The key here is to effectively manage the risks so that those risks that pose a threat to project success are mitigated but also so that those risks that might present new opportunities, such as a better deliverable, quicker or at lower cost, are identified and acted upon.
It’s important to remember too that projects are always liable to change as they progress so the risk management process should be responsive to change and the risks should be re-assessed from time to time if the project is long or complex. Risk management is not a separate discipline but an integral part of project management so should be part of the regular activities of a project manager. One of the most important elements of risk management is complete honesty. Without an honest approach to the risks involved there will always be unvoiced issues and these can be the biggest risks of all.
So how can you be sure that, once you have (honestly) identified your risks, that your risk management procedures are effective and add value to the project?
1. Document the risks
Create a risk log listing each risk with a description, stating who is responsible, the likely impact and the mitigating actions that could be taken. It needs enough information to be useful in monitoring and reporting on risks but not so much that it cannot be easily updated. A straightforward, up-to-date risk log will be useful during the whole life of the project.
2. Prioritize the risks
In order to prioritize effectively you need to understand what factors could make the risk more likely to occur and what impact that would have on cost, timescale and scope/quality of the final deliverable. So prioritize the risks using a combination of a probability rating and an impact rating. Some risks may be very likely to occur but have low impact; others may be less likely to occur but have a major impact so the overall priority needs to take this into account.
3. Plan the response
For each identified risk decide, firstly, what could be done to minimize the chance of it occurring and, secondly, what action could be taken if the risk does occur. You will then be better prepared to deal with it if you have to (any risks that could not be anticipated are, of course, another matter).
The usual options to mitigate risks that are threats (rather than opportunities) are:
And one other point: risk management can and does help ensure more successful projects and it should be an integral part of the project management process but it should not be so large a task that the effort expended is out of all proportion to the size of the project or the potential impact of the risks. Finally make sure the responses are implemented, without following through on the risk reduction measures then the risk management process will add little value overall.
– By Stephen Lyman, Bellevue University MPM Student
Although a risk officer may contact team members about risk-related tasks that have been ignored or gone overdue, a project manager is ultimately responsible for keeping team members focused on the right activity. For their relationship to work effectively, risk officers and project managers must coordinate the efforts of fellow team members.
Too much time spent on managing risks can cause projects to fall behind schedule. Likewise, an aggressive task schedule that ignores risk completely can result in catastrophe. Therefore, measuring a project’s progress against the resistance posed by risks helps remind leaders to keep activity in balance.
In some cases, a risk can be entirely eliminated or contained during the implementation and monitoring phases of the project cycle. Noting such a change in status can help project managers and risk officers reallocate resources to other risks or to main project tasks.
Some teams like to keep a live risk matrix, using a shared spreadsheet, database, or online tracking tool. Other teams prefer to task the risk officer with coordinating all communication related to risk management, and reporting in meetings or via memos on a regular basis. The severity of the risk and the importance of the project can help determine the right method for tracking risk (Jr., 2015).
If a risk event occurs during project execution, there is a likelihood it was identified sometime earlier, it was analyzed and an appropriate response action was planned to deal with it (captured in the Risk Register). For the most part, Risk Monitoring and Control is the process of putting into action all of the risk planning done earlier in the project life-cycle.
It is important to understand that risk monitoring is intended to be a daily, on-going process across the entire project lifecycle. Project team members and stakeholders should be encouraged to be vigilant in looking for risk symptoms, as well as for new project risks. Newly identified risks and symptoms of previously identified risks should be communicated immediately for evaluation and/or action (Balakian, 2010).
Monitoring the risk metrics and triggering events to ensure the planned risk actions are working are of the utmost importance in this step.
The goal from this step is threefold:
1. To monitor the status of your risk action plans, in other words, the progress towards the completion of contingency and mitigation plans
2. To monitor any project metrics associated with a risk that might trigger a contingency plan
3. And finally, to provide notification to the project team that a trigger, or triggers, have been exceeded so that a contingency plan can be initiated if needed
There are two main inputs that are going to help you achieve the three goals I’ve just mentioned.
