Posts

Thoughts of last weeks lecture

,

Times fly when you’re having fun. I completely missed that a lecture was posted last week so I have a lot of catching up to do. I can’t believe this course is almost over and unless I’ve been misinformed, this was the last “lecture” of the course even there is another QA planed.

The title of last weeks lecture was “Capacity, Capability, Stakeholders and Risk management” and was held by Gunnar Wettergren. Once again Gunnar delivered and interesting and entertaining lecture, I appreciate the informal style and tone of his lectures.

I’ve written a previous post on utilization of capability in large, hieratical organizations and how it would be interesting to study this in a later assignment or thesis. In this lecture Gunnar, and the students, talked about this in the context of portfolio managers not owning resources.
In the written assignment I looked at an organization that used an agile framework to handle this in one of their departments. There were limitations but the framework seemed to be working really well for smaller projects and initiatives. I’ll write a blog post about it later this week.

I agree with Gunnar that stakeholder is a tricky bit. Identifying stakeholders are perceived as easy but my experience tells me it’s harder then most people think. Getting stakeholders involved and getting them to realize they are important for the success of a project or that they will be affected by the deliverables of the project can be a time consuming task. Assessing the engagement level to identify possible activities seems appropriate. I found the visual representation to be really useful.

What’s your thoughts on the lecture? Did you take anything with you? Please, leave a comment!

The written assignement is complete

,

Finally, the written assignment is complete. This assignment took much longer time then I expected it to but it have been highly rewarding. I’ve might have taken Gunnars word a bit to literal but I embraced the role of a consultant and evaluated the organization and came up with a lot off suggestions to improve their current situation. Yesterday I presented my conclusions to managers of the organization and even though they already identified much of their problems, they were happy with my conclusion and recommendations.

Abstract

This report aims to assist a Swedish government agency in their ongoing improvement initiative to increase the return of investment and strategic alignment of their IT division. The objective of this report is to investigate how the strategic objectives and identified benefits of the agency are tracked, prioritized and realized by the IT division and to present suitable suggestions on how improve the current situation.

The ability to continually prioritize, track and align the provided services, executed projects and day-to-day operations to the strategic objectives of the agency is vital to ensure that the invested resources deliver the expected outcomes and that the balance between organizational capabilities are maintained.

The conclusions of this report are primarily based on the review of formal documentation and the internal processes of the IT division. To complement this review, three interviews with managers within the IT division were conducted.

The findings of this report indicate a disconnect between the strategic management of the agency and the management of the IT division. This disconnect had already been identified within the agency and actions to mitigate the situation was already initialized. To improve the current situation the author of this report suggests that initiatives should be commenced to promote a holistic approach and governing body to ensure that:

  • strategic objectives are echoed throughout the organizational body;
  • commenced work contribute to the strategic objectives; and
  • activities are registered, prioritized, evaluated and tracked throughout their lifecycle.

If anyone would be interested in peer reviewing the report before hand in I would highly appreciate it.

Handling capabilities in a hierarchical organization

,

As I previously stated, I’m employed by the Swedish Armed Forces; an extremely hierarchical organization. You would assume that decisive leadership for the optimization of utilization would be common in such an organization – believe me, it is! However, in such a hieratical structure, I imagine it’s hard for management to get an overview of the organizational capabilities. I know for a fact that key competence that could be utilized disappear when they are organized in inappropriate organizational structures; making them “invisible” in the organization as a whole.

A few years ago, the Swedish Armed Forces implemented a new IT system. In the “internal commercial campaign” a mission commander could find specialized skills anywhere in the organization using this tool. He then deployed combat ready specialist, with full gear, with just the click of a mouse. To be fair I’ve never seen these functions be used and we still use excel sheets to report which courses, competences and certificates our civilian staff hold.

This would be a really interesting masters thesis to look into. How are organizational capabilities balanced and optimized in such a hierarchical organization.

What do you think? Do you work in a larger organization with good control, balance and optimization of capabilities? Please leave a comment.

Alignment of ITSM

,

Today I reopened the report “Delivering value to todays digital enterprise” published by Forbes and found a really interesting section.

When asked which most closely describes the state of their ITSM efforts as they relate to the business, 37% of executives indicate their “ITSM effort is mainly focused on delivering IT services at this time”.

The organization I study is one of these 37% percent. I haven’t analysed all the data yet but it seems quite obvious that the processes implemented are done so to structure the day to day work within operations rather then an attempt to improve the execution of business strategies.

What’s really interesting is that only 8% claim that their ITSM efforts are “closely aligned with the success of our overall business”. I honestly thought that we’ve come further then this.

Weekly summery

,

Another week of masters studies is finally over! This week have been hectic as I’ve facilitated a three day workshop at work. The good part is I spent the week at a hotel so I’ve been able to read a lot of articles this week. “Benefits Realisation Management and its influence on project success and the execution of business strategies” was an extremely interesting read and “Project Categorization Systems and Their Role for Project Portfolio Management” which was recommended by Gunnar Wettergren held some intriguing conclusions.

The written assignment is slowly progressing; I’ve spend a ridicules amount of time trying to get my citations and references correct. The assignment is really challenging but fruitful as I get to reflect upon and apply the knowledge I gained throughout the course on a real organization.

References

  1. Serra, C.E.M., Kunc, M., (2015). Benefits Realisation Management and its influence on project success and the execution of business strategies. International Journal of Project Management, 2015 33(1), 53-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ijproman.2014.03.011
  2. Bich Nga Dao. (2011). Project Categorization Systems and Their Role for Project Portfolio Management (Unpublished master’s thesis). Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.