where learning is so important as it is for project management — but in most of today’s projects, teams just swing from one to the next project without really learning from their experiences.

Projects are said to be unique endeavours but that is simply not true — projects are never really 100% unique. When you are building a house, then you may build a unique type of house but there are many processes and work packages in such project which were done and executed precisely the same way in other house construction projects before.

What is key here is to learn from such past projects and processes, adopt the things that worked, and avoid the things that did not work well before.

Unfortunately, in all those 3 areas, today’s project management practices are failing which is the cause of consistently low project success rates. And it is a natural consequence that capabilities in form of predictive analytics, AI, and Machine Learning have to be leveraged to address those critical items in the project management domain.


I therefore expect that the following key elements will define the future of project management:

1. Data-driven decision-making processes
Decisions in projects so far are being taken in a very intuitive fashion, usually based on own professional experience, but often also led by political and bias-driven motivations.
A change towards a data and fact-driven approach which will take into consideration past challenges, learnings and plain facts, is a fundamental and radical change and I expect strong resistance as it requires a true mindset change.

2. Leading products instead of managing projects
Today’s project managers are too much involved in more administrative and repetitive tasks, although a lot of day-to-day tasks can be automated by using either Robotics or Machine Learning approaches.
Project managers should focus more on strategic topics, driving product development in order to close the apparent gap between project management and product management.

3. Hybrid Intelligence

The combination of machine and human intelligence in projects is an important element of future project management concepts, as it will combine the strengths of both worlds for an optimal project management approach. AI will not be able to provide people leadership, negotiate with clients, etc. — in all those more leadership and intuition driven activities, humans are superior to AI and can play out their strengths, while AI can focus on its strengths in terms of collecting and analyzing and learning from large amounts of data.

AI is here to stay in project management and while it is not yet clear, how exactly the new project management world will look like, it will change drastically and the way projects are being managed will never be the same anymore.

Project management processes will be rewritten.

Some roles will disappear and other new ones will be introduced.

Intelligent tools will hit the market.

Stay tuned.


This post was originally published on Medium. Republished with permission.


About the Author


Marcus Glowasz is a Co-Founder and Product Lead at Fortean, a Swiss technology startup that leverages data analytics and artificial intelligence technology to innovate and redefine the project management practice, addressing the growing challenges of project professionals to effectively and successfully deliver projects.

Header photo by Franck V. on Unsplash. “Data has a better idea” photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash.

 


How These 6 Principles Boost Stakeholder Engagement


By Elizabeth Harrin, Director, Otobos Consultants Ltd


In Stakeholder-led Project Management: Changing the Way We Manage Projects Louise M. Worsley sets out 6 principles for engaging project stakeholders.


I thought they were tenets worth sharing, so here they are along with my explanation of what they each mean to me. (Plus there’s a handy infographic if you scroll down.)

Stakeholders should have a say in decisions that affect them


You can’t do projects to people. Actually, you can try. I guarantee it won’t turn out well.


Talk to the people whose lives you are changing, even if the change appears to you to be very small.

Stakeholder participation includes the promise that their contributions will influence decisions… and they are told how


It isn’t enough to talk to people. You have to listen as well. When people give you their input, they deserve to have it incorporated where you can.


If you can’t incorporate it, at least let people know the reasons why so they aren’t disappointed later or feel that they have been ignored.

Stakeholder engagement seeks out those potentially affected by, or interested in, a decision


You have to go out and find your stakeholders. The easiest way to do this is to ask the stakeholders you know about to suggest other people you should be talking to.


Keep expanding your network. There is nearly always someone else whom you could get involved.

Stakeholder engagement seeks input on how they may wish to participate


And accepts that some people may not wish to participate.


Talk to your stakeholders about what engagement looks like to them and offer a range of ways for people to get involved with your project.

Stakeholder engagement provides information, time, and space to allow stakeholders to participate in a meaningful way


The important thing here – the takeaway for me – is space. Often stakeholders need longer than you expect to absorb the changes proposed by the project.


Give them the space to reflect and the time to make the right choices.

It never hurts to be polite


I think Worsley has that one pretty sewn up!


This post was originally published on A Girl’s Guide to Project Management. Republished with permission.


About the Author


Elizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. She’s passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She’s also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

 


The Disciplined Agile Mindset


By Scott Ambler | Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute

The DA tool kit supplies straightforward guidance to help you, your team, and your enterprise increase your effectiveness. The DA tool kit shows you how to apply and evolve your way of working (WoW) in a context-sensitive manner with this people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach.  We describe DA in terms of four views: Mindset, People, Flow, and Practices.  In this blog I describe the mindset behind PMI’s Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, overviewed in Figure 1.  PMI’s approach to describing the DA Mindset is straightforward: We believe in these principles, so we promise to adopt these behaviours and we follow these guidelines when doing so.