1. Firstly, your risk action forms which contain the specific mitigation and contingency plans you created and which also specify the project metrics and trigger values to be monitored
2. And secondly, the relevant project status reports that are used to track progress within the standard project management structure
You may need to call on other sources of information depending on the specific project metrics being tracked. For example, you might need to use a project tracking database, or maybe even a human resources management system to provide the tracking data that you and your project team need.
In this tracking step of the risk management process, you and your team will execute the action plans in the mitigation plan as part of your overall team activity. Any progress made towards these risk-related action items, or in relation to any trigger values being used, will contribute towards the risk status that will be reported on.
Risk Status Reporting
The reporting element in this step operates at two levels. For your team, regular risk status reports will be very important and should consider four possible risk management situations for each risk:
1. First, when a risk is resolved, ensure the risk action plan is completed
2. Secondly, ensure these risk actions are consistent with your overall risk management plan
3. Third, understand that some risk actions are at variance to the risk management plan, in which case, corrective measures should be defined and implemented
4. And the final situation is if one or more risks have changed significantly. This usually ends in re-analyzing the risks or re-planning an activity.
For external reporting to stakeholders, you and your project team should report the top risks and then summarize the status of risk management actions. It’s also useful at this stage to show the previous ranking of risks and the number of times each risk has been in the top risk list.
Your output from this step should be a detailed status report that clearly communicates any changes in the status of a risk.
Here is some information you might want to include in this report:
1. Risk name
2. Risk classification
3. Risk probability, impact, and exposure from the identification step
4. Current risk probability, impact and exposure
5. Risk level, such as low, medium and high
6. A summary of your mitigation and contingency plans
7. Status toward completion of mitigation plans
8. Readiness of contingency plans
9. Trigger values
10. Planned actions
11. Risk owner
And don’t forget to include this report within the project status report that you create and circulate to others involved and interested in the project (O’Donnellan, 2016).
Project stakeholders are people who are involved in or affected by project activities, and include the project sponsor, project team, support staff, customers, users, suppliers, and even opponents of the project. Project stakeholder are considered to be an individual or the group of the people who dream, plan, convey, and change the intentional forthcoming of the organization.
Knowing who your stakeholders are is important and the process begins by developing healthy relationships. They help decide on issues from the beginning, during planning and at execution of the project. Therefore, stakeholders should understand how the project functions, including the project scope, milestones and goals.
Communication is a critical element that all project managers Acknowledge, strategically manage and overcome to ensure project completion and overall success of the project. Development and implementation of a diversified communication plan which meets the needs of stakeholders from various companies and firms require an common understanding of language, tone, and terms of agreement. A few examples the Terms of Agreement include instituting a common media form for all major communications, the responsibility for release of information, and the acknowledgment of receipt on information by stakeholders.
Project Managers, by the nature of their role must be excellent communicators, additionally they must be adept relationship builders. Relationships are key to understanding the culture and values of a particular company or firm, as well as the culture of a country where these companies are located, as the employees are typically sourced from the nation where the firm is located. Implementing communications mechanisms will have to work collectively with the integration of people, devices and products. Project Managers of course cannot simply build a communications infrastructure on a basis of phone calls and emails. The employment of telephony devices, presentations, reports and a network of stakeholders contributing with one another and a control point for acquiring, collecting, tracking, analyzing data points and continuous strategy development are also necessary for ensuring a robust communication plan.
The project manager should consider the number of potential communication channels or paths as an indicator of the complexity of a project’s communication. Identifying stakeholders allows for clear communications during updates or project progress meetings. Knowing who the stakeholders are and where they fit in the development and deployment phases of the project is vital to understanding and effectively addressing their expectations or concerns. After obtaining this understanding, the next course of action is to develop a sound Communications Plan. The project communication plan sets the standards for how and when communication takes place. As the project manager, you want to set the tone for all communication concerning the project. This allows you to maintain control of the project and ensure all stakeholders receive the necessary information (Frost, 2015).
Schwalbe, K. (2011). Information Technology Project Management, Revised Sixth Edition. Boston, Ma. Central Learning. (pp.10-11)
– By Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, PM Study Circle contributing
Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, is founder of PMstudycircle.com and the author of A2Z of PMP Certification Exam. He has over 10 years of global portfolio management experience, specializing in leading complex corporate projects. He currently serves as an Inspection Engineer in Kuwait and facilitates project management training programs throughout the Middle-East, and is the founder of PM Study Circle where he writes about project management education and certifications.
