Tag: Leadership

PMTimes_Feb1_2023

A Project Sponsor Wrecked My Project

Sponsors play an important role throughout the life of a project. They help support, shape, and integrate the project to realize the benefits for the business. But the Sponsors can also hinder the success of a project. They can harm a project by becoming too elusive or too intrusive. In this article, I will share the havoc caused by an intrusive sponsor.

 

An Intrusive sponsor tries to take too much control over the project. It is important to remember that the Sponsor is not the Project Manager and, as such, should not be trying to micromanage the project.

 

Let us first start with the definition of a project sponsor.

A Project Sponsor is a person or group who owns the project and provides resources and support for the project, program, or portfolio to enable its success. Every project has at least one project sponsor. Project sponsors are senior managers or executives who liaise between the project and organizational goals.

One of the critical success factors for any project is the presence and participation of an effective project sponsor. The Project Management Institute reports that the top driver of those projects meeting their original business goals is an actively engaged executive sponsor (PMI, 2018). However, the same project management research also found that one in three failed projects are linked to poorly engaged executive sponsorship.

 

Sponsor’s Primary responsibilities:

– Sponsors help clarify project goals from the organization’s perspective and guide project managers to make consistent tradeoffs across the project’s schedule, scope, and resources.

– Sponsors serve as a point of escalation when decisions or actions are needed to keep the project on track for matters outside the authority of the project manager.

 

BUT…

Not every Sponsor wants to be confined to their primary responsibilities.

Not every Sponsor wants to guide PMs, preferring to micromanage them.

Not every Sponsor respects the PMs boundaries and authority.

 

In some cases, a sponsor’s overzealousness to make a project successful can sabotage the project. A sponsor can create or destroy value for a business. They can act as a hinderance to project success.

Here is my true story between myself (the Project Manager) and the Sponsor. Let’s call him Mr. A.

 

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A brief background about this project

It was a project in a startup company. I was well supported by the Sponsor, who also happened to be the owner of that company.

Here are the few scenarios which lead to the project’s doom:

 

Micromanaging 

As the project had aggressive timelines, Mr. A suggested hiring freelancers to expedite the work. He recommended a few profiles that he had shortlisted from LinkedIn. I selected one freelancer from that list and started working with him.

What an excellent camaraderie between a Sponsor and a PM. Right?

Wrong!

The supportive Sponsor wanted to give more support. He started micromanaging me. He was asking questions like:

How frequently do you connect with that freelancer? How are you tracking his work?

As the freelancer was doing data entry work, I delegated the supervision of his work to another team member. This way, I could concentrate on more pressing issues in the project.

But Mr. A did not like it. He wanted me to supervise that freelancer directly.

 

Overriding PM’s decisions

We were working hard to achieve the unrealistic timelines. As the due date got closer, I decided to share the actual situation with the customer and ask for more time. I hope that sharing the information about the real efforts to complete the ongoing tasks would help the customers see the massiveness of the work. I would own the misjudgments of estimates done earlier in the project (although those commitments were made by Mr. A.)

But it does not matter as we are one team, Right?

Wrong!

Alas, I did not get to share this information with the customer. Instead, Mr. A had a private conversation with the customer and asked for a one-week extension timeline. In place of the extension, he also committed to doing some extra work.

I was caught unaware when I received this information from the customer on a slack group channel.

 

Expect the impossible

We could not deliver the work we had already committed for this week, on top of the extra work due in another week. I became furious! How could Mr. A have this conversation without first discussing the impact of the scope changes with me? Mr. A crossed a boundry and overstepped my authority on this project.

Many other things unfolded after that and I eventually left the project. Mr. A eagerly stepped into the shoes of  interim Project Manager.

I became an observer on this project and provided my help as and when required.

 

How the wrecked project looked

Firstly, the project could not be delivered even after the time extension that Mr. A got from the customer.

Secondly, he made the entire company work on that project.

And thirdly, the customer was unhappy about this delay and voiced his concern over the slack channel by sending angry messages to the entire team.

We all know that for a project to be successful, the Project Manager and the Sponsor need to work hand in hand. And we also know that this collaboration is often missing in projects.