Figure 1: The Disciplined Agile Mindset.

 

The Principles


The principles of the Disciplined Agile mindset provide a philosophical foundation for business agility.  The eight principles are are based on both lean and flow concepts:

 

  1. Delight customers. We need to go beyond satisfying our customers’ needs, beyond meeting their expectations, and strive to delight them.  If we don’t then someone else will delight them and steal our customers away from us. This applies to both external customers as well as internal customers.
  2. Be awesome. We should always strive to be the best that we can, and to always get better. Who wouldn’t want to work with awesome people, on an awesome team for an awesome organization?
  3. Context counts. Every person, every team, every organization is unique.  We face unique situations that evolve over time.  The implication is that we must choose our way of working (WoW) to reflect the context that we face, and then evolve our WoW as the situation evolves.
  4. Be pragmatic (reworded from Pragmatism). Our aim isn’t to be agile, it’s to be as effective as we can be and to improve from there.  To do this we need to be pragmatic and adopt agile, lean, or even traditional strategies when they make the most sense for our context.
  5. Choice is good. To choose our WoW in a context-driven, pragmatic manner we need to select the best-fit technique given our situation.  Having choices, and knowing the trade-offs associated with those choices, is critical to choosing our WoW that is best fit for our context.
  6. Optimize flow. We want to optimize flow across the value stream that we are part of, and better yet across our organization, and not just locally optimize our WoW within our team. Sometimes this will be a bit inconvenient for us, but overall we will be able to more effectively respond to our customers.
  7. Organize around products/services (new).  To delight our customers we need to organize ourselves around producing the offerings, the products and services, that they need. We are in effect organizing around value streams because value streams produce value for customers, both external and internal, in the form of products and services.  We chose to say organize around products/services, rather than offerings or value streams, as we felt this was more explicit.
  8. Enterprise awareness. Disciplined agilists look beyond the needs of their team to take the long-term needs of their organization into account.  They adopt, and sometimes tailor, organizational guidance.  They follow, and provide feedback too, organizational roadmaps.  The leverage, and sometimes enhance, existing organizational assets.  In short, they do what’s best for the organization and not just what’s convenient for them.

 

The Promises


The promises of the Disciplined Agile mindset are agreements that we make with our fellow teammates, our stakeholders, and other people within our organization whom we interact with.  The promises define a collection of disciplined behaviours that enable us to collaborate effectively and professionally.  The seven promises are:

 

  1. Create psychological safety and embrace diversity. Psychological safety means being able to show and apply oneself without fear of negative consequences of status, career, or self-worth—we should be comfortable being ourselves in our work setting. Psychological safety goes hand-in-hand with diversity, which is the recognition that everyone is unique and can add value in different ways. The dimensions of personal uniqueness include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, agile, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideological beliefs. Diversity is critical to a team’s success because it enables greater innovation. The more diverse our team, the better our ideas will be, the better our work will be, and the more we’ll learn from each other.
  2. Accelerate value realization. In DA we use the term value to refer to both customer and business value. Customer value, something that benefits the end customer who consumes the product/service that our team helps to provide, is what agilists typically focus on. This is clearly important, but in Disciplined Agile we’re very clear that teams have a range of stakeholders, including external end customers. Business value addresses the issue that some things are of benefit to our organization and perhaps only indirectly to our customers. For example, investing in enterprise architecture, in reusable infrastructure, and in sharing innovations across our organization offer the potential to improve consistency, quality, reliability, and reduce cost over the long term.
  3. Collaborate proactively. Disciplined agilists strive to add value to the whole, not just to their individual work or to the team’s work. The implication is that we want to collaborate both within our team and with others outside our team, and we also want to be proactive doing so. Waiting to be asked is passive, observing that someone needs help and then volunteering to do so is proactive.
  4. Make all work and workflow visible. DA teams will often make their work visible at both the individual level as well as the team level. It is critical to focus on our work in process, which is our work in progress plus any work that is queued up waiting for us to get to it.  Furthermore, DA teams make their workflow visible, and thus have explicit workflow policies, so that everyone knows how everyone else is working.
  5. Improve predictability. DA teams strive to improve their predictability to enable them to collaborate and self-organize more effectively, and thereby to increase the chance that they will fulfill any commitments that they make to their stakeholders. Many of the earlier promises we have made work toward improving predictability.
  6. Keep workloads within capacity. Going beyond capacity is problematic from both a personal and a productivity point of view. At the personal level, overloading a person or team will often increase the frustration of the people involved. Although it may motivate some people to work harder in the short term, it will cause burnout in the long term, and it may even motivate people to give up and leave because the situation seems hopeless to them. From a productivity point of view, overloading causes multitasking, which increases overall overhead.
  7. Improve continuously. The really successful organizations—Apple, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, and more—got that way through continuous improvement. They realized that to remain competitive they needed to constantly look for ways to improve their processes, the outcomes that they were delivering to their customers, and their organizational structures.