No one wants a defective product, whether they are an end user or the company which is developing the product. Defects are costly, frustrating, and damaging to the company’s reputation.
You, as a project manager, will never want your company to lose money or suffer damage to its reputation. Therefore you should use any possible technique to minimize failure or defects in the product.
One possible technique is “Failure Mode and Effect Analysis” or FMEA, also known as “Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis” (FMECA) or sometimes simply “failure modes”.
This technique helps you locate potential issues with a product and then you can take corrective action to stop this defect from occurring.
The FMEA technique can be used improve your systems, design processes, and the production processes.
Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA)
Despite its complex name, FMEA is a very simple qualitative technique which involves brainstorming with experts and listing their comments in a table format.
In this technique experts identify possible causes for product failure, the chances of these failure happening, the impact of these failures, how easy is to detect failure, etc.
These opinions are noted in a table for further review
With the use of this technique you can identify many key failures which might affect your product.
When to Use the FMEA
FMEA is used extensively in project management. However, for the following cases, this technique is most useful for avoiding for future errors and improving the reliability of the process and the product.
During the development of a new product or process.
Before changes are made to the product or the process.
After identifying an error in the process or the product.
When receiving numerous and consistent complaints from customers.
Sales support cost is unusually high.
When company credibility is at stake.
You can use this technique for any process and any product. This technique is not confined to any industry, or technology.
How to Use FMEA
As this technique is a qualitative analysis tool, it requires expert judgement; all relevant and available experts will need to be called in for one or more brainstorming sessions. These experts will help you postulate, collect, and evaluate the potential defects, their causes and the impact of the defects.
The experts should belong to all functional areas of the process or product so you can cover the the complete product life cycle.
You can use the following table to record the experts’ input. Special attention is given to analyzing the cause of possible equipment failure.
As you can see from the tables, the FMEA technique uses three parameters: severity, occurrence, and detection.
Severity shows the severity of the defect on the user. It is denoted by SEV in the table. Occurrence predicts how often the issue may occur. It is denoted by OCC in the table. Detection represents how easily you can find the problem. It is denoted by DET.
The experts are asked to assign a value to each parameter, from 1 to 10, for each potential error or defect, where 1 is extremely unlikely and 10 is extremely likely. After the brainstorming session ends, you get the list of problems, causes, and their ratings. All this information will be entered into a table.
Finally you multiply the severity, occurrence, and detection for each defect to generate an RPN. RPN stands for risk probability number and provides an overall risk impact score for each defect. In our example table, the RPN for the failure is 81.
After generating the RPN for all possible defects and failure you will need to decide the thresholds of each risk level, High, Medium, and Low. That is, what RPN number should be given a high priority, a medium and a low level priority?
Once these thresholds are decided and the RPNs are sorted, you will start working on the high priority RPNs, generating detection techniques, implementing policies and procedures detailing action plans, and determining best practice for mitigating or eliminating the defect.
For example, the second table shows your recommended action for an identified failure, who will be the responsible for this action, and when you should implement it.
Once this failure happens, you will record it and the action taken on it.
How to Implement FMEA
By this stage, you have a list of possible errors and their potential corrective actions. Now you will assign responsibility to your team members to implement these corrective actions so the RPN of these errors can be reduced.
After the corrective actions has been implemented, you will revisit these issues and review them again to assess the effectiveness of your corrective action plan. If need be a new FMEA will be generated to re-assess risks and defects.
While using this technique do not forget the Pareto Law. First of all, you should focus on the minority of causes that are creating most of the issues or defects. This provides the largest impact for the least resources. Once these high impact issues are resolved, you can take on the other defects as resources permit.
If you see a particular issue is not being resolved with the current corrective action, you can plan a new corrective action to mitigate the problem.