In many cases, the PM has to spend more time handling Sponsor queries rather than project queries.

 

How should a PM handle an intrusive Sponsor?

Before talking more about this subject, understand that it is a sensitive topic to handle.  As in most cases, the Sponsor also happens to be the PM’s immediate boss.

Hence PMs need to handle it so they do not damage the working relationship with their manager.

 

  1. Train and Educate – Sponsors (specifically, those who are also startup owners) must be educated on what it takes to effectively work with a project team. Sponsors should be explicitly and deliberately taught to deal with projects, project issues, and project people. In addition, they need to learn about change management – the effective tradeoff between cost, duration, and performance.

 

  1. Clarify Expectations – Understanding what the Sponsor expects from a PM. They may have a different understanding of what project managers do and how PMs can help them. For example, some people might think PMs just do all the paperwork and nothing else. Ensure the Sponsor completely understands a PMs roles and responsibilities.

 

  1. Set up the Communication plan – Establish the frequency, granularity, and channels for communication between the PM and the Sponsor to share the project progress or impediments. Communication channels include status meetings, automated reports, dashboards, and impromptu conversations. When sponsors start weighing in on all the minor details, the PM can remind them about the agreements made in the communication plan.

 

Project sponsors are essential to the success of any project. They provide the financial support and resources necessary for a project to exist. They can have a hugely positive impact on the success of a project. While they can be helpful, they can also hinder if not properly managed.

 

The three ways in which we can handle the intrusive Sponsor is:

–             Educate them about Sponsor and PM roles and responsibilities

–             Set the clear expectations

–             Be honest with them to ensure a successful project outcome

 

We can also sum up the above three points in a single sentence – A Sponsor needs to know their boundaries and accept the boundaries of a Project Manager!

PMTimes_Jan31_2023

Maximizing Impact and Efficiency with Zero-Based Portfolio Prioritization

Introduction

In today’s competitive business environment, it’s important for organizations to stay ahead of the game. One key to success is being able to effectively prioritize and deliver on projects that will drive strategic goals and bring about competitive advantage. This is where zero-based portfolio prioritization comes in.

But first, let’s consider the importance of prioritization to your portfolio and your business.

 

Why Prioritize?

Effective project prioritization can bring a number of benefits to your organization, including:

Improved return on investment: Studies have shown that prioritized projects are more likely to drive greater ROI and overall value, as they are more closely aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. Additionally, projects that are well-aligned with strategy are 45% more likely to be delivered to budget and 50% more likely to be delivered on time.

Better support from senior management and other key stakeholders: When projects are clearly linked to strategic imperatives, they have a 57% higher likelihood of success. This is due in part to increased engagement from senior leadership and greater energy behind the projects, which can result in more resources being made available to deliver them.

 

Reduction of waste: Prioritization ensures that organizations are focused on projects that will add value, rather than those that are no longer relevant. All too often, organizations continue working on outdated projects that consume valuable resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.

Avoidance of resource overload: When organizations do not focus on the most important projects, resources can be stretched too thin, leading to bottlenecks and delays on critical projects. Prioritizing projects effectively frees up people to work on the things that really matter, which can also be more motivating for team members.

What is the Zero-based Portfolio Prioritization Process?

Zero-based portfolio prioritization is a method of evaluating and prioritizing projects based on their potential value, rather than their place in a pre-existing hierarchy or list of priorities. It involves starting with a blank slate and reviewing each project based on its current potential value to the organization.

There are a few different methods that can be used for zero-based portfolio prioritization, including weighted scoring, MoSCoW prioritization, the Eisenhower Matrix, and the Impact and Effort Matrix.

 

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Implementing Zero-based Portfolio Prioritization

So, how do you go about implementing zero-based portfolio prioritization in your organization? Here are the key steps to follow:

Define your criteria: To effectively evaluate and prioritize projects, you’ll need to decide on the criteria you will use. This could include things like ROI, risk level, resource requirements, and cost-benefit ratio. Involve key stakeholders in this process to ensure that the criteria align with the organization’s strategic goals and needs.

