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Thoughts on this week lecture

Good things comes to those who wait! Yesterdays lecture was finally uploaded around midnight yesterday but by then I was already tucked into bed. Today, after putting the kids to sleep, I gave my wife some time of with the telly and watched this weeks recorded lecture, titled “Introduction to Project Portfolio Management”.

The lecture began with group discussions on the chapters covered by this week. I was a bit disappointed that the group discussions were cut from the recorded lecture – it’s always rewarding to hear others students perspective and insights from reading the same literature. Previously, Gunnar have stayed with one or a few students and held discussions together with them. This allowed those student’s how was unable to join the live session to listen to parts of the discussions.
Some criticism of portfolio management was raised in the summery of the group discussions and concerns were raised on how – or even if – this could be implemented in smaller companies. I agree with the criticism to an extent. If you run a small firm with less then a handful projects then yes – formal portfolio management as described in this standard might be exaggerated. However, I’m positive that if management in those firms looked at what they actually do, they would identify many of the practices within portfolio management. If you share common resources on multiple projects; aligning, prioritizing, scheduling, authorizing, managing and controlling these projects becomes key.

I do believe that “The Standard For Portfolio Management” could provide even small firms with inspiration and guidelines to help them structure and organize their work. As Gunnar stated, “portfolios are snapshot views” and these views helps management to look at the organization and ask the question; are the executed projects and expected deliverables aligned to the organizational strategies? Are we running the right projects? Are we taking deliberate, calculated, steps towards our strategic goals?

I work within IT operations and I really enjoyed seeing operations as part of the portfolio structure (Page 4) – sadly this was missed by Gunnar in the lecture slides and associated discussion. Projects themselves hardly ever produce any value, it’s when the project is finished and launched into operations that value is created. Consequently, it’s within operations the first signs of a decline in value are likely to be discovered. Maintaining a ridgid relationship between strategic portfolio management and operations could help senior management to align and reprioritise portfolio components. It’s no use in developing deliverable X if the underlying infrastructure lacks the capacity to deliver the intended benefits of said deliverable. The resources should therefor be prioritized to remediate the underlying problem first.

From my perspective, one of the most intriguing parts of Portfolio Management is the connection between benefits and projects. I strongly believe that a clear and well communicated vision and mission in combination with strategic goals are fundamental for successful project management. If there’s transparency in the portfolio (i.e. the connection between each project, the deliverables and the strategic goals) the intent of the project is known. With a known intent, project managers can take own initiatives to ensure that the requirements that actually fulfil the intent of the project are prioritized – increasing the likelihood that the output of the project delivers utility within the organization. I’ve had the unfortunate experiment of seeing project with a high level of requirement fulfilment resulting in deliverables with low value. Requirements engineering is hard – having a clear intent and a continual customer involvement is key.

What did you learn from the lecture? What’s your view of portfolio management? Please leave a comment!

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Strategic use of technologies

Good evening, everyone! Today is Tuesday which means that another lecture has been held for the “Strategies, benefits and alignment” course. I’m currently waiting for the recorded version to be uploaded and published on the student platform. While waiting, I read an article on digital transformation recommended by Gunnar Wettergren. The article, titled “Digital Transformation Strategies”, was published in 2015 and describes some common elements identified in digital transformation strategies.

The use of technologies addresses a company’s attitude towards new technologies as well as its ability to exploit these technologies. It therefore contains the strategic role of IT for a company and its future technological ambition. A firm needs to decide whether it wants to become a market leader in terms of technology usage with the ability to create own technological standards, or whether it prefers to resort to already established standards and sees technologies as means to fulfill business operations.

In the article the authors outline the four dimensions of digital transformation strategies: use of technologies; changes in value creation; structural changes; and financial aspects. I was very pleased with the way they defined the use of technologies. In the article the authors specified this as “a company’s attitude towards new technologies as well as its ability to exploit these technologies.” This sets the ambition of the entire enterprise when it comes to digital transformation and the level of acceptance towards the associated risks. It’s my experience that strategic documents related to IT usually focus on the IT department: what services are to be provided; how it should be organized; related frameworks to be used; and sometimes even specific versions of software and hardware choices. Hopefully it states something about information security and availability but, in my experience, that’s usually it. This is something the authors, or actually Teubner, also have identified:

While there are various concepts of IT strategies (Teubner 2013), these mostly define the current and the future operational activities, the necessary application systems and infrastructures, and the adequate organizational and financial framework for providing IT to carry out business operations within a company. Hence, IT strategies usually focus on the management of the IT infrastructure within a firm, with rather limited impact on driving innovations in business development.

What do you think? Do you agree with the four dimensions? Have you seen a good example of an IT strategy? Please leave a comment.

Reference
C. Matt et al.: Digital Transformation Strategies, Bus Inf Syst Eng 57(5):339–343 (2015)

© Antonia Sehlstedt / Försvarsmakten
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The importance of a vision and mission statement

I work as a section manager within the Swedish Armed Forces. I’ve been involved as a conscript and volunteer, as a employee, leader and manager for over ten years now. One of the most amazing experiences of my carer was when General Micael Bydén assumed the position as the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces. After decades of budget cuts and reductions in units – resulting in low morale and culture of defeat – General Bydén made it his most important task to change this. He stated a new vision and mission for the organization he assumed command of and with this, managed to turn things around surprisingly fast.

