Our Article on PMP®(Published in ICTACT Journal)
Project Management: Ride the wave & need of the future – Mr. Sai Madhavan, PMP®
The buzz words in the last couple of years are ITIL and PMP®. These are ever increasing in demand and popularity. While it is fairly understood in the IT circles, many are not clear as to their meaning and importance. What are these acronyms? Why are they gaining more and more importance? Why should organizations have trained and certified Project Managers? And what does this mean to aspiring management professionals or for that matter, any professional, who loves a disciplined approach towards work?
Before we get down to answering these questions, we first need to bust the myth about Project Management. As we have seen the evolution, IT has undergone metamorphosis from being a tool in businesses, to being their backbone and into becoming business itself in a seamlessly integrated way. In other words, mid-sized and large businesses today operate and deliver only through IT based functions, processes, and procedures. No, for a change, I am not trying to establish the importance of IT, but rather to underline the commonality in the way businesses operate; to drive home for the purposes of this article that business and IT initiatives can be viewed in a unified manner, since that would apply to most major initiatives in any organization. And Yes, Projects and Project Management should not be mistakenly thought to be applied to just IT initiatives, but rather to any business endeavors.
Having clarified that, next, it is important to recognize that just as in a coin, there are two facets to any business – operations and projects and that these two have to gel well at all times based on organizational strategic alignment and should be tightly coupled for successful implementation of new developments and initiatives into an operational routine in an unruffled manner. While ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) addresses elements of operational nature that is specific to IT support functions, our focus here is to answer the questions raised above with regards to Projects. And that lies in the understanding of current day’s demands for managing projects effectively and efficiently.
If there is one resource that is scarce in this maddening world, that is time. Time Management has assumed new dimensions and proportions with progress of technology and rapid innovations. The quicksilver speed of communication with advanced technologies, while facilitating faster trades and operations, has also simultaneously induced stifling deadlines and milestones. The expectations are elevated for quick completions of tasks. This calls for more diligent & effective monitoring and management of schedules, as well as governance of the communication tools, techniques and methods.
The challenges are plenty and the following are some of the dominant factors:
a. Choosing the right approach along with the corresponding tools,
b. Having a good plan that would meet up to the exacting schedule demands, and
c. Managing right according to the tight schedules & budget
d. Not compromising on the defined quality metrics
e. Meeting the Scope (content & characteristics of the deliverables) of the delivery
As technology evolves, larger scope is aimed to be accomplished in shorter time spans. A variety of methodologies (traditional, waterfall, agile etc) are being introduced as part of the evolving process improvements, in order to manage delivery to the scope and within targeted time. Unlike projects of yesteryears where the scope was relatively static for longer periods of time, today’s iterative approaches demand managing constant scope changes in a shorter span of time, leading to corresponding changes in time and cost or vice-versa. Added to this is the need for projects with seamless integration of cross-functional deliverables that warrants forming various teams that are sliced and diced into bits and pieces to focus on organic efforts at great speed. The results are then further integrated into a deliverable or a product of functional use. Think of the high degree of controls and checkpoints needed in place to ensure that the project stays on course to meet the required objectives; and a slick communication plan for managing stakeholders’ expectations and the various teams!!
Speaking of teams and resources, until the mid to late 1980s, the classical or traditional form of structure was adhered to by most organizations. Since then, in the last couple of decades, many large and mature organizations around the world have evolved into more dynamic matrix organizational structures. Also common is the usage of temporary and contingent-friendly teams like swift action teams cutting across functions and skill sets to be able to meet the highly volatile short-term opportunities and rapid demands of the market. Also, these updated structures are needed to deal with the need for a complex assembly of a product. And that involves several independent interrelated skill sets that are used to perform organic work units of varied nature that are later integrated to derive the product. Think of the resource management needed here!
There is severe shortage of trained and experienced leadership in the market. Coupled with that is the need for trained “techno managerial” leadership to deal with the above newer structures, as opposed to conventionally delineated roles of leaders and managers. All these warrant need for managers with great comprehension of business & technology and the ability to govern abstruse cross functional initiatives, using concocted teams to deliver modern products.
Added to the above dimensions of time, scope and resources are aspects of various financial terms, contracts and models in managing costs, an expanding & ever growing set of quality satisfiers, and communication demands across virtual teams; and not to forget, the procurement needs from multiple vendors from a range of choices and the all encompassing vital aspect of risk management throughout the project. With the speed, complexity, involvement of multiple parties and projects of newer nature, uncertainties and unpredictability pile up. Hence, Risk management assumes paramount importance.