 

The Guidelines


The guidelines of the Disciplined Agile mindset help us to be more effective in our way of working (WoW), and in improving our WoW over time. The eight guidelines are:

 

  1. Validate our learnings. The only way to become awesome is to experiment with, and then adopt where appropriate, a new WoW. In guided continuous improvement (GCI) we experiment with a new way of working and then we assess how well it worked, an approach called validated learning. Being willing and able to experiment is critical to our process-improvement efforts.
  2. Apply design thinking. Delighting customers requires us to recognize that our aim is to create operational value streams that are designed with our customers in mind. This requires design thinking on our part. Design thinking means to be empathetic to the customer, to first try to understand their environment and their needs before developing a solution.
  3. Attend to relationships through the value stream. The interactions between the people doing the work are what is key, regardless of whether or not they are part of the team. For example, when a product manager needs to work closely with our organization’s data analytics team to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the marketplace, and with our strategy team to help put those observations into context, then we want to ensure that these interactions are effective.
  4. Create effective environments that foster joy. Part of being awesome is having fun and being joyful. We want working in our company to be a great experience so we can attract and keep the best people. Done right, work is play. We can make our work more joyful by creating an environment that allows us to work together well.
  5. Change culture by improving the system. While culture is important, and culture change is a critical component of any organization’s agile transformation, the unfortunate reality is that we can’t change it directly. This is because culture is a reflection of the management system in place, so to change our culture we need to evolve our overall system.
  6. Create semi-autonomous self-organizing teams. Organizations are complex adaptive systems (CASs) made up of a network of teams or, if you will, a team of teams. Although mainstream agile implores us to create “whole teams” that have all of the skills and resources required to achieve the outcomes that they’ve been tasked with, the reality is that no team is an island unto itself. Autonomous teams would be ideal but there are always dependencies on other teams upstream that we are part of, as well as downstream from us. And, of course, there are dependencies between offerings (products or services) that necessitate the teams responsible for them to collaborate.
  7. Adopt measures to improve outcomes. When it comes to measurement, context counts. What are we hoping to improve? Quality? Time to market? Staff morale? Customer satisfaction? Combinations thereof? Every person, team, and organization has their own improvement priorities, and their own ways of working, so they will have their own set of measures that they gather to provide insight into how they’re doing and, more importantly, how to proceed. And these measures evolve over time as their situation and priorities evolve. The implication is that our measurement strategy must be flexible and fit for purpose, and it will vary across teams.
  8. Leverage and enhance organizational assets. Our organization has many assets—information systems, information sources, tools, templates, procedures, learnings, and other things—that our team could adopt to improve our effectiveness. We may not only choose to adopt these assets, we may also find that we can improve them to make them better for us as well as other teams who also choose to work with these assets.

 

Whence the Agile Manifesto?


Until recently, we described the DA mindset as the combination of the DA Principles and the DA Manifesto.  The DA Manifesto in turn was described in terms of five values and 17 principles behind the manifesto.  The DA Manifesto was based on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or more colloquially known as the Agile Manifesto.  But, as you can imagine, people were confused by two levels of principles.  We also found the Agile Manifesto to be constraining, mostly due to the cultural baggage that has built up around it for the past two decades.  And most importantly, we realized that we could describe the mindset in a far more robust and understandable manner as you’ve seen in this blog.


The DA Mindset provides conceptual background required for business agility and is an important part of the foundation of the DA tool kit.  I will describe how to apply the DA tool kit in my keynote presentation, Disciplined Agile Strategies for Greater Innovation, at IIL’s Agile and Scrum 2020 Online Conference. I hope you choose to attend this great event.

 

[To learn more on this topic, click here to register for IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]

 

References


For further reading about the details behind the Disciplined Agile Mindset, please read Chapter 2 of Choose Your WoW! A Disciplined Agile Delivery Handbook for Choosing Your Way of Working.