A stronger defence – responding to every threat, facing every challenge.

This is the vision statement of the Swedish Armed Forces. It’s a clear statement that builds the entire culture of our organization. We will respond to every threat and face every challenge. The statement is generic and can be applied to every section of the organization. It doesn’t matter whether you work as a solider or an officer, in administration, as a IT technician or logistics specialist – we all face challenges and threats and they will be managed.

We defend Sweden and the country’s interests, our freedom and the right to live the way of our choice.

This is the mission statement that explains what the Swedish Armed Forces, as an organization, do. Just as the vision statement it’s an clear statement that is easily understood and can be implement in the entire organization. Notice how it’s inclusive i.e involves the entire organization – military and civilian alike – and Sweden as a nation with “our freedom and the right to live the way of our choice.”

Reading the sections about developing strategic objectives and vision and mission statements in “The Standard For Portfolio Management” really makes me reflect on how important these statements are for an organization. Creating a common vision, mission and goals sparks energy in the organization and enables everyone, employees and managers, to act and take own initiatives.

Got any experience of a vision and mission statement that changed the culture of your workplace? Please leave a comment.

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Weekly summery

Another week of studies completed! This week turned out to be quite productive compared to the last one. I spend the week with my wife in Greve in Chianti, a beautiful Italian village in the Tuscany region. Though we spend most of the time tasting different Italian specialities and drinking magnificent Chianti Classico wines I spend every morning down by the pool with my laptop and the course literature.

I finished reading “Benefits Realization Management – A Practice Guide” which have brought a lot of insights on strategic management. Most of what’s written in the textbook is common sense but it’s always good to have a framework to build upon. I don’t believe I’ve ever worked within an organization that focused on benefits in the way the BRM framework defines it and especially not within an organization where benefit realization have been holistically planned and managed. At least not to the extent that allows lower level management and specialists to clearly see how organizational benefits relate to the activities they undertake – this gap needs to be filled.

Benefit tracking and the related examples and templates in the textbook have provided some inspiration for visualisation and to how to emphasize benefits. For me, this primarily relates to the sustain stage of the life cycle where I, in the role of a operations manager, is given tools to visualise and emphasize when realized benefits risk being forfeit and the invested resources lost. With disruptive technology – sophisticated requirements on security, integrity, continuity and assurance – combined with budgets as my primarily antagonist I need effective weapons to influence senior management.

One of the most intriguing enlightens of this week was listening to Anand Swaminathan on the PMI podcast Projectified™. How do we build an organizational culture that embrace change after change after change. With disruptive technology and rapid changes in customer and employee expectations, how do we reinvent our self as an organization without getting completely lost.

What did you learn this week? Got any feedback? Please leave a comment!

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Quote of the week

I think culture change is just a mandatory requirement in the digital era, and by the way, it’s also not a one-time change, you have to keep reinventing yourself and keep making those cultural changes over and over again, because our customer expectations change very quickly, our employee expectations change very quickly, so it’s a non-stop era.

This quote was stated by Anand Swaminathan on the PMI podcast Projectified™, published on the 7th of February 2018. I believe that without a culture that embrace changes within your organization, you won’t survive long in the digital era.

But how do we implement this culture? Culture (not behavior) is one of the hardest things to change in general since it’s deeply rooted in people’s personalities — some people have a natural resistance to change!

Got any suggestions, any related articles or an HR-perspective on this? Please leave a comment!

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Thoughts on this weeks lecture

Another morning at Greve in Chianti – this place is truly amazing. Yesterday, I was unable to finish the recorded lecture since we had a wine tasting booked at lunchtime but this morning I hurried down to the pool area to watch the rest of the lecture.

Studying Benefits Realization Management at Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy.

 

I really liked the lecture and reading the practice guide to benefits realization management has sprung some ideas on how to improve, or rather how to visualize and emphasise, benefits in the projects I’m involved in.
Benefits realization management is just one of many frameworks, in my organization we use Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) as our primary management practice. It’s interesting to connect these different practices and try to vision how our current way of working could be improved. In ITIL, service strategy and continual service improvement kind of fulfil what benefits realization management tries to do. We have a service portfolio to keep track on all our services, related project and the value they provide. The practices of demand management and business relationship management helps us align our services and projects to the organizational needs. Could benefits realization management improve this somehow?

In my organization benefits realization management could probably help us emphasize on the intended benefits per project. The benefits traceability matrix was shortly discussed during the lecture and as far as I could understand, Gunnar was not a big fan of it. Personally, I liked it and I think it would help me to better grasp the intent of each specific project, how it relates to other projects and help me to monitor that those benefits are actually achieved during the course of the project. The benefits map is also something I’m going to try to influence the implementation of – I like the visual structure of it.

Did you like the lecture? What did you learn? Please leave a comment!

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Waterfall? Really!?

Good morning and greetings from the beautiful village Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy. I’m lying in bed right now looking at the beutiful landscape and vineyards just outside our bed and breakfast. Distance studies sure has it’s perks!