Review and evaluate projects: Once you have your criteria defined, review and evaluate each project based on how it aligns with the criteria. This could involve creating a matrix or other tool to help you score and compare projects. Be sure to consider both quantitative and qualitative benefits in your evaluation.

Communicate and act: Once you have your prioritized list of projects, it’s important to communicate the changes to all stakeholders and start working on the revised plan. This can be challenging, as some team members may be disappointed if their projects are deprioritized. Be sure to clearly communicate the reasons for the changes and how they align with the organization’s goals to help mitigate resistance.

Monitor and evaluate: Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the prioritized projects is key to ensuring that they remain aligned with the organization’s goals and that resources are being used effectively. This may involve regularly reviewing and adjusting the criteria used to evaluate projects, as well as tracking progress and outcomes.

 

Challenges and Considerations

While zero-based portfolio prioritization can bring many benefits to an organization, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges and considerations that may come up. These could include:

Resistance to change: As mentioned, it’s common for team members to resist changes to project priorities, especially if their own projects are deprioritized. It’s important to clearly communicate the reasons for the changes and how they align with the organization’s goals to help mitigate resistance.

Difficulty in evaluating and comparing projects: It can be challenging to accurately evaluate and compare projects, especially when some benefits are hard to quantify. It’s important to be thorough and use a consistent approach to ensure that projects are being compared fairly.

Ensuring alignment with strategic goals: It’s essential to ensure that the prioritized projects are aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. This may require regular review and adjustment of the criteria used to evaluate projects.

 

Limited resources: Even with effective prioritization, there may be times when the organization simply doesn’t have the resources to tackle all of the highest-priority projects. In these cases, it may be necessary to prioritize further or look for ways to free up resources.

Overall, zero-based portfolio prioritization can be a powerful tool for organizations looking to align their priorities with their strategic goals and ensure that resources are being used effectively. By carefully defining criteria, evaluating, and comparing projects, communicating and acting on the revised plan, and monitoring and evaluating progress, organizations can make the most of their resources and drive greater success.

PMTimes_Jan25_2023

Wabi-Sabi: Embrace Imperfection to Continuously Improve

“There’s a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

– Leonard Cohen

 

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese wisdom principle that has great relevance to project management and, in fact, any management, including self-management.

The principle is to embrace imperfection, surrendering to the reality that nothing is permanent, and nothing is complete. In the complex world of projects, imperfection is inevitable.

In my forthcoming book on achieving optimal performance, I include Wabi-sabi as one of the elements that treat the cause of unnecessary stress. I tell the story of the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma who had a string break in the middle of a performance. Rather than being set off balance by the disturbance, he paused, changed the string and continued his performance. He was practicing wabi-sabi, cool and accepting. Equanimous. Imagine how it might have been had Yo-Yo Ma not been so equanimous, calmly accepting the situation. Likely, his performance would have suffered.

 

In organizations, a Wabi-sabi attitude is instrumental in promoting continuous improvement and avoiding the blaming that creates conflict, motivates people to hide errors and defects, and gets in the way of learning.

Acceptance that there will be imperfections eliminates the denial, anger, and fear that arises when the imperfections appear.

 

Active Acceptance

There is often a misunderstanding about the attitude of accepting and embracing imperfection. “What! Accept imperfection?” some might think. “Isn’t perfection what we are after. We want to be free of defects, errors, and omissions, not accept and embrace them.”

 

To clarify the misunderstanding, we have to explore what it means to accept and to embrace.

To accept in our context is to realize that things are as they are. It does not mean to accept that they will continue. Acceptance is active when we realize that everything is continuously moving, in process. Nothing is complete. Accepting the present reality, things as they are, is an ideal foundation for planning and moving forward to a desired outcome.

 

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When an error is detected, will it go away if you deny it or try to cover it up? No. It is there. Accept it. The alternative is not pretty. Deny or hide the error and it is likely to come to light again, probably when it is even less convenient. When it does, there is a sense of distrust. The error has been compounded because imperfection was not accepted.

Acceptance allows embracing. To embrace means to accept something willingly and enthusiastically. You don’t have to hug and kiss the imperfections. The method is to be grateful that the error has been identified so you can enthusiastically see what you can do with and about the particular imperfection you have encountered.