About the Author Scott is the Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute. Scott leads the evolution of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit and is an international keynote speaker. Scott is the (co)-creator of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit as well as the Agile Modeling (AM) and Agile Data (AD) methodologies. He is the (co-)author of several books, including Choose Your WoW!, An Executive’s Guide to the Disciplined Agile Framework, Refactoring Databases, Agile Modeling, Agile Database Techniques, and The Object Primer 3rd Edition. Scott blogs regularly at ProjectManagement.com and he can be contacted via pmi.org.

 


Innovation Project Management

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director, International Institute for Learning (IIL)

We are excited to bring you this blog post on Innovation Project Management, which is adapted from Dr. Harold Kerzner’s new book of the same title. Below, he explains why this topic is so important, the types of challenges that innovation project managers face, and much more. Get your copy today! Use code KERZNERBLOG for $20 off. Order on the IIL website.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has recently celebrated 50 years of providing the world with project management competencies. In the early years, a large portion of the competencies were established to support the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) requirements placed upon their contractors. Most of these projects were engineering oriented and headed up by project managers with engineering backgrounds. Project sponsors were assigned to make many of the business-related decisions whereas project managers focused heavily upon the technical decisions. In many instances, contractors were opposed to the acceptance of project management practices. They would accept them after the DoD made project management a requirement to be awarded a contract.

As seen by the contractors, the bulk of the contracts were traditional or operational activities with well-defined statements of work, minimal risks, and an agreed upon budget and schedule. Executives placed limited trust in the hands of the project managers for fear that project managers may end up making decisions that were reserved for the senior levels of management. To limit the decisions that project managers could make, senior management created a singular project management approach (a one-size-fits-all methodology) that all PMs had to follow. The singular methodology was based upon rigid policies and procedures. The evaluation of project management performance was based upon how well the PMs followed the methodology. In many companies, project management was not seen as a career path slot but was instead treated as a part-time activity one had to perform in addition to one’s normal duties.

Projects related to strategic planning or strategy development were placed in the hands of functional managers because executives trusted the functional managers more so than they trusted the project managers. Functional managers were given the freedom to use whatever approaches they wish on the strategic projects and most frequently did not follow traditional project management guidelines.

By the turn of the century, companies began to reevaluate whether functional managers were the right people to manage strategic projects, especially those involving innovation. The critical issue was with bonuses. Functional managers were receiving year-end bonuses based upon the firm’s profitability over a 12-month period. As such, functional managers were using their best resources on the short-term projects that would maximize their year-end bonuses and the long-term strategic projects that would provide the firm with a sustainable competitive advantage began to suffer due to staffing deficiencies. Short-term profits became more important than long-term growth.

Competitive factors were now forcing companies to realize that survival was predicated upon growth and innovation was a critical component. All companies desire growth. But without some innovations, the opportunities may be limited. And even if the firm does have a few successful innovations, failure can still occur if the company focuses on past successes without developing a culture for continuous and sustainable innovations. Today’s industry leaders can become tomorrow’s failures without constantly challenging results.

Recognizing the need for some changes in the way that strategic projects, especially those involving innovation, were being managed, the focus naturally turned to project management applications. But there was the critical issue as to whether the core competencies used by PMs for the management of traditional or operational projects would be applicable to innovation projects. Competencies for managing traditional or operational projects are reasonably well-defined in documents such as PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and IPMA’s Competency Baseline, Version 3.0. However, for innovation projects, there is no universal agreement on the content of the competencies. Many of the traditional project management competencies are also components of innovation project management competencies, but there are others related to the types of decisions that must be made based upon the company’s core competencies for managing operational work and the type of innovation project at hand.

Over the past two decades, there has been a great deal of literature published on innovation and innovation management. Converting a creative idea into reality requires projects and some form of project management. Unfortunately, innovation projects may not be able to be managed using the traditional project management philosophy we teach in our project management courses. Innovation varies from industry to industry and even companies within the same industry cannot come to an agreement on how innovation management should work. This is the reason why project management and innovation are often not discussed in the same sentence.