Benefits of FMEA
FMEA offers many benefits by identifying errors in the very early stages of the design, production, or in the process. Some of the benefits of FMEA are:
Improved and more reliable products
Less after sale support
Increased customer satisfaction
Improved brand recognition
Reduced failure and warranty costs
Maximizing profits by reducing after-sales expenses
FMEA is a proactive technique which helps you identify potential defects and failures before it actually happens. This is a fantastic qualitative technique, and if used correctly and consistently can bring many benefits to your organization.
Though this technique may be little time consuming because of involvement of various stakeholders, if implemented proactively, it will lead your project a successful ending.
Here is where this blog post on Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) ends. If you have something to share, you can do so through the comments section.
– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, CSM, Kotouc Family Endowed Chair and Associate Professor
Despite the importance of information management in business operations, many companies experience difficulty in executing IT projects within the pre-determined time or budget constraints. Many IT designs are cancelled before completion and never implemented. Researchers have indicated that most IT projects fail because of poor project management skills. In these failed projects, estimation mistakes, lack of clarity, and unstable goal and objectives were cited as core problem areas. Below are additional areas of concern as described in the article, Why Web Projects Fail.
IT managers often lack the time to appropriately plan because of the pressure from senior management, and as a result, the project is performed before the plan is appropriately defined. If the plan is prematurely executive on by the team, items like resources, scheduling, budgeting, risk management and even scope will often have information gaps and inconsistencies.
Unclear Goals and Objectives
Well-designed project objectives are clear, meaningful, measurable, and ae aligned with organizational goals and mission. Projects must have clearly defined requirements, the absence of which can create timing delays and communication bottlenecks. If a project manager lacks the experience to describe the type and the extent of resources he or she really needs, the project is at risk.
Information systems need to be aligned with the organization’s business objectives. When discussing alignment, it is important to address market share, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, corporate citizenship and innovation. To begin, companies must properly assess everything, and then align its findings with information systems. It is also essential for executive leadership to be actively involved in the alignment process to ensure strategic goals are met.
Quality of Interaction
The quality of the interaction between the Information System (IS) project team and the end-users in a development project are not always clearly linked to the success of projects in terms of meeting budgets and product goals. This is due to the lack of collaboration across business units that prevent proper program status updates that optimize operational reviews. Another issue relates to internal and external team conflicts that affect communication, and this reflects negatively on the project as a whole. Attention to both internal and external conflict is necessary to accomplish project goals successfully.
Changing Objectives during Project
Change can be good, but not if it blindsides everyone on the project team. Inside the realm of project management, judgment must be made as to whether to remain loyal to the initial requirements and objectives or to make changes. Sometimes project managers cannot handle trade-off decisions and make decisions without the basis of rational insights.
Continued interest in project management is expected to increase yearly throughout different industries, partly due to rapidly developing globalization and growing awareness of knowledge management. Companies must manage a wider range of coverage, increasingly complex information system architecture, and the rapidly changing environment. In order to face such challenges, chief information officers (CIOs) must create an IT portfolio management model that is aligned with business goals. It will help the CIO to maintain control over corporate IT assets and IT processes. Furthermore, the CIO and IT project manager should be aware of the common mistakes that destroy IT projects and learn from the identified mistakes. These learning experiences should be captured in a repository so the successors do not make the same mistakes.
Ken Day has earned both BA-MIS and MS-MIS, and is currently finishing up his third degree, Master in Project Manager (MPM) at Bellevue University. He currently serve as an Infrastructure Engineer, working with planning, equipment installations and cabling for Nelnet in their Data Center.
Most organizations have some processes and procedures that they may loosely follow as a matter of habit or at least use them as a place to start. One of the first steps in creating standards to do a thorough investigation into what teams and project managers are using now in the way of templates, procedures or just the methodology that they employ when executing a project. If an organization has no base standards, it may be possible to adapt a “pre-built” solution and then just move forward but very rarely will an “off-the-shelf” product suit the needs of everyone in the organization. The existing standards in the organization may not represent best practices or align with generally accepted project management practices (Letavec, 2006) The PMO builds or collaborates on a common set of practices, principles and templates for managing projects. Standardization means project managers can move more easily between different projects and new project managers can get up to speed faster. Creating project management templates means standard components of a processes like Risk analysis, Project planning and Scope management, can be reused which can save time and money since they are not created for each new project. (IPlanWare, 2011) While this can be a huge benefit for most organizations, it will also soon find out that “cookie-cutter” solutions often fall short or the desired results. So does that means that there are no such things as “Standards”? No, it means that formal processes may be similar but each project will be unique enough that modifications may involve minor tweaks or major revisions, depending on the nature of the project.