This attitude motivates project team members to bring existing imperfections to the surface (not to create new ones). Embracing imperfection leads to actively improving performance and product quality by assessing each imperfection to determine its impact, its cause, and what to about it – in the short term, to manage the impact and longer term, to learn and improve.

 

Yes, we want to be free of errors and omissions. Learning from the ones we or others have experienced, is the basis for being free of them in the future. We can’t change the past or the present moment but using the knowledge of them we can influence the future.

 

What Gets in the Way

So, if it is such a good thing, why isn’t it universally applied? What gets in the way of taking a wabi-sabi attitude? Perfectionism, emotional reactivity, and an ambiguous definition of perfection are the primary obstacles to embracing imperfection.

 

Perfectionism is the drive to make things perfect. It can be healthy or unhealthy. If it is managed, it is a highly valued trait, a success factor. But unacknowledged and uncontrolled, it comes to the surface as unhealthy self-criticism and criticism of others, frustration, anger, and overcontrol. Perfectionism is often institutionalized, making it a cultural trait as well as an individual one.

The unhealthy perfectionist is caught up in the obsession to achieve unrealistic goals. The healthy perfectionist is aware of their tendency and can moderate the emotional drive to be perfect or have everything be perfect by rationally assessing how realistic their expectation is.

When perfection includes imperfection (“There’s a crack in everything“) and the imperfection is embraced, perfectionism is channeled into continuous improvement. For example when there is an effective process for managing quality, errors, and issues, and there is more than lip service to wabi-sabi it is a sign of healthy perfectionism.

 

Emotional reactivity is the second major obstacle to adopting a wabi-sabi attitude. It is related to perfectionism and to unrealistic expectations. In a perfectionist setting the emotions that arise when things are not perfect include anger, frustration, aggression, fear, anxiety, pride, jealousy.

These, like all emotions are to be accepted as part of the perfection. But to let them take over and drive behavior is to be avoided.

 

Ambiguous definition of perfection is the third obstacle. On the simplest level this means to recognize that while perfection is a target, performance needs to be assessed based on realistic criteria. For example, the recognition that a given level of defect is acceptable. A performer who continuously, even after retraining, makes errors nay need to be replaced. One who makes errors occasionally, particularly when trying new things, can be a star.

On another level, recognize that an unexpected outcome is not necessarily a terrible thing. Many discoveries and breakthroughs have been the result of accidents and errors. For example, sticky notes came out of a failed attempt to develop a permanent adhesive. The ugly duckling is not so ugly when the criteria of perfection are changed.

 

Perfecting the Process

The motivation to avoid letting these obstacles drive behavior is the desire for a perfect process with a wabi-sabi attitude.

Overcoming the obstacles to accepting and embracing imperfection requires awareness and effort. If there as an imperfect process that wastes the opportunity to improve by hiding from imperfection, do the work of changing attitudes with revised training, policies, and procedures.

This implies that process awareness and improvement is valued as much as current performance. But that’s a subject for another time.

 

PMTimes_Jan24_2023

The Fallacy of SMART Goals

I recently read a news story about how to keep our New Year’s resolutions. The article was about the use of simple time management techniques, the center of which was setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that’s been around for decades and stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable Relevant, and Time-bound. Sometimes other words are used, such as assignable, realistic, timely, and testable.

It sounds good. It sounds useful. But simplifying time management into an acronym reduces the complexity of managing our projects to a seemingly simple formula, one that can prove frustrating. It reminds me of countless bosses and sponsors I’ve had who said, “Can’t you just tell me when the project will be done? Use SMART goals to help you figure it out!” Don’t get me wrong. I think this acronym is useful as a high-level framework. But if our goals too high-level, we run the risk of never achieving them. It’s just not that easy. Let me give you some examples using a project to build a house.

 

Specific. What does it mean to be specific? How are specific goals different from measurable or achievable or time-bound goals? In our house-building example house specifications are specific, as the name implies. There are specs for the exterior and the interior. Specs for landscaping, the roof, the plumbing, electrical and so forth. How specific do they need to be? Specs without detail might be helpful as an overview, but not for the actual construction of the house. We need to drill to down for the specs to be workable.