Some of the challenges facing innovation project managers include:

  • Inability to predict exactly when an innovation will occur
  • Inability to identify what the cost of innovation will be
  • Inability to predict how the enterprise environmental factors will change over the life of the project
  • Working with just an idea or goal rather than a formal statement of work
  • Working with strategic/business objectives rather than operational/traditional objectives
  • Inability to predict changes in consumer tastes, needs and behaviors
  • Inability to deal with extremely high levels of risk, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and variability
  • Having to use a new flexible methodology or framework based upon investment life cycle phases rather than traditional waterfall life cycle phases
  • A focus on metrics related to business benefits and value rather than the traditional time, cost and scope metrics

There are many more challenges that could have been included in this list, but it does show that what we traditionally teach as competencies in our project management courses must be revised when considering innovation projects.

Competencies are the roles, knowledge, skills, personal characteristics and attributes that someone must have to fulfill a position. Most companies, especially large firms, have operational core competencies used by PMs when managing traditional projects that are burdened with formal procedures that often make it difficult to react quickly to take advantage of opportunities that can lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. These companies are generally risk averse and perform as market followers rather than leaders.

If a company wants an entrepreneurial environment, then there must exist some degree of autonomy and flexibility in the operational core competencies that impact innovation activities for both product and process improvements. Typical core competencies for an entrepreneurial environment include:

  • Inventiveness
  • Understanding business strategy
  • Understanding value propositions
  • Having a business orientation
  • Having knowledge about markets and customer behavior
  • Working with high degrees of risk, uncertainty and complexity
  • Managing diverse cross-functional teams
  • Team building skills
  • Coordination and control over activities
  • Design thinking
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Rapid prototype development
  • Innovation leadership

Some of these competencies may apply to both innovation and traditional projects. Competencies can vary from company to company in the way that the characteristics of the competencies are integrated together and the relationship to the firm’s business model. Competencies are also dependent on the type of projects and corporate leadership.

Unlike traditional leadership, innovation leadership must include allowing for autonomy accompanied by the acceptance and support of risky ventures often in reaction to technological changes in the marketplace. Autonomy is usually measured by the speed by which the firm’s cross-functional activities are integrated to take advantage of opportunities for delivering innovative products. For entrepreneurship to work, there must be a corporate culture that supports risk-taking and experimentation without fear of reprisal if the results are not what was expected.

The success of an innovation corporate culture is measured by:

  • The number of new products created
  • The number of new products created that were first to market
  • The speed by which commercialization took place

If continuous and sustainable innovation is to occur, then innovation leadership and traditional project management must be married together and with a clear understanding of each other’s roles. Innovation defines what we would like to do, and project management determines if it can be done. The marriage also may require that both parties learn new skills and create a corporate culture that supports idea management practices.

Understanding each other’s roles is the first step in making a company more innovative. This requires that the project managers and other innovation personnel understand what they do not do now but must do for long-term successful innovation. This also includes understanding the interfacing with marketing personnel and customers.

Innovation project management is now a strategic competency necessary for the growth, and possibly survival, of the firm. Properly trained innovation project managers can be expected to make presentations to those people that reside on the top floor of the building as well as members of the board of directors.

The Innovation Project Management book was written with the intent of providing project personnel with the additional competencies needed to manage innovation projects. The book also discusses the corporate governance needed to create the appropriate culture for innovation to occur.

Get your copy today! Use code KERZNERBLOG for $20 off. Order on the IIL website.

The book is broken down as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Discusses why innovation and project management are often not discussed together and some of the links that are needed to bridge innovation, project management and business strategy.
  • Chapter 2: Discusses the different types of innovation. This is essential because each type of innovation may require a different form of project management.
  • Chapter 3: Discusses how business strategy may determine the type of innovation required and links together project management with the different types of innovation.
  • Chapter 4: Discusses the new tools that traditional project managers need to learn in order to manage innovation projects. Many of these tools are not discussed in traditional project management programs.
  • Chapter 5: Discusses why some of the processes used in traditional project management activities may not work within innovation projects without some degree of modification.
  • Chapter 6: Discusses the growth in innovation management software that project managers are now using in the front end of projects for idea management, alternative analyses and decision making.
  • Chapter 7: Discusses the new metrics, such as benefits realization and value metrics, that project managers and innovation personnel are using for the monitoring and controlling of innovation projects.
  • Chapter 8: Discusses innovations related to business models rather than products and services.
  • Chapter 9: Discussed how disruptive innovation requirements may need a completely new form of project management and the need to interface closely with the consumer marketplace.
  • Chapter 10: Discusses the roadblocks affecting the working relationship between project management and innovation.
  • Chapter 11: Discusses how some projects, including innovation activities, have degrees of success and failure rather than complete success and failure as defined by the triple constraints.
  • Chapter 12: Discusses the innovation culture that several companies have developed as well as the functional units they created to support innovation creation.
  • Chapter 13: Case studies that discuss issues with innovation.

