I can hear the movie trailer voice-over: “In a world where business change is forged through IT, where innovation and progress are constant, one unsung superhero stands tall, the pillar of all successful endeavours: IT Project Manager.”
When I started to outline a blog imagining a world without IT Project Managers, it soon started to feel like the plot of a disaster movie. An IT Project Manager is orchestrator, coordinator, and navigator of a complex and ever-changing landscape. In this thought experiment you’ll truly understand the value of Project Management. Strap yourself in, it’s a scary ride!
THE WILD WEST!!
I dare you to envisage a world where technology initiatives progress without the steady hand of IT project managers! How quickly do you think it would descend into a wild-west-like state of lawlessness?
How quickly would once clear lines of communication become tangled spaghetti nests of confusion? How soon before ordered states of collaboration descend into lawless chaos?
I’ve seen project teams, left without a key coordinator for just a short period of time, quickly lose their way, struggle to meet (and even convey) expectations, remain aligned with goals, and report progress. Misunderstandings, duplicated work, a decline in productivity and efficiency, confusion and transparency gaps can quickly follow!
THE DANCE OF THE DOOMED
When a project loses its central point of orchestration and direction, it’s like comparing your first sortie onto the dance floor at a wedding with the moves you bust out just before the DJ slips on the ‘smoochies’. Without a good IT project manager, the collaborative smooth dance that IT project development and delivery should be, rapidly descends into a mad jumble of discordant moves.
Like dancing, timing and coordination are key. Without a project manager, the critical coordination of resources, tasks, and timelines – usually executed with such effortless finesse – now fall into disarray. Missed deadlines, misaligned priorities, and a general sense of disorganisation. To be fair, this also sounds like my first dance! So, let’s move on and explore further!
THE EVIL OF SCOPE CREEP
Your IT project manager is the last defence against the evil of scope creep! The gate keeper of scope is the person who ensures that IT projects stay on track and within expectations and intended boundaries. Without the ever-watchful eyes of a project manager, scope creep can become rampant. The initial vision for your project can quickly blur and scope expand, until, before you even realise, your project has become a monster, grown beyond recognition.
In this world without IT project managers, who would raise the red flag when a project begins to veer off course?
THE BLACK HOLE OF TIME
IT Project managers define project milestones, they set and maintain clear goals, and ensure that projects are completed within a defined timeframe. Without IT Project Managers, deadlines and timelines devolve into a nebulous void – a black hole of chronological uncertainty.
IT Project timelines are not arbitrary! They’re carefully designed by craftsmen and women to ensure that all components of a project come together, without us it could become a disordered and crazy free-for-all of shifting priorities and delayed tasks!
Without the guidance of an IT Project Manager, your project could hang indefinitely, stakeholders in a zombie-like limbo, the business without the return on investment and realisation of the intended benefits that come with a completed initiative.
BUDGET SWAMP MONSTER
IT Project managers meticulously allocate resources, monitor and control expenses, and ensure that projects are completed within budget. Take this financial stewardship out of the equation and projects can quickly spiral out of control. Overspending, resource shortages, and financial mismanagement swamp the project, sapping organisational resources and increasing the potential for project failure.
On the other hand, extending our thought experiment, the absence of project managers could lead to greater autonomy for project teams, at first glance, independence to allocate resources as they see fit sounds like a good idea but its taken as long as it took to write that to imagine the ensuing lack of coordination, loss of alignment across project portfolios, and inefficient utilisation of resources and inevitable increased costs that would follow as a result! Drain the swamp!!!
THE QUALITY QUAGMIRE
Imagine the quality of a software app developed without project management prowess! Quality assurance and thorough, effective testing are cornerstones of our trade – IT project managers play a pivotal part ensuring that the final product meets the highest possible quality standards.
Bottom line: On our watch – quality is a non-negotiable and it is our responsibility.
What if all the IT Project Managers disappeared? Who picks up the baton then? Without our diligent oversight, the responsibility for quality control becomes a bit of a blurred challenge. You’ll perhaps have seen, in teams where there is no clear line of responsibility, how quickly teams start to point fingers.
In a world where clear accountability is not defined, imagine a fanfare software release! Then imagine the reputational damage caused as it hit the market with flaws and bugs, having not been thoroughly tested.
THE SILENCE OF THE DARK
Project managers bridge project teams with stakeholders, they ensure that communication flows, that expectations are managed, and that feedback is assimilated effectively.
When communication collapses, stakeholders are left in the dark, unaware of project progress and changes, and oblivious to any challenges until it’s too late.
A world without project managers would be a world of frustrated stakeholders, disappointed end-users, dissatisfied clients, and a general lack of trust and any meaningful transparency.
Worse still, thinking of the hard work that’