 

Measurable. To say that the house will be complete in 18 months, for example, is measurable. It’s a good starting point. As the homeowner I can start planning when to put my current house on the market or end my lease, when to get current utilities canceled and the new ones turned on, when to arrange for movers and so forth. But when is done really done? I’ve been told a house was done before the gas was hooked up. I was told a house was done, but movers wouldn’t unload their truck because the floors had been finished too recently. We need to get the detail to make important decisions. And as PMs we need to determine who will decide which measures to use and whether they make sense from a project perspective.

 

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Achievable. Achievable is another one of the squishy terms in the SMART acronym. It’s one of those words that means different things to different project stakeholders. I suspect I’m not the only PM to be told to “just make it happen.” Or “Where’s your can-do attitude?” I can certainly make almost any project happen, but at what cost? How much risk will the organization/sponsor/end users tolerate? Achieving an end quickly might mean making compromises. Who will make those decisions? What about trust and team dynamics? All these components of achievability need to be considered. And that takes time and lots of discussion.

 

Relevant. I’m not sure I understand what a relevant goal is. There are so many different stakeholders on our projects, some of whom do not find the project or its end product relevant at all. Hopefully it’s relevant to the organization, helping it meet its business objectives. But we all know that’s not always the case. I suspect many of us have worked on someone’s “pet project.” Or have had some stakeholder groups resist implementation. Or have managed projects highly relevant to end users but not to higher levels of management and vice versa. Getting agreement on what is relevant and how the project’s relevancy fits in with all the other projects is no easy task.

 

Time-bound. This usually means attaching a timeframe to the goal. I struggle with the difference between time-bound and all the other goals. I think they are intertwined. As a PM I worked on projects that were relevant only if they could be implemented in enough time to get goods from sourced locations to retail stores and on the shelves in time for the holiday season. Is that time-bound? Or relevant? Or I suspect, a bit of all the components of the acronym.

Which brings me to my original point. SMART goals are useful as a framework. But the key to time management success is going from a high-level overview to subsequently lower and lower levels of detail. We can certainly start with SMART. But we need to drill down to really achieve our goals.

PMTimes_Jan11_2023

Top Business Trends to Watch for in 2023

This past year has been a bit of a respite from the chaos of the last couple of years as many people have settled into working from home, in the office, or some combination. We seem to have arrived at a new normal, at least as it relates to where we’re physically working.

Fortunately, much of what we’re working on and observing from our business training is as dynamic as ever. As members of the Educate 360 family have been doing for the last 30 years, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of what we see happening that suggests trends in various areas of our business world. This year, we are organizing our trends a little differently to better reflect the interplay between the areas we are watching, such as traditional disciplines like project management and business analysis. Further, as our Educate 360 family of specialized training brands continues to grow, we can include more topics to accommodate our broadening range of knowledge and expertise that more comprehensively reflect what’s happening in the business world.

 

With that in mind, our 2023 Trends Watchlist includes trends in:

Project Work and Product Delivery

  • PM Skills and PM Processes
  • Use Cases are Back!
  • Business Relationship Management is a Hot Certification for Everyone
  • Wither “Transformation”?
  • From “Projects” to “Products” Continues
  • Refocusing on Value
  • PMO – “Pretty Much Over”?

 

Data Science

  • Text-to-Anything Models

 

Cloud and Information Security

  • Serverless Architecture
  • The Security Risks of Digital Nomads
  • Shifting the Surface Area of Attacks in a Remote World

 

Power Skills and Leadership

  • Staying Disciplined to Priorities – Adding Less to Do More.
  • The 45-minute Meeting
  • Attracting & Retaining Talent…Continued

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts about our observations and prognostications. Join our webinar on January 5, 2023 to hear our contributors talk about these trends, get your thoughts, and answer questions. (Date has passed.)

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Project Work and Product Delivery

 

PM Skills and PM Processes

In the world of project management, we are noticing more awareness of separating project management skills and project management processes. Organizational leaders know when projects are not producing the results expected; the challenge is understanding whether that is a consequence of the knowledge and competencies of the people working on projects, how projects are managed in the organization, or both. Of course, good processes can contribute to better skills and good skills can help develop good processes, but they are two different things. In our discussions with clients, they are paying more attention to whether they need to work on developing the skills of their practitioners or improve their project management processes. As with any good problem-solving, understanding the cause of the problem makes for a more strategic and ultimately successful investment of resources to fix it.