About the Author
Harold Kerzner is Senior Executive Director with International Institute for Learning (IIL). He has an MS and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Utah State University. He is a prior Air Force Officer and spent several years at Morton-Thiokol in project management. He taught engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University, and for 38 years taught project management at Baldwin-Wallace University.

He has published or presented numerous engineering and business papers in addition to more than 80 college textbooks/workbooks on project management, including later editions. His latest book is Innovation Project Management: Methods, Case Studies and Tools for Managing Innovation Projects (Wiley, 2019).

Contact IIL to find out how we can support your individual, team, or organizational Learning & Development needs in 2020 and beyond. Email learning@iil.com, call +1-212-758-0177 or request a free consultation on our website.

PMBOK is a  registered mark of Project Management Institute, Inc.


Dr. Harold Kerzner's Project Management Predictions for 2020

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director, International Institute for Learning (IIL)

The landscape for project management changes almost every year. Some changes are relatively small or incremental, whereas other changes can be significant. Major changes to project management will occur in 2020 due to much of the new material that the Project Management Institute (PMI) has published and will be testing on in the new version of the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam beginning in June 2020.

Most of the critical changes that I see happening in 2020 can be clustered into the six pillars of project management. These six pillars could very well change the face of project management for at least a decade rather than just for 2020.

Pillar #1: Project managers will be expected to manage strategic projects rather than just traditional or operational projects.

For several decades, project managers were only responsible for traditional or operational projects that:

  • Had a well-defined statement of work
  • Used the traditional “waterfall” methodology that was often based upon a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Relied upon earned value status reporting that focused mainly upon the time, cost and scope constraints

Strategic projects were assigned to functional managers whom executives trusted more than project managers. Functional managers were permitted to use whatever approaches they believed would work on their projects, and often without any of the processes, tools or techniques used in traditional project management practices.

Today, more and more companies believe that they are managing their business as though it is a series of projects. As executives begin to recognize the benefits of utilizing effective project management practices, and more trust is placed in the hands of the project managers, project managers are being asked to manage strategic projects as well as traditional or operational projects.

But as will be seen in some of the pillars that follow, many new techniques are accompanied by significant changes in the way that work is executed, e.g. new methodologies, new status reporting processes and new tools and techniques. Strategic projects (such as those involving innovation, R&D and entrepreneurship) may require different skills, a greater understanding of risk management (especially business risk management), and the use business metrics in addition to the traditional time, cost and scope metrics.

Pillar #2: Project management is now recognized as a strategic competency rather than just another career path position.

In Pillar #1, it was stated that project managers are now managing strategic as well as operational or traditional projects. Executive management now appears to recognize and appreciate the contributions that the PMs are making to the growth of the business.

Many companies will conduct a study every year or two to identify the four or five strategic career paths that must be cultivated in the company so that the growth of the firm is sustainable. Project management makes the short list of these four or five career path slots. As such, project management is now treated as a “strategic competency” rather just another career path position for the workers.

How do we know this? Partly, by considering the fact that many project managers now present and report project status to senior management. Historically, PMs conducted briefings for the project sponsors, and only occasionally for senior management. Now, with the responsibility to manage strategic projects that may impact the future of the firm, project managers may be conducting briefings for all senior management and even the board of directors.

Pillar #3: There will be a significant change in the skill set that some project managers may need.

When there exists some commonality among the projects in a firm such that a one-size-fits-all approach can be used during project execution, the skill set for the project managers may be known with some degree of certainty. But referring to Pillar #1, where project managers are now responsible for managing strategic projects, new skills may be necessary.

Strategic projects will vary from company to company, and even in the same company there can be a multitude of different types of strategic projects included in innovation, R&D, entrepreneurship and new product development. The skills needed can vary based upon the type of strategic project. As an example, different skills may be needed whether we are discussing innovation projects that are radical rather than incremental. Some of the new skills needed for strategic projects include design thinking, rapid prototype development, crowdstorming, market research, brainstorming and change management. For project managers involved in multinational strategic projects, the list of skills might also include an understanding of local cultures, religions and politics.

Pillar #4: There will be a significant change in how we define the success (and failure) of a project.

For years, the definition of project success was the creation of project deliverables within the constraints of time, cost and scope. While this definition seemed relatively easy to use, it created several headaches:

First, companies can always create deliverables within time, cost and scope, but there is no guarantee that customers would purchase the end results. Second, everyone seemed to agree that there should be a “business” component to project success, but they were unable to identify how to do it because of the lack of project-related business metrics. Third, this definition of project success was restricted to traditional or operational projects. Functional managers that were responsible for strategic projects were utilizing their own definitions of project success, and many of these strategic projects were being executed under the radar screen because of the competition in the company for funding for strategic projects.

