Straight Talk on Project Management


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Agility is now not just a methodology, It’s a survival mode

“I know the situation’s changed (situation changed), and so much is new, but something in my life remains the same, cause … everything changes, but you.” 

The song “Everything Changes” just came on the radio as I was helping unpick an IT Project with a client. The project started before the pandemic, was put on ice during it and is now being revisited post-Covid. Who knew that Take That were IT Project philosophers?!

What’s changed? Everything – but you!

The higher up the project management chain you are, the more the landscape you operate in will have changed – but you still have the same roles and responsibilities! GOOD NEWS! You also have the same skills, experience, and talent and, if anything, you are even more resourceful now. You certainly have access to more flexible and agile resources – more on that to come.

I got tired of the hackneyed cliché “the new normal” at the start of the pandemic, for me it didn’t really describe the evolving situation. How can there be a “new normal” when every day is different? In IT Project Management, probably since the announcement of the first lockdown, the situation has not stayed stable long enough to qualify as “normal” – when today’s normal is yesterday’s worst-case scenario and tomorrow’s out of the blue miracle solution, you just have to flex to survive!

Everything Changes But YOU.

Project leaders who are enjoying the greatest success now have taken a back-to-basics approach to project set up. A few have told me that the landscape that they operate in currently is so different now that to approach their project delivery in the same way as they did pre-Covid would be “reckless” and a “fool’s errand”.

One CIO I spoke with identified the challenge, “What’s changed post covid? Remote working, business needs, increased need for greater flexibility – you name it! Agile isn’t a methodology now it’s a survival mode. You can think you’re on top of it and a key team member gets a ping off the NHS app and in that one instant you’re having to rethink resource and shift your work plan to suit.”

At Stoneseed, we’ve always provided Project Management as a Service resources that can be flexed and adapted to suit your changing requirements. Building in resourcing flexibility was essential for covering things like holidays, but that had an element of certainty about it – a simple calculation of the number of staff multiplied by the days holiday allowed gave you a rough idea of the resource flexibility needed. Post Covid, when a ping from an app can decimate your workforce and resources in a moment, it’s an idea to build in extra flexibility. Isolation rules and actual illness are less easy to forecast but you can be ready for them and mitigate their impact.

Start Where You Are

Projects are not necessarily starting at the beginning!

The project that I was consulting on when Take That ‘earwormed’ their way into my brain is a good example. When IT Projects are restarted after any period of time, many cannot just be picked up where you left off – they have to be rescoped and redefined.

Many projects were put on hold just before or during the early days of Covid and they’re now being revisited and retargeted.

Our working patterns have changed so, for instance, a planned desktop migration might need to evolve into a 50/50 on site/remote proposition. In this instance you couldn’t just pick up where you left off. Other clients, who have reanimated moth balled projects are grappling with new security policy issues, systems challenges, they’re having to consider things like VPN access that weren’t part of the original scope.

In almost all these cases, a Business Analyst needs to come back in to rescope the exercise. A BA can re-evaluate if the chosen software is still appropriate, for example. Utilising the particular skillset of a BA at this stage can ensure that the project still delivers maximum value and is in line with current business needs.

At Stoneseed, we have always understood this. That’s why Stoneseed’s PMaaS has always had baked in flexibility! In a world where agility is a survival mode, you can dial down or switch off your ‘project manager’ resources to bring back a BA to the project.

Dust Off and Check Over Your Contingency Plan

Do you have a Plan B? Is it current and relevant to the post Covid project delivery landscape?

Following recent PMO Assessments, a handful of clients have found that their safety net is no longer fit for purpose – now would be a good time to check yours.

One CIO told me about their really effective ‘resource reallocation protocols’ that had efficiently redistributed in-house talent to where it was needed for years. The protocols had weathered every storm but had totally failed in about ten minutes this summer when a critical mass of staff were told to isolate by the NHS app.

“We were wiped out,” she emailed, “our contingency plan had been tested robustly over the years but suddenly wasn’t adequate. Every team member we could reallocate to cover a pinged colleague had been pinged and needed covering themselves.”

Stoneseed’s PMaaS gives you access to replacements and substitutes for your own people but also extra talents and skillsets when you need them. Being able to call up extra resources has always been a great contingency plan. In fact, many organisations consider PMaaS a ‘Plan A necessity’ rather than a ‘Plan B contingency’, the ability to summon an influx of additional resources is seen as an essential operational advantage.   

Become Adept at Adapting

IT Project teams have always been the greatest catalysts for change – you show me a market disrupting innovation or a successful organisational business change and I’ll show you the IT Project team behind it.

And this is great news because, if there is a new normal, then the need to flex in a heartbeat is it!

One project leader told me, “What we’re now dealing with on a daily basis would have been challenged as scope creep two years ago. It’s now accepted as flexing to stay relevant and congruent.”

That’s quite a statement! It’s like “scope creep” got some PR gurus in! Don’t get me wrong, the words still send a shiver down my spine and unmanaged scope creep is still going to come back and bite you! A managed, thoughtful, well-resourced, adaptable approach to changing needs though can be the difference between a project delivering relevant business need and missing the target.

“When you realise that the only alternative to adjusting a project to suit your organisation’s new reality is to build a time machine and travel back to deliver it six months ago, scope creep becomes less of a dirty word,” the same project leader told me.

Stoneseed’s PMaaS can help you flex. When you need to adapt to deliver, we can provide exactly the right resource – for exactly the time that you need them.t

In conclusion, a really useful debate or question upon which to meditate now would be “What new set up steps or elements need to be added to the classic project start up plan?”

We’ve covered some here. There are several more that spring to mind, just off the top of my head and I could go on …but I really need to get that Take That song out of my head so I’m off to change the radio station!

If you think that Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service resources can help you be more agile in a world where agile is now not just a methodology, it’s a survival mode – then call us in!

  Find out about Stoneseed’s Project Services