 

Use Cases are Back!

Use cases became widely adopted in the 1990s as a core model in Rational Unified Process (RUP). They are technology independent so there are no constraints as to how they can be used. Use cases were to be written from a business perspective, in business terminology for the end users to tell a story about their expectations of the system, that is, “If I do this, this is how I expect the solution to respond.” Unfortunately, over time, use cases were co-opted by technical designers who added technical design elements to them, so they ceased to be understood by the business. Eventually, they fell out of favor except by technologists.

However, there has been a resurgence of use cases being used in agile environments and using them as they were meant to be. For example, use case diagrams are again being used to diagram conversations about which “actors” (people or other systems) will interact with the system. They are also being used to provide contextual detail to make sure everyone is on the same page about what the system will or will not do and provide a conversation holder about how the user will interact with the solution. They ensure all questions about possible alternative or exception paths are answered at the outset before these questions bog down work or slow down an agile team’s progress. They also feed nicely into test cases. All of these benefits are again being recognized – in a new type of environment.

 

Business Relationship Management is a hot certification for everyone.

Organizations are built on relationships. Thus, every organization needs a business relationship management (BRM) capability. Many certified project managers and business analysts are recognizing the value of expanding their capability in this power skill and even pursuing certification. It does not take away from other roles or drive the individual in a different direction, but rather empowers them to thrive with a mission to evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value, and satisfy purpose. As a project manager, BRM capabilities can optimize the value of ideation, and value management. They help link projects to organizational strategy and purpose across functions. As a business analyst, BRM capabilities focus on building partnerships and recognizing, measuring, and communicating value through effective relationship management. As an organizational change manager, BRM capabilities help build strong partnerships with people to help them move from the current state to the future state. Even executives can use this certification to support and communicate organizational factors and value to support strategy and satisfy organizational purpose.

 

Wither “Transformation”?

While the word, “transformation” continues to be popular both within the Agile community and within organizations pursuing a more adaptive way of working, an emerging trend within both is a growing realization that the word actually underplays the fundamental change needed to realize the desired result. Becoming agile (note the lowercase reference to adaptability versus the uppercase reference to the Agile movement) is starting to be viewed, not as an event that can be defined, planned, executed, and closed; but instead as an evolution, a fundamental shift toward becoming an organization that values learning, along with continuous small improvements, above all else in delivery of customer value. This development will come as no surprise to the founders of the movement, but it represents a significant shift for those organizations who are just beginning to understand what being “agile” truly means.

 

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From “Projects” to “Products” Continues

While this trend began a few years back, the shift from “project-based” thinking to “product-based” thinking will continue and accelerate in the new year. The implications associated with this trend are profound. Organizations will continue to define their “products” (this is often not as easy as it sounds) and be challenged to alter how these products are staffed, funded, developed, deployed and evaluated. One specific aspect of this shift will be the continued emphasis on outcomes – the impact that a product delivery effort has on its intended users and/ or customers. This emphasis will specifically challenge organizations to truly understand who these users and customers are and identify ways to measure the value that they provide from their perspective instead of focusing on legacy measures of success such as “on-time, on-budget”.

 

Refocusing on Value

With economic tightening underway worldwide there will be increased pressure to define and deliver true value in 2023. “Value” is a word that remains misused and abused in many organizations. Who among us hasn’t been told, “that’s not value-add!” with no definition of the word accompanying that exclamation? With funding plentiful due to governmental subsidies during the pandemic and organizations dealing with the multitude of changes forced on them by COVID, it was easy to relax the definition of what was truly valuable. As the economic cycle trends downward and funding becomes more scarce, organizational discipline around defining and delivering “value” will only increase.

 

PMO – “Pretty Much Over”?

