Summery of my second week as a masters student

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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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.


Delivering value

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).


Summery of my first week as a masters student

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.


What drives digital transformation?

Secound day of the semester and my first lecture in 11 years. The topic of the lecture was digitization and digital transformation and was actually held yesterday. Unfortunately I missed the live lecture but watched the recorded version uploaded on the student platform. Gunnar Wettergren held an intriguing and amusing lecture on the topic and I thought it was a good introduction to the program as a whole.  It outlined the foundation of where we’re heading – as a society and profession.

Gunnar talked about the different drivers behind digital transformation and how most of these drivers have played their role historically. Even though I agree with what Gunnar said there was one word I missed – Value. I work with IT Service Management and from my perspective technology in itself isn’t a driver and has never been. Technology is an enabler but value is the driver. What value means will evolve over time but without a business case behind it –  technology in itself, is useless.

From my perspective, several companies are is a real mess when it comes to IoT. IoT as a phenomenon could still be considered a unmatured market and perhaps that’s why they’re struggling. I’m amazed by some of my friends “smart home” solutions but the sheer amount of useless implementations of IoT is astonishing. Businesses need to focus their product or service portfolios to ensure that they provide value (utility and warranty) to their customers. Value, not the hyped technology of the month.

Another example of technology not aligned with value is Nokia. Though technically superior (better sound, better antennas, better batteries, better microphones) the utility of a mobile phone had changed by 2007. Nokia’s was no longer in touch with their market. Their production was based on technology (hardware specifications), something the customers didn’t care for nor understood. Usability, style and entertainment was suddenly key. Their products no longer provided value and in just a few years, Nokia’s market shares had completely crashed.

Statistic: Global market share held by Nokia smartphones from 1st quarter 2007 to 2nd quarter 2013 | Statista

Global market share held by Nokia smartphones from 1st quarter 2007 to 2nd quarter 2013

Got any comments, remarks or questions? Please leave a comment.


My first step towards a masters degree

Today, I took my first step towards my masters degree at Stockholm University. I watched the program introduction held by Gunnar Wettergren while visiting the beautiful Haga Castle in Enköping, Sweden. It’s clear that the next two years will be valuable and rewarding but also challenging and highly demanding; part time studies combined with maintaining a carer, family and relationships will surely prove to be quite the challenge.

It’s clear that the class is a very diverse composition of students with different cultural and professional backgrounds. Hopefully this will lead to fruitful discussions and exchanges of experiences.

My first reflection is related to a statement made by Gunnar during the program introduction; in short Gunnar stated that today, IT is a central part of organizations and aligned to the strategy of the organization. While I wish this to be true, my personal experience tells me this is not yet a reality. Many organizations, especially publicly founded organizations, still view IT as a support function – a cost that should be kept to a minimum – left without control or alignment to the business strategy. My first reflection is: How do we change this? I can’t answer this question today but hopefully, within two years, this question has been answered.

Do you have personal experience of poor alignment between IT and business strategy? Any suggestions on how to influence senior management? Please, leave a comment and share you experience.