I’m currently waiting for yesterdays lecture to be uploaded. While waiting, I read PMI’s report “The Project Manager of the Future – Developing Digital-Age Project Management Skills to Thrive in Disruptive Times”, published in 2018. It was intressting to read about the six digital-age skills for project delivery and I’m happy to see that security and privacy knowledge was included. This is a subject that I belive have been highly neglected in the past decade. There are still companies that run old, unsported, unpatched (and probably infected) operating systems and applications connected to the internet – the ignorece of the consequences are frightening.

A couple of weeks ago I read an interesting post on the topic of project management at LinkedIn. In short the individual posting claimed that the definition of projects within IT need to change (she actually said that projects as a concept should end). Numerous companies launch projects in order to deliver a specific outcome – usually a software or a system to fulfil a business objective. Once the project is complete, the project team is dismissed and assigned to new projects. The deliverable – now crucial to the business – is left poorly maintained and governed. Operations usually handles the day-to-day activities but without a governing body the integrity and availability of the system starts to decline. In just a few years, the crucial system has become the business own worst enemy. The author of the LinkedIn post stated that an IT project is only completed once the system is discontinued, the “project” must continue, in different shapes, during the entire life span of the deliverable. Therefor, projects as a concept should end.

Reading the PMI report I’m not surprised why the author of the post at LinkedIn have come to this conclusion. According to the report, 45% of project leaders are currently using the waterfall approach to manage disruptive technologies and 7% are considering using it – in contrast, DevOps was only used by 22% and considered by 11%. According to me, this is the number one reason why companies end up in these situations. At work, I’m amazed how often I have to remind project managers that there is a difference between building an IT system and building a main battle tank. We need different approaches, mindset and management skills. Software needs to be continuously developed, continuously deployed, continuously maintained and configured – mid life upgrade is not a valid concept!

Have you read the report? Did you learn anything new? Are we moving from project management to change management? Please share your thoughts!

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Weekly summery

Today is Sunday which means that another week on my journey towards a masters degree has come to an end. That’s what I wish I could say but the truth is that I’m running behind schedule. This week has been exhausting; personally and professionally. Sick kids, workshops, ceremonies, dinner parties, soccer practice – I just haven’t had the time to study as much as I should have. Luckily my family is going on a vacation next week so, hopefully, I will be able to catch up with my studies and spend some extra time with my family.

I’ve almost completed the book “The Standard For Portfolio Management” and I’ve read the initial chapters of “Benefits Realization Management”. I’ve listened to this weeks lecture by Gunnar Wettergren and the podcast hosted by Petr Ponomarev and Aura Camelia Greculescu but, unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to read any research papers this week.

Professionally I’ve noticed that my focus have started to shift from “delivering a specified output” to a more holistic view on organizational benefits. During the past two weeks I’ve had extensive and avid discussions with my colleagues on the need for a common vision and goals as well as aligning and prioritizing our projects towards these goals. I’ve noticed that our organization have a focus on utility and therefor organize our projects in “pipelines”, each handled individually. A holistic view could probably help us prioritize, schedule, allocate and assign resources in a better way to reach strategic goals and fulfil business objectives. At the very least, we need to ensure that we’re executing the right projects by linking the benefits of the project to strategic goals in a formal and structured way.

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Quote of the week

I don’t believe in voodoo! There is no curse over this project! We know WHAT to do! Either we lack the knowhow – which I highly doubt – or we have a leadership problem.

This quote was stated by a senior manager when a challenged project was analysed earlier this week. The subsequent inspection of the project proved him right.

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A better definition of value

Yesterdays lecture on the topic of “Benefit and Value concepts” resulted in some quite interesting discussions between Gunnar Wettergren and the participating students. Once again, I failed to join the live lecture due to work and had to make due with the recorded version. It’s clear that there’s a considerable amount of highly experienced students in the class and I truly appreciate the diversity in our backgrounds.


The discussions was mainly focused on the term value. Within the scope of benefits realization management (BRM) the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines value in the benefit-value equation. Personally, I dislike this definition of value – partly because it implies that currency is necessary to derive value – and I was glad to see that my views were represented within the class. I’m not saying that economy isn’t important – of course it is – but it’s not always the driving factor, especially when you work in the public sector.

Can everything be monetized? Can everything be measured correctly? I doubt that to be true but in defence of the definition, “costs” doesn’t necessary mean currency – there are often other types of costs. On the other hand, those costs could probably be measured and monetized.  A poorly designed UI has a cost for the organization and productivity, as an example, can be measured through metrics.

I have a background in IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and I like the definition of value used there. In ITIL value is defined as utility and warranty:

  • Utility (fit for purpose) means that a service or product fulfils the needs of the customer; and
  • Warranty (fit for use) means that a service or product is available when the user need it.

Normally warranty is said to be measured by availability, capacity, continuity and security but I usually add price as well – If the customer can’t afford it, it has no value. With ITIL’s definition of value, the product or service continuously need to align itself to the business strategy or loose it’s value and ultimately be discontinued.

What do you think? Did you agree with the discussions in the class? Please leave a comment.