This title is a re-run of a joke that has circulated for a number of years in the Project Management and Information Technology communities. While 2023 will not see Project Management Offices (PMOs) go away, it will see a shift in both their purpose and structure.  Organizations will continue to realize that a centrally controlled office responsible for policing how individual projects are executed is not adaptive enough to accommodate the change that is ever present in today’s workplace. Instead, PMOs will shift to being smaller organizational units dedicated to laying out and fulfilling the minimum structure necessary for reporting results while, at the same time, becoming a resource that individual efforts can call upon for training and instruction in methods that speed the delivery of value (e.g., removing organizational impediments).

 

Data Science

 

Text-to-Anything Models

Recent advances in Machine Learning and GPU Cloud Computing have allowed for the creation of models that can take in text input and generate output in a completely different modality. Consumers may already be familiar with services like DALLE-2, which allows for the generation of images from a text description (text-to-image), but that is only one use case for text input generation. Recent publications have shown work in text-to-video, text-to-3dmodel, and text-to-audio. Text-to-video models allow for the generation of videos (several minutes in length) from just a text description, for example “Video of biking during a sunset” and then viewing an .mp4 output displaying the video. Text-to-3DModel has allowed for the quick creation of 3D digital assets from a simple text description and text-to-audio can generate background MP3 audio files from a simple text description, such as “audio of car alarm in background noise”. We expect to see more use of these technologies in an increasingly wider variety of applications into and beyond 2023.

 

Cloud and Information Security

 

Serverless Architecture

Most organizations that have migrated to the cloud did so by simply building out their applications in the cloud the same way they always did on-premises starting with creating virtual machines. As the cloud deployments have matured, we are seeing a shift to the serverless architecture. Instead of worrying about the size and quantity of virtual machines needed to run a given application stack, serverless allows companies to concentrate on the application itself. No longer needing to worry about the underlying instances their applications are running on (operating system and runtime updates and security patches as well as scale) developers can now focus solely on the application and its code. Services such as AWS Fargate, Azure Functions and Google Cloud Run are all examples of this serverless architecture. The move to serverless is being driven in part by cost savings. But serverless is also increasing agility and time to market of solutions.

 

The Security Risks of Digital Nomads 

The pandemic caught many companies off guard when employees needed to start working from home. It was a challenge for those organizations that must comply with regulatory requirements to make sure their staff was able to access personally identifiable information (PII), protected healthcare information (PHI), and financial information in a secure manner. Many have succeeded in creating a secure environment for those that gain access to sensitive information from home by implementing Administrative, Physical, and Technical controls. As companies continue to allow employees to work from home, a new trend will emerge to compromise the assets that support the critical business processes.

 

Shifting the Surface Area of Attacks in a Remote World

Hackers will no longer focus on directly attacking a company’s network; a new emphasis will be placed on compromising the end user’s personal accounts and applications used on the same computers gaining access to corporate data. Security professionals will need to focus their attention on the increase in social engineering attacks and phishing emails designed to gather information from the computers being used for remote access. The cached information in memory, temporary files and on the local hard drives on a compromised machine will be a treasure trove for hackers.

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Leadership

 

Staying Disciplined to Priorities – Adding Less to Do More

As 2023 brings in another year of unprecedented access to data, leaders continue to be inundated with inputs to inform decision-making and prioritization. This access to information is generally positive for leadership but it elevates the need for more disciplined prioritization. Prioritization allows individuals, teams, and organizations to ensure that they are spending time, money, and other resources on the most important initiatives. Priorities can be defined by helpful frameworks to assess the nearly unlimited options a leader has to steer a team forward.

While it may be tempting to take immediate action with the new information presented and regularly add priorities to pursue new opportunities, the best leaders will remain disciplined to ensure that new information enhances ongoing priorities and that new initiatives are not considered for addition until progress is beyond a certain point. When a leader declares something a priority, it should have a strong and clear rationale for pursuit but also have clear checkpoints of progress along the way. This allows the team to stay focused on the end vision of that priority, while also allowing for pivots and tactical changes as necessary with the infusion of new data and information. Too many priorities with too little progress can have a detrimental impact on team productivity and morale.

