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Benefits Realization Management vs. Service Strategy

This week is almost over and the introduction to the written assignment is now complete. I’ve looked at a lot of articles on benefit realization management (BRM) for my literature review and it’s interesting to see how BRM and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Service Strategy are aligned.

In the book Benefits realization management: a practice guide (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2019), BRM is said to encompass “standard methods and processes that an organization uses for identifying benefits, executing it’s benefits realization plans, and sustaining the realized benefits facilitated by portfolio, program or project initiatives”. Business strategy is central in BRM since benefits are derived, planed, managed and tracked holistically, beyond the scope of a particular portfolio, program or project.

In ITIL, the practices related to strategy management for IT services, suggests similar activities as BRM. In Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the book ITIL® Service Strategy (The Cabinet Office [TCO], 2011) the purpose of service strategy is described as a way to “articulate how a service provider will enable an organization to achieve its business outcomes”. Service strategy “establishes the criteria and mechanisms to decide which services will be best suited to meet the business outcomes and the most effective and efficient way to manage these services”. This involves activities such as analysing the internal and external environment to identify risks, constraints or opportunities; engage and to keep relevant stakeholders informed; and to ensure that “strategic plans are translated into tactical and operational plans for each organizational unit that is expected to deliver on the strategy”.

References

  1. Project Management Institute. (2019). Benefits realization management: a practice guide. Newtown Square, US-PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.
  2. The Cabinett Office. (2011). ITIL® Service Strategy. London: The Stationery Office.
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Quote of the week

The findings of this research conclude that categorization systems contribute to overall project portfolio performance by ‘doing the right projects’ and ‘doing the projects right’

This is a quite interesting quote from a masters thesis from Chalmers written by Bich Nga Dao that was recommended by Gunnar wettergren. So far we discussed methods of doing the selecting and executing the right project but carrying out the project in the right way is crucial for project success and benefit realization. The thesis was quite an interesting read and can be found here.

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Mission-type tactics – A project management approach

Today is Tuesday which means that another lecture of the course “Strategies, benefits and alignment” was held by Gunnar Wettergren. It was an interesting lecture that covered most of what I already read in the textbook but also some interesting reflections and examples of how to balance your portfolio and how to assess the maturity level of an organization related to portfolio management.

There’s a chain of thought that keep coming back throughout the lectures of the course; it’s interesting how the strategic management of benefit realization and portfolio management kind of relates to the military tactic used by the Swedish Armed Forces. The Swedish Armed Forces uses mission-type tactics which is a form of military tactics where the emphasis is on the outcome of a mission rather than the specific means of achieving it. Wikipedia has an extensive article about mission-type tactics which state that “in mission-type tactics, the military commander gives subordinate leaders a clearly defined goal (the objective), the forces needed to accomplish that goal and a time frame within which the goal must be reached. The subordinate leaders then implement the order independently. The subordinate leader is given, to a large extent, the planning initiative and a freedom in execution which allows a high degree of flexibility at the operational and tactical levels of command” and “the success of the mission-type tactics it is especially important that the subordinate leaders understand the intent of the orders and are given proper guidance and that they are trained so they can act independently.“.

Agile is nothing new; there is an old german, military, saying that states “nothing is enduring, except the change of situation”. The Wikipedia article continues with “a key aspect of mission-type tactics is forward control. In order to understand what is happening at the point of action and to be able to take decisions quickly, the operational commander needs to be able to observe results. The decision to deviate from original plans in pursuit of the mission must be made here for ‘friction’ to be overcome and momentum to be sustained” and “the success of the doctrine rests upon the recipient of orders understanding the intent of whoever issues the orders and acting to achieve the goal even if their actions violate other guidance or orders they have received”.

Could we see an increase in realized benefits if project managers were given the proper guidance to focus on the intent of the project rather then deliverables and requirements?

What do you think? Did you learn anything new from todays lecture? Please leave a comment!

