Can you relate with these words: Overwhelmed, Time-constrained, Firefighting, Out of Control, Overworked, Exhausted, Frustrated, Alone, Intimidated?
Are you constantly confronted with limited resources, dragging projects, thrown into the deep end, being on the receiving end of decisions time and time again?
If so, we have quite something for you here. Much more than you would get out of an advanced course in project management. Much less intimidating with easy and practical quick wins that will certainly help you gain more control to get better throughput on important projects that are of real value to your business.
We'll start with the bigger picture and break it down into practical steps. The infographic that comes along with this article will show you where you are at this stage and what next steps you need to do.We need to step out of firefighting (reactive mode) to focus on things that really matter, such as preparation, planning, prevention, relationship building and personal development (proactive mode).
Followed by the infographic, you will find a summary of a series of articles. Step through them and zoom in.
Each one will give you ample examples and tools to help you grasp the concepts and actions needed to get you going. Concepts that are formed by more than 20 years of exposure to environments like yours and actions that have been proven of great value.
Please refer to the glossary at the end of this article for a definition of terms used throughout this series.
Each of the above illustrated “4 Steps to Improve Project Coordination” is addressed in one blog article in the series.
Herewith, for your convenience, an overview of all the articles:
Blog Article 1 - How to get Your Business Technology Mindset in Gear
Not in Control?
Many an IT Manager is not in complete control of IT. IT resources are seen by business as “free-for-all” to address issues ranging from total triviality to high complexity.
This blog article gives guidance on how the IT Manager can position him/herself to effectively address this dilemma by attending to the following:
From “Do Mode” to “Thinking Mode”We need to step out of firefighting (reactive mode) to focus on things that really matter, such as preparation, planning, prevention, relationship building and personal development (proactive mode).
Building Relationships to Share Risks and Reap Benefits
The ability to build relationships is key to share risk with others across the organisation. It will also expose you to a rich source of decision-making skills of others.
Adopting Core Principles Enables Innovation
Google’s Eight Pillars of Innovation are highly relevant to be used as a solid guideline to build your personal innovation mindset in order to address the challenges ahead.
The core insight to see IT as an integral part of business is critical for the IT Manager, hence the introduction to the concept of BT.
|Insight: Develop the Right Mindset to Address the Right Challenges.|
Blog Article 2 - 4 Steps to Fearless Communication on Project Deliverables
Having a Project Overload?
The IT Manager might find that things-to-do are all over the show and coming from everywhere.
IT is often not part of the business decision making, but on the other hand the IT Manager is usually expected to manage all projects with an IT component – which very fast becomes unmanageable. The steps to follow in this blog are:
Collect All the Things You Need to Do
The IT Manager needs to search for and list all the “things-to-do” that are consuming the IT Team’s time.
Process your Project List
Next, that list is categorised into three buckets:
- Operational Projects and
- BT Projects.
The BT Projects list is the one identified for initial focus. Each project in this list needs to be further enriched with relevant information.
Find your Missing Projects
BT Leaders in your organisation are approached to scrutinise your list of BT Projects, verifying or adding projects to the list of BT Projects.
Sharing and Updating your Project List
This list is now kept in a shared location that is accessible to every BT Leader and is regularly updated.
Business leaders have now become aware of (the complexity of) every IT related project that carries real business value (BT Project). The IT Team’s execution of projects will become more effective, but only for a while until the next challenge is encountered.
|Insight: Relationships Established, Complexities Exposed, Global View Gained!|
Blog Article 3 - Coordinate Business Technology Projects Across the Organisation
Projects Keep Dragging on?
Listing all BT Projects did help with visibility and having this overview helped to do initial streamlining.
However, business has in the meantime raised its expectations and your IT Team is subjected to increased multitasking.
This unfortunately results in projects not being completed on time or at all. Help is now needed from business to address the issue. For more detail on this, please read this blog article.
Recruit Senior Leaders
The BT Leaders that were earlier identified, are now, with the help of a “sponsor”, invited to a meeting to help your IT Team with the emerging challenges.
This gathering now forms a BT Projects Team and its sole purpose is to address the issue of multitasking.
Decide on Active Projects
The meeting will help your IT Team to identify and only focus on the most important projects until these are completed.
Agree to Stop the Other Projects
The BT Projects Meeting has a mandate to stop all the other projects that have the potential to side-track focus of your IT Team.
How to handle new projects
New projects can be planned well in advance or may come in from the side. In both cases each such project should be evaluated and ranked according to criticality, taking into account the other running projects.
This meeting should continuously decide whether new projects will be included in the list of active projects or not and if yes, which other projects are stopped in return. The meeting should therefore be held on a frequent basis.
|Insight: Less Multitasking, More Focus! Projects Get Done!|
Blog Article 4 - 7 Steps to Balance the Business Technology Project Portfolio
The project throughput did greatly accelerate, but, as usual, a new challenge will surface. Growing dissent is a given when certain projects are favoured to others, some never make it to the list of active projects and prioritisation is skewed by a rigid process. The IT team is overworked and under constant strain.
It’s evident that a higher level of flexibility needs to be built in. Prioritisation now becomes an art called “Balancing the Project Portfolio” and the basics of this are covered in this blog article.
Classify Projects According to their Value Proposition to the Business
In this step, projects are classified according to their Value Proposition (VP) to business for the sake of comparability. This will result in a separate list projects for each VP, greatly assisting with prioritisation.
Business Strategy Should Drive Project Focus
A BT Project Portfolio should reflect Business Strategy. A way to achieve this is to use a predetermined distribution of attention (i.e. time spent) on the different VP lists as guideline during BT Projects Team meetings.
Decide on Resource Availability
Also in line with Business Strategy, the available time of IT Resources should be reserved for the different VPs.
Understand the Resources Required for each Project
For each project, the time that will be used per IT resource pool, should be estimated.
Agree on how to balance the BT Project Portfolio
The BT Projects Team now needs to have a relook at the currently running projects. Questions to be asked:
- Are all critical projects getting attention?
- Do the maximum number of projects get done?
- Are they completed in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of multi-tasking by individual resources?
- How do we achieve the highest utilisation of resources without overstretching them?
Record Resource Time for BT Projects
This step requires you to collect the time logged per resource per project for the later comparison with estimated times.
Embed Learning into the Process
Learn from the data and make adjustments to improve.
Insight: Projects Running Smoothly, Much more Satisfaction.
Glossary of Terms Used Throughout the Series
Value Proposition of IT to the Business; also used to indicate the level of adoption of technology by the business; the Relevant IT Framework identifies four distinct VPs.
Small and medium-sized enterprise as compared to Enterprise or large enterprise, usually an IT user base between 50 - 1000.
An Information TechnologyTeam is a traditional grouping of people around IT related roles in an organisation.
Traditional role that leads the IT Team.
The term Business Technology is used to indicate a shift in the positioning of Information Technology Management to the very centre of the organisation involving all stakeholders in order to drive every aspect of business.
Business Technology Manager
A Business Technology Stakeholder is any person that has a vested interest in a BT Project or function
A Business Technology Leader is a business leader that takes responsibility for adopting or driving technology at a certain level of business, closely related to one of the four VPs
A Business Technology Project directly improves the business and has an IT component to it; it often spans across business functions, involving multiple stakeholders.
BT Project Portfolio
A list of all BT Projects across all business functions and VPs
BT Projects Team
A Business Technology Projects Team consists of BT Leaders responsible for the maintenance, prioritisation, resource management and balancing of a BT Project Portfolio.
If you have any stories about project management mishaps or successes for your business, please share them in the comments.