Priorities can also serve as a fantastic filter for a team’s time allocation – does what I’m about to work on relate to our organization’s priorities? If not, I’m going to limit my time dedicated to it so I can get back to the things that will drive the progress against our organization’s priorities! The pressure will continue to increase for leaders to help their organizations stay disciplined in their priorities, despite temptations to chase after new opportunities with continuous cycles of new data and information in order to accomplish more against their stated priorities and keep their team members engaged and energized.

 

The 45-Minute Meeting

A tactical leadership trend starting to emerge and likely to increase in popularity in the coming year is the notion of the 45-minute meeting (…or the 25-minute meeting). Three years into the remote / hybrid work environment because of the global pandemic and let’s face it: it is not uncommon to have long stretches of your day in back-to-back virtual meeting environments barely leaving room for a bio-break or scrap of food. We’re all tired!

A simple way to improve productivity and employees’ mental health in the current virtual communication environment is to reduce the duration of meetings. Just because calendar invite preferences default to 30-minute increments, does not mean that they cannot be adjusted. And as meeting durations get customized, people are being more intentional about the time spent virtually collaborating – like sending agendas in advance to help cut down on the awkward silences and gaps to figure out where to take the discussion next or sending relevant materials before the call to provide additional time for digestion and contextualization. The lack of complaints from the recipients of invitations to shorter meetings is also likely to continue. It turns out that the vast majority of people appreciate a few minutes to refill their coffee!

 

Attracting & Retaining Talent…Continued

This will sound repetitive from last year, but the key leadership issue we are still hearing about is attracting and retaining talent. While the underlying drivers are slightly different, this theme is still the same. A year ago, there was a lot of talk about returning to the office and a hot labor market making people more prone to leaving. While these issues are still there, as a return to office has happened in all sorts of grey ways, and some rumblings of the labor market getting just slightly less hot, these have become just two of multiple factors and not so much THE factors driving the attracting and retaining talent challenge.

What has become the driver is broadly making the workplace one that people want to join and at which they want to remain. This is clearly stating the obvious. However, it seems like the obvious has too many factors to consider: pay, benefits, work-life balance, mission, advancement, fulfillment, feeling welcome, and enjoyment, just to name a few. (As you can see, last year’s prominent topics of COVID-related items and hot labor market are subfactors in this list).

Balancing all of these items seems impossible considering that they are of unique and varying degrees of importance and priority to every individual. It is becoming clear that the simplest answer to hitting the mark on those factors might be the only answer and that is to focus one level up: Is this a place at which people want to work? That simpler question is easier than constantly thinking the next level down to the tens if not hundreds of levers and dials that one tries to get right. Are people happy with what they are doing, do they feel welcome, do they feel they are well-compensated at work?

We can’t get every dial perfectly right and by no means are we saying we can get things right for everyone, but in aggregate, using common sense and basic human empathy can really be the only formula – all the dial-turning is more art than science if you use your common sense and empathy as a leader. Unlike last year when leaders tried to get the exact right formula for inspiring people to return to the office, now with no one item being the most important to everyone, leaders just need to look, listen, and act wholistically to make their company a place at which people want to work.

 

 

 


Educate 360 Professional Training Partners upskills individuals with the Management & Leadership, Data Science, and IT skills needed by technology-led and innovation-driven organizations. Educate 360 is comprised of specialized training brands with footprint throughout the U.S. and Europe including Pierian Training, Project Management Academy, Six Sigma Online, United Training, Velopi, and Watermark Learning.

Jason Cassidy, PMP, is CEO of Educate 360.

Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, is Director of Project Management at Watermark Learning.

Ken Crawshaw is Senior Principal Technical Instructor for United Training.

Amy Farber is Chief Strategy & Commercial Officer, driving growth initiatives across Educate 360.

Dr. Susan Heidorn, PMP, CBAP, BRMP, is Director of Business Solutions at Watermark Learning.

Norman Kennedy, MCT, AAI, is a Cloud and Security focused Senior Technical Trainer at United Training.

Jose Marcel Portilla is Head of Data Science at Pierian Training.

Mike Stuedemann, PMP, CST, is a Scrum-Focused, Agile Agnostic Coach and Trainer at AgilityIRL and partners with Educate 360 for Scrum Alliance courses.