Weekly summery

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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!

Quote of the week

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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!

Thoughts on this weeks lecture

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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!

Waterfall? Really!?

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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!

Weekly summery

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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.

Core principels of BRM

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Today is Saturday and I’m trying to finish up this weeks study,
unfortunately life is getting in the way and to be honest, this have been the case for the entire week. On the positive side, I’ve managed to study the initial chapters of the standard for benefit realization management with a focus on the core principals of BRM.

These core principles should be considered common sense in any organization but to be fair, this is likely not the case. I believe it’s important for organization to utilize a framework and to articulate the guidelines or principles needed to support this; providing them the references to keep within.

The core principles of BRM are:

  • Net benefits justify the use of invested resources
  • Commencement of work is driven by benefits identification
  • Planed benefits are identified in authorizing documents
  • Benefits realization is holistically planned and managed
  • Governance and adequate resources are essential to BRM success

According to me the most interesting principle is the fourth – Benefits realization is holistically planned and managed. Though, this principle is probably aimed at larger companies and organizations it’s the first time I thought about IT projects from a strategic view.

What do you think? Got a favourite principle of BRM? Please leave a comment.

Quote of the week

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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.

A better definition of value

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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.

Delivering value

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Today, Gunnar Wettergren held the second lecture in the course “Strategies, benefits and alignment”. Todays topic was “Benefit and Value concepts” and despite the fact that I haven’t listened to the entire lecture, I had to start writing.

In the introduction of the lecture Gunnar talked about the shift in focus from project deliverables to business value. I correlate this to the agile manifesto which focus on the following:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  • working software over comprehensive documentation;
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and
  • responding to change over following a plan.

I’m not saying that the process of planning or documenting isn’t important – they are! However, it’s my experience that many projects still produce an unfortunate amount of “paper products” that bring little or no value to the project. They primarily function as a control mechanism and it’s the existence of the deliverable, not the content, that matters.

Unfortunately, the water fall model is still being used – even when there’s a level of uncertainty of the scope or requirements. Changes are inevitable – why not plan for that, embrace it and use a methodology or framework that supports it?

In short – I wish more of the projects I’ve been involved with had focused it’s resources on real business values (producing and delivering what has been deemed most important first) and planning for change (keeping the project aligned with the benefits of the receiving organization).

Weekly summery

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Today is Sunday and it’s time to summarize the first week as a masters student of Project Management at Stockholm University. My initial view of the program is that the structure and format is superb for distant studies! The lectures are held online but recorded and published at the student platforms; this enables me to combine my profession, family and studies. The course literature seems to be quite broader then just the field of project management; this enables students to pursuit different carers outside the field of “traditional project management”. The class seems highly educated, experienced and divers; this facilitates interesting discussions with multiple perspectives on the topics. Another fun addition to the first course is the blog and podcast formats; they enable me to study while at the gym 😉

Due to “Benefits realization management – A practical guide” being out of stock, I’ve studied “The standard of Portfolio Management” (ISBN: 978-1-62825-197-5) this week and my studies have already starting to bear fruit. I’m one of many stakeholders involved in a set of projects who historically have failed to meet deadlines as well as delivering the expected quality or benefits. These project, all delivering to the same organizational unit, are handled as huge stand-alone projects but partly share a common resource pool and have interdependencies between each other. It’s now clear to me that these projects should be organized under a portfolio and, instead of being handled as a stand-alone project, be split into programs with each unique release handled as a project. This change would likely increase the accuracy of  deadlines and quality of the deliverables as projects and the required resources will be managed, prioritized and scheduled in alignment with the organizational needs on a portfolio level.

How was your first week of the program? What did you learn? Please leave a comment below.