References
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission-type_tactics

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Portfolios, programs and projects

Monday evening and another week of studies have begun. Last weeks lecture lead to a bit of confusion for me with regards to the definition of portfolios. This made me what to study PMI’s definition of programs and projects as well.

According to PMI a portfolio is a collection of projects, programs , subsidiary portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.
A program is defied as a group of related projects, subsidiary programs and program activities that are managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.
A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

In my experience, many companies fail to differentiate between projects and programs. Often, huge projects are executed to solve major issues or to rebuild services or infrastructure; projects that probably should be broken down to smaller projects managed and coordinated under a program manager. According to me, huge projects tend to be move slow and fail to realign themselves when business needs change. Smaller projects however, usually keep high speed and can be realigned before execution.

What’s your take? Have you worked under a successful program? Please leave a comment!

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Weekly summery

Today is Sunday which means that it’s time for yet another weekly summery. This has been quite a good week – professionally and as a student – and I’ve managed to get a lot of things done and made some really interesting discoveries. The podcast from Projectified™ that was included in last weeks material raised some interesting questions for me. I’ve had some discussions on the topic with a personal friend of mine who works within HR in the IT industry. It would be entreating to read more about how todays recruiters manage these challenges and the future of our industry.

I’ve held my first interview for the written assignment of the course this week, I’ve also managed to collect a few of the official documents from the organization. By studying these documents it’s already clear that there are discrepancies between the strategic goals of the organization and the goals pursued within the organization. I’ll follow up on this with an secondary interview once I’ve gone through all the documents.

This weeks lecture was interesting. I wish I had the possibility to join the live lectures but I’m restricted by my responsibilities at work to do so. There were some really interesting discussions between Gunnar and the students which I’ve covered in the previous posts this week. It’s frustrating to listen to the recorded lecture when discussions are held without being able to join in or ask complementary questions.

I stumbled upon an interesting report from Forbes this week. The report is called “Delivering value to today’s digital enterprise – the state of IT service management”. You can find it at https://www.bmc.com/content/dam/bmc/migration/pdf/Delivering-Value-to-Today%27s-Digital-Enterprise-FINAL.pdf.

Next week I’ll be hosting a workshop at work, it will probably turn out to be a quite hectic week but I’ll be staying at a hotel which means that I get the spend the evenings with my books.

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The cost of operations

I found an interesting article called “Delivering value to today’s digital enterprise – the state of IT service management” this week. Working within operations myself, it was interesting to see some statistics on the budget spent on IT maintenance in different companies.

56 percent of the companies surveyed spent less then 50% on their IT budget on maintaining uptime and availability; applying upgrades, fixes and patches; ensuring security compared to budget spent on project development or new initiatives. 36 percent spent more then 50 percent of their budget and 1 percent spent their entire budget on maintenance. Only 12 percent of the surveyed companies was able to decrease the amount of money spent on maintenance.

What can be learned from this? In my experience key factors to decrease the budget and time spent in operations is to involve operations in the development early in the process to ensure that you build systems and services that they can manage – that fit their environment. Make sure to standardize your platforms and applications as much as possible to decrease the amount skills and training required to manage the systems. This might seem obvious but I see project after project that fail to achieve this, pushing the costs of operations to absurdities.

Lack of a Service Management approach is hurting competitiveness as a business. Three out of four executives agree that the amount of time, money and resources spent on ongoing maintenance and management—versus new project development or new initiatives—is affecting the overall competitiveness of their organizations.

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PMI’s definition of a portfolio

Today I did the first interview for the written assignment of the course. I had to document quite a lot so I haven’t had time to write anything fruitful on the blog this evening.

This weeks lecture ended up in a bit of a heated discussion on whether operations, by definition, should be included in portfolios or not.

According to PMBOK Guide (p. 13) a portfolio refers to a collection of projects, programs, subsidiary portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.

I guess this case is closed for now.

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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.