Keeping up: aligning project and business management

Last month, I spoke at the APM conference about the challenges project managers face in a 21st century business environment.
This topic was a new interest to me when I began working in healthcare 18 months ago. It’s amazing how fast healthcare technology has advanced. Every week, Hospital IT Europe or another magazine features a new article about the latest diagnostic tool and ‘connected’ hospital. The rapid pace of change in healthcare made me realize how slow the pace is for project management. I still use the tools and techniques that I learned in my first training courses, and nothing has changed.
The world has changed. Although project managers may still use tools that are decades-old, no one has been able to stop the world from changing. The economic and business environment in which we operate today is vastly different than it was ten years ago, or even five years ago.
According to me, there are three main challenges for businesspeople today:
Economic prioritiesThe credit crunch will not have passed you by. Companies are already shifting their capital spending to prioritize priority projects. As companies seek to reduce their opex expenditure, there have been many redundancies in the city. What does this mean to project managers? It will be harder to manage virtual teams. Everyone who has both a day job and project responsibilities will feel pressured to meet their operational targets. They will also be less likely to commit to your project. We will have to find ways to do more with fewer people while keeping capital spending under control.
Shifting business modelsThe economic downturn will also have an impact on how businesses are run. Outsourcing companies can do it cheaper if it isn’t part of your core business. If it is a repetitive task that is not part of your core business, it will be off-shored. Offshoring also means it will be cheaper.
Computer Weekly published research from Forrester that shows 43% of CIOs are considering increasing their outsourcing due to the economic downturn. A similar number would shift more work offshore.
Project managers will have to deal with different types of projects, such as outsourcing and off-shoring. We’ll also be working with a different mix. The addition of third parties to the mix can create additional complexities. There may also be complications when managing an international team, especially if some of your key personnel are located offshore.
New technologiesWhen I started my career as a project manager, I was a firm believer in version control and document signing off. I would then print the final copy of the document, and take it around the building until all key stakeholders had signed. I would then issue version 1.0, and file away the original in my project folder.
Now, I have limited storage space and a hot desk. It doesn’t matter that much: no one keeps folders or paper. I would be surprised if I asked my key stakeholders for their signatures on a project initiation form. We can now manage approvals electronically and have electronic documents. This is the accepted way of working in many industries, including financial services. It can take some time to catch up.
We also work with the “Google generation”. You are most likely one of them. Google is a great resource for information. You can type your question in Google and get a response in less than a second. Google has revolutionized the way stakeholders expect information. When I was a project manager, I used to produce a monthly report for the steering group. It was sufficient. It would be considered the most current project status. Only in an emergency would anyone request anything more. Now stakeholders have different expectations of project.