Today, companies believe they are managing their business as a stream of projects, including both strategic and traditional projects. As such, there must exist a definition that satisfies all types of projects. The three components of success today are:

  • The project must provide or at least identify business benefits
  • The project’s benefits must be harvested such that they can be converted into sustainable business value that can be expressed quantitatively
  • The project must be aligned to strategic business objectives

With these three components as part of the project’s success criteria, companies must ask themselves when creating a portfolio of strategic projects, “Why expend resources and work on this project if the intent is not to create sustainable business value?” These three components can also be used to create failure criteria as to when to pull the plug and stop working on a project. Since these three components are discussed in current PMI literature, it is expected that these three components will appear in the new version of the PMP® exam, beginning in June 2020.

Pillar #5: There will be a significant growth in the number of metrics, especially business-related metrics, to be used on projects.

The four pillars discussed previously made it clear that the business side of projects will need to be understood much better than in the past. This will require significantly more metrics than just time, cost and scope.

Companies will need to create metrics that can track benefits realization, value created from the benefits and how each project is aligned to strategic business objectives. To do this may require the creation of 20-30 new metrics. This will undoubtedly lead to major changes in the earned value measurement systems (EVMS) currently being used.

The new project business metrics must be able to be combined to answer questions that executives have concerning business and portfolio health. The list below identifies metrics that executives need for business decision-making and strategic planning.

  • Business profitability
  • Portfolio health
  • Portfolio benefits realization
  • Portfolio value achieved
  • Portfolio mix of projects
  • Resource availability
  • Capacity utilization
  • Strategic alignment of projects
  • Overall business performance

Exhibit 1 shows typical categories of metrics and that new versions of project management (i.e. PM 1.0 – PM 5.0) may appear in the literature. The growth in metrics is due to the growth in measurement techniques. Today, we believe that we can measure anything.

Exhibit 1. Growth in Metrics

Pillar #6: There will be a growth in flexible project management frameworks or methodologies that are capable of measuring benefits and business value as the project progresses and after the deliverables have been created.

The traditional “waterfall” approach to project management implementation has successfully been used for years, but this approach has the limitation that value is measurable primarily at the end of the project. Companies want to have value and benefits metrics reported throughout the project so that they can cancel or redirect non-performing projects.

Techniques such as Agile and Scrum appear to do a better job of measuring and reporting value created through the project, than other approaches. In the future, we can expect more flexible project management approaches such as Agile and Scrum to appear.

Conclusions:

It is unrealistic to think that these six pillars will be the only changes that will occur in 2020. There will be other changes, but perhaps not as significant as these six pillars. The implementation of these six pillars requires that companies try to envision the future and plan for it. For companies that believe in “business as usual” or “let’s leave well enough alone,” these changes will not be implemented. Those companies that believe in “doing things the same old way” will most likely struggle to stay in existence.

Contact IIL to find out how we can support your individual, team, or organizational Learning & Development needs in 2020 and beyond. Email learning@iil.com, call +1-212-758-0177 or request a free consultation on our website.

About the Author
Harold Kerzner is Senior Executive Director with International Institute for Learning (IIL). He has an MS and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Utah State University. He is a prior Air Force Officer and spent several years at Morton-Thiokol in project management. He taught engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University, and for 38 years taught project management at Baldwin-Wallace University.

He has published or presented numerous engineering and business papers in addition to more than 80 college textbooks/workbooks on project management, including later editions. His latest book is Innovation Project Management: Methods, Case Studies and Tools for Managing Innovation Projects (Wiley, 2019).

 

Project Management Professional and PMP are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.


Why Business Analysts and Digital Project Managers are Needed Now, More Than Ever

By J. LeRoy Ward | Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

Today, it seems it’s all about data: collecting it, analyzing it, making sense of it, and then using it in a variety of ways – for example, to gain more insight into consumer behavior, social behavior, or voting preferences, and to make better business decisions.

Data is the currency of business, and data-driven decision making, based on the many articles on the topic, is the preferred practice for managers and leaders rather than using “gut” feel alone. But using data wisely means understanding technology and how to employ it to the greatest advantage.