When creating standards, it’s necessary to gather feedback from project managers or others that people in the organization that represent the standard’s intended audience. The purpose of this is to make sure that the proposed standard will meet the needs of the targeted audience. Nothing is worse than creating a systems that produces worthless results that increase a projects workload.
Organizations of any industry and size need a Project management Standard to manage external client projects as well as internal improvements. There is a strong and direct correlation between the maturity of the organization’s Project Management Standard and the overall organization’s performance. (Kapteina, 2016) Many experts say that organizations will not even survive in today’s business climate anymore if they do not have an appropriate Project management Standard implemented. The sad reality is that approximately 40% of organizations even in this day and age are still managing their projects with no defined Project Management Standard, which leads in the short-term to lower project success rates, and put severe risks on the overall success of the organization in the long term future.
But how do you go about establishing the right Project management Standard for your organization? Do organizations build something up from scratch by themselves? Many have tried this and failed because it usually involves lots of money, time and effort only to produce little in return. So is it better for an organization to adopt a third-party project Management methodology and roll it in? You then have to figure out how to handle the organizations differentiators that make it unique from everyone else. Off the shelf products are rarely a “one-size-fits-all” product. Then, once the Project management Standard has been finally built, how shall the organization implement the standard they have created, and keep them up to date?
The answer to this can be found in PMI’s globally accepted Tailoring approach which can be seen as a method to develop and organizations project Management Standard by following several process steps. It starts with an assessment (to measure the current organization’s maturity level and to suggest the desired change), continues with the development (to create the methodology), and finally not ends but again continues with further improvements (to make sure that there is always the right project management standard in the organization.) (Kapteina, 2016)
Building a customized standard is about bringing together the right mixture of policies, practices, processes, tools, techniques, and templates. You should mix together the usage of well-known global project management methodologies like those developed by Project Management institute (PMI), some third party Project management standards and last, but more importantly, the integration of the Organization’s differentiators that make the whole package unique. Companies today need their own Project Management Standard to be able to function successfully in today’s markets. Building and implementing such a standard is tied directly to the success or failure of that organization. Organizations without an Established Project Management standard risk disappearing from their market place sooner or later.
A critical success factor in building a standard is the right mixture of required internal differentiators as well as the adoption of the right external methodologies and standards. Tailoring practices from PMI can help manage this process more smoothly. When finally implementing the new Project Management Standard into the organization, a holistic approach is needed to integrate also Program Management and Portfolio Management into the company’s business management framework, connecting all domains to the organization’s vision, missions and strategy. PMO Frameworks can help organizations coordinate such developments across multiple organizational business units. (Nayab, 2010)
An established Project Management Standard will lead to realized strategic objectives. It is important to keep such a standard in the organization continuously up to date. Looking forward, it will be interesting how new offerings in methodologies and technologies may further change the Project Management knowledge as we know it today. Always keep looking for better ways to accomplish your goals without losing sight of the finished product.
Brian Grafsgaard, CSM, PMP, PgMP, PfMP is a Consulting Practice Director with Q Consulting (formerly Quality Business Solutions [QBS]), a Minneapolis, Minnesota (U.S.A.) based consulting firm specializing in portfolio, program, project, change, and compliance management. Brian has been a practicing Project Management Professional (PMP®) since 1998. Brian is also a proven Program Manager and in 2007 became the first in the world to attain the Program Management Professional (PgMP®) credential. In May 2014, Brian also became one of the first to attain the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP®) credential.
As a portfolio, program, and project manager, Brian has lead the transformation and delivery of enterprise-class solutions in multiple industries. Over the course of a 30+ year career, he has had the privilege of defining and implementing innovative solutions for several organizations, while managing the change necessary to adopt the solutions. Brian is also an active volunteer for PMI Global and was appointed to the PMI Standards Member Advisory Group (SMAG) in Jan. 2016. He was previously selected to serve on the core team that authored The Standard for Program Management–Third Edition (2013, PMI); Brian led the core team that recently published Requirements Management: A Practice Guide (2016, PMI). Brian is also a contributing author of Program Management: A Life Cycle Approach (2012, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC) with a chapter focused on how portfolio, program, and project management enable innovation.
How did your project management career get started?
Like many others, I was an accidental project manager. I started my career as a programmer/analyst, which allowed me to work with companies to help them define their business and technical requirements, then develop the solution (primarily in assembler language). I often initiated projects from the ground floor and saw them through completion. As was often the case, once I became more proficient as a programmer (but also more skilled as an analyst), I was promoted to Project Manager.
How did you obtain your project management education and training?
Once I adjusted to the fact that I was no longer the “doer”, but the person leading the “doers”, I realized I had to learn a whole new set of skills: project management. The organization I was with at the time provided many opportunities for training and education in both project management as well as the “soft skills”. I took full advantage of their development program, supplemented by external courses, including a PMP exam prep session. I eventually earned the PMP credential—the first in the organization to do so—and became an advocate and mentor for others; the experience had forced me to learn a great deal about the “science” of project management. I have since earned the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® through experience and training.
Can you please summarize your industry, and share how organizations are applying project management in the workplace?
It is difficult for me to identify an “industry”. Although I started my career in IT, I have always thought of IT as an “enabler” vs. a distinct industry of its own. Although I started out leading technology projects—primarily software development efforts—as a program and portfolio manager I have become more aligned with the “business”. Any organization, regardless of industry, must create value by continuously enhancing or developing new products, services, or capabilities. And most organizations, regardless of industry, recognize that this happens through project management. I have also seen that many organizations are adopting more adaptive approaches, such as Agile, to develop these products, services, and capabilities. More mature organizations are taking an integrated approach to creating value, leveraging portfolio, program, and project management. Whether the organization takes an adaptive approach or a more traditional approach, it is important to select the right initiatives and maintain alignment of the expected outcomes with the organization’s strategy.
Do you see any trends in your industry as it relates to project management and other related methodologies?
As discussed above, I am seeing organizations take a more integrated approach to project management, recognizing the need to develop their portfolio and program management capabilities as well. Portfolio management helps ensure that the right projects are initiated to begin with; program management bridges the gap between the organization’s strategy—reflected in the organization’s portfolio—and delivery of the expected benefits and value through related (and often interdependent) projects. I am also seeing the use of more hybrid approaches, applying project management techniques and principles while also applying Agile principles to adapt and deliver value more quickly. I am also seeing more strictly Agile-based organizations extending those capabilities across the organization, scaling and managing dependencies across teams, in a manner very similar to portfolio and program management.
What is your advice to people that are interested in pursuing a career in project management within your industry?
My advice for those interested in pursuing a career in project management (in any industry) would be to learn as much as you can about that industry, but also learn as much as you can about project management itself. I recommend the approach developed by Project Management Institute (PMI)® (http://www.pmi.org/learning/training-development/talent-triangle), which recognizes the need for technical (project management), strategic, business management, and leadership (soft) skills. By learning about the industry you will be able to better understand the strategic and business side of projects, understanding the challenges and opportunities that the organization faces and why the project is being undertaken in the first place. It will allow you to make more sound decisions while leading projects. Learning more about project management will allow you to apply the tools and techniques required to successfully deliver the project. Finally, focusing on leadership and soft skills will better enable you to deliver the project results through others; after all, projects are done through people who must be lead, not managed. Don’t focus on just one area, seek a blend of training and experience across all three dimensions. Start small, leading a small team on a class project or an event and keep learning. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Finally, seek out a mentor to help guide you, someone who has experience in the industry you choose. A mentor can help identify your strengths and development needs across these three dimensions and help you tailor your approach.
I noticed you have earned several certifications. What type of value has these certifications provided to you in your career?
Each of these certifications has helped me better understand the “science” behind that particular discipline and provided the baseline knowledge I needed to adapt these disciplines to the organization or a particular situation. Each certification has provided a level of credibility—very important as a consultant, especially—which, coupled with my experience, has opened a lot of doors. Each certification has allowed me to grow and become a more strategic and effective portfolio, program, and project manager. They have also helped me better understand the relationship between these disciplines and how they can be applied together to effectively (and efficiently) execute and deliver results.
Do you think the industry is catching up to better understanding the benefits of program management and portfolio management?
Although project management has become ubiquitous—millions of articles, books, and other resources have been published on the subject—program and portfolio management are still coming of age to some degree. That said, I am seeing more and more awareness of program and portfolio management as complementary disciplines within an overall “strategic execution” ecosystem. More and more articles, books, and resources are available on these subjects than in years past. The introduction of the Portfolio and Program Management Professional credentials by PMI has also increased the visibility of these disciplines. As an example, when I earned the PgMP credential in 2007—I was the first in the world to achieve this certification—there were very few reference materials, outside of federal government publications and the first edition of PMI’s Standard for Program Management, to even study. I am pleased to say that there is now a wealth of material available for both program and portfolio management. Both are becoming much more prevalent in organizations across industries. I am very optimistic that it will only continue to grow as organizations realize the value that program and portfolio management provides.
What are some of the major gaps you still see in the project management profession and what can industries do to address them?
I think the primary gap is that project management has been viewed as being very “prescriptive”, that project management is the equivalent of “waterfall”. This is a very common misperception because the waterfall approach—especially as a software development life cycle—has often been coupled with a “by the book” project management approach, where scope, schedule, cost, and quality constraints are established up front—at the time of greatest uncertainty—and carefully monitored and “controlled” throughout the life of the project. Waterfall is an approach to developing or enhancing a solution, whether it be a new product, service, or capability; it is not necessarily the approach to managing that development effort. The project manager has traditionally been measured on how well s/he managed to those constraints.
Although it could be argued that “project management” and the resulting project life cycle were dictated more by the development approach—waterfall is a development methodology, not a project management methodology—the two are seen as one. As adaptive approaches become increasingly more prevalent it is imperative that project management as a discipline be viewed as adaptive as well. Project management principles are intended to be applied across the life of the initiative and are not sequential in nature. In my experience, project management has always been intended to be adaptive and iterative in nature. It does no good to stay within the budget and schedule constraints (for example) but deliver something that does not satisfy the need. Although budget and schedule are important, it is also very important to understand how to provide maximum value to the organization and adapt the project to optimize results.
The art of project management is understanding these tradeoffs and knowing which “constraints” are most important; for example, time to market may be the most important so the project should continuously adapt to provide the most value within the timeframe allowed, understanding the impact on budget and scope. In my experience, even “Agile” initiatives have some expectations around schedule, cost, scope, and quality as well as the expectation that risks (both threats and opportunities) will be proactively managed. Organizations must apply the principles of project management in a more adaptive manner, ensuring that the results of the initiative align with the organization’s strategic objectives and provide the benefits intended.
What type of things do you do to stay current in your field (professional development)?
I have always considered myself a lifelong learner. It is a journey, not a destination. There is always something more to learn, new ways to apply my experience and skills, and opportunities to fine tune. For that reason, I dedicate time each day to reading or researching a topic of interest. In addition, I am always willing to take a change and try something new and learn as much as I can about it in the process. For example, although my primary focus has been leading application development initiatives, I have seized the opportunity to take roles in other areas, like IT Services, Compliance Management, or roles on the “business” side. These experiences have broadened and deepened my knowledge and made me a better project, program, and portfolio manager. I have also sought roles where I could learn and leverage more adaptive approaches, such as Scrum and Kanban. These experiences—which I supplemented with reading, training, and research—have given me a broader perspective and the baseline knowledge I need to be able to adapt the approach to an organization or a particular project.
What are your last thoughts or closing remarks to our project manager subscribers?
I would encourage your subscribers to continuously learn and search for opportunities to broaden your knowledge and experience. For example, if you are a project manager but want to be a program manager, learn (through reading, classes, or other means) about program management. Develop a baseline understanding and look for opportunities to apply that knowledge. Start small and grow from there. Seek out a mentor who is knowledgeable in the area that you would like to pursue. I have had a number of mentors—both formal and informal—over the years and each has helped me focus in the right areas and grow.