There we go! By now, having painted a picture of today’s demanding project landscape, you would have deduced all the answers to the questions raised initially. It is no rocket science or high tech genetic engineering, but rather common sense based approaches. So, let us review your deductions.
The Purpose of Project Management is to be able to efficiently and effectively manage any significantly unique time-bound efforts / endeavor / upgrades / remediation or change in an organization, with appropriate controls and processes in place to maximize the chances of success. This, without losing sight of the quality requirements – be it in identifying and monitoring risks or mitigating them as well as with managing appropriate & effective communication. Surveys have revealed that a high percentage of projects have failed due to untrained employees and improper / informal project management techniques, per statistics from Gartner and other research studies around the world.
Having described and understood the complexity–speed-effectiveness equation of today’s projects, why care about Projects and their management? While India had capitalized early on off-shore opportunities in the Operational and BPO front, the competition in these areas recently are getting stiffer from other countries like Philippines that only major MNCs can deal with due to their broader presence. It is about time to look into high-end non-routine consulting and project management opportunities, through the skilled forces that we are generating. As we all know, educated, but untrained HR is the strength of India today. This lot needs to be properly groomed, utilized and capitalized with evolving trends in demands.
Today, for the IT companies, proper education to their staff, above and beyond just religiously meeting corporate goals for mandated training hours is a must. They should be prepared to show capabilities to successfully manage through trained and certified staff, bag projects and increase their clientele and bottom line based on that reputation. Likewise, for any corporation in any line of business, whether the work is outsourced or developed in-house, expertise in developing and adhering to solid project management methodologies as well as ability to effectively monitor outsourced project work in relation to vendors’ project skills and performance are vital. This is needed for prudent management of their bottom-line profits, to control risks and to increase chances of success. It also provides a range of additional benefits to the organization’s maturity when its staff on project work or those interfacing with project teams get trained on the principles of effective project management and thereby practice a unified methodology or approach.
Additionally, proper training by experienced global leaders in project management fosters better team work, enhances quality based productivity as well as morale and professionalism. The leadership’s vision is then better understood and realized. Needless to say, the concepts of project management are applicable to even companies smaller in size – again to stress, regardless of the line of business. The sheer discipline inculcated through the concepts learnt in project management lends great maturity to the staff to apply even in their everyday work outside of projects.
As a result, many companies prefer professionals with certification in Project Management for hiring and also urge their existing staff to get certified. A career as a project management professional has been paying off greatly as there is a severe dearth of qualified professionals globally. Career paths are also clearly defined in organizations practicing project methodologies. Business analysts or anyone with familiarity of technology and having experience in the relevant business domain can grow into a project professional with appropriate training. Even the Government of India and senior scientists, leaders and technocrats have stressed the elevated importance of this practice and are promoting for Project Management to be offered as a separate discipline in management studies and curriculum. As companies always have need to execute projects, this is a solid career area gaining rapid importance, and now is as good a time or better than any in the future to ride the wave and get into this profession of the future.
Note: The pioneer and the most globally respected professional institution is Project Management Institute (PMI), USA which has presence in over 180 countries. It offers two major credentials. The most popular is the “Project Management Professional (PMP®)” credential for experienced professionals based on certain eligibility criteria. Diploma holders and those who are in collegiate education or do not have enough work experience in projects can aim to get a more basic credential called “Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®)”, which facilitates an early entry into a career in project management. Registered Educational Providers (R.E.P) of PMI are institutes that provide education that is approved by PMI for essential training hours, needed to gain eligibility to appear for these exams. Attending such training also provides a strong foundation to Project Management concepts. More precise information can be obtained from http://www.pmi.org.
The Author Sai S Madhavan is co-owner/director of a BPO / IT organization and runs an educational institution that is also an R.E.P of PMI, USA. He is a senior IT leader with decades of global experience in Automotive, Healthcare, Airlines, Insurance and Finance Industries. He is a certified PMP®, certified IT service Management professional and also holds Executive Certification in International management and global leadership from Garvin School of Management – Thunderbird University, USA. He regularly instructs on Project Management and Leadership and has guided students to an outstanding success rate in the exams, besides top student feedback ratings.