That’s why I was intrigued by the recent Business Week article, “Bridging the Management-Tech Gap.” It started with a story of an individual who was a journalist prior to entering business school and who now works in technology as a senior program manager at Amazon. Her role as a journalist did not require her to have much background or knowledge in working with data, which she recognized as a weakness as she examined her career aspirations. So, while earning her MBA she concentrated on strengthening her expertise in this area by taking extensive course work in the field and by seeking out internships where she would gain that experience.

According to the article, graduates such as this individual are “the new normal for business schools, which find themselves producing larger numbers of future technology workers, as well as executives who will be called on to bridge the gap between business and tech.”  That gap has to do with understanding technology and data, and how to marry the two for the benefit of an organization.

When I read the words “bridge the gap” I immediately thought of Business Analysts (BAs)—professionals who translate the requirements identified by business folks to the technical professionals who then develop systems (usually automated) to meet those requirements. A competent BA needs to be able to speak both languages (business and technology) which means they need to understand, and have experience in, both worlds.

This gap has existed for years. But that gap appears to be widening. Organizations now require professionals who not only understand technology and data analytics but are also adept in working with their business counterparts who have a need for this critical information.

The article mentions that six years ago, many business school enrollees wanted to develop leadership skills. Yet, Raghu Sundaram, Dean of New York University’s Stern School of Business, says that executives from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs told him that they had employees who either knew technology or the business, but not both. So, Stern established an advisory board and created a 12-month program – culminating in an MBA in Technology and Entrepreneurship to help prepare students for technology roles.

At the same time on the other side of the Atlantic, the dean of the IE Business School was also hearing the same message from executives at Amazon, Google, and Facebook, as well as from various consulting firms. Based on their research, IE identified two roles that companies such as these so desperately need to fill (1) product managers who oversee digital products, and (2) consultants who work with technology clients. Next year, IE will launch a 10-month tech MBA for an initial cohort of 50 students who may be able to fill such positions.

I’ve spent much of my professional career helping to develop the skills and competencies of Business Analysts and Project Managers around the world and in many different industry sectors. The roles expected to be filled by the MBA students mentioned in the Business Week article are what many current BAs and PMs (especially those in technology) are doing right now. These folks have the skills required to be successful in the digital world, but many Business Analysts and Project Managers could still improve their expertise in this area. After all, not everyone has the time, money, or inclination to go to business school, and the list of skills required keeps growing as trends like AI, robotics, and data analytics continue to mature.

What kind of skills am I referring to? Let’s take a look:

In 2018, the Project Management Institute (PMI) published a Pulse of the Profession® report titled The Project Manager of the Future: Developing digital-age project management skills to thrive in disruptive times. In it, PMI identifies the top six digital-age skills for project delivery to include:

  1. Data Science Skills
  2. Innovative Mindset
  3. Security and Privacy Knowledge
  4. Legal and Regulatory Compliance Knowledge
  5. Ability to Make Data-Driven Decisions
  6. Collaborative Leadership Skills

(As I read this report, it struck me that it’s not only PMs who need these skills—BAs do, as well. After all, PMs and BAs, as well as other disciplines, form the project teams charged with executing digital transformation programs.)

Success for BAs and PMs today, and in the future, requires that they have what PMI has termed a high Project Management Technology Quotient (PMTA), which is defined as a person’s ability to “adapt, manage and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or the project at hand.” PMI emphasizes that “For anyone charged with making strategy reality in a world of constantly being remodeled by tech, PMTQ will be the must-have, make-or-break skill set.” Is this hyperbole or reality? Look around your organization…my guess is it’s probably the latter, not the former.

Technology is pervasive in our personal and professional lives. If you look hard enough, you can see that technology is often an important component of many projects regardless of which industry sector one works in. Understanding technology (and being able to leverage it for the betterment of the organization) requires us to be adept in it, and more importantly, how to leverage it to advance our projects and organizations.

Business Analysts, working with their Project Manager peers, have been in the business of “bridging the gap” for many years. But when that gap starts to widen, the only way to narrow it is to make sure we have the knowledge, experience, and expertise—in short, the digital-age skills—required to do so.

Both PMs and BAs need to ensure that they’re gaining, using, and refining the skills mentioned above. In so doing, they will not only be helping their organizations; they will also be ensuring their own continued professional growth and prosperity.

Contact IIL today to find out how we can support your skills’ development on an individual, team, or organizational level.

About the Author
J. LeRoy Ward (PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO) is IIL’s Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions and a recognized thought leader, consultant and adviser in project, program and portfolio management. With more than 39 years of experience in the field, his insights, perspectives and advice have been sought by hundreds of companies and government agencies around the world.