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Building the right culture

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Today is Saturday and I’m happy to say that the written assignment is more or less complete. Throughout the course I’ve had a few topics that keep on coming back in my mind. Today, I’ve been thinking about organizational culture and it’s connection to the successful delivery upon goals. I’ve already written a post about the importance of a clear, unambiguous vision and mission statement but this does not guarantee a successful culture change.

To be honest, I’m not sure how this culture is built but I’m pretty sure it’s best performed using dialog, not documents, and local resources acting as role models for the organization. In my literature review for the written assignment I find it pleasing that the value driven culture is given such focus in the books, papers and frameworks I’ve studied. The BRM framework is said to echo the organization’s value-oriented mindset, ITIL focuses on value from a customer perspective, papers have suggested that companies need to redefine what a project success means in order to secure organizational benefits rather then the fulfilment of a particular benefit.

Got any idea on how to build this culture? Please let me know!

Quote of the week

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In order to apply Benefits realisation Management in support to a successful implementation of business strategies, organisations need to redesign their success criteria to increase the relevance of dimensions related to the creation of value to business.

This is a quote from Benefit Realisation Management and its influence on project success and on the execution of business strategies written by C.E.M Serra and M. Kunc and published in the International journal of Project Management.
I’ve touched upon this subject in a previous post earlier during this course. The fulfilment of specifications and deliverables does not guarantee value being generated and benefits realized.

Benefits Realization Management vs. Service Strategy

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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.

Thoughts on this week lecture

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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!

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!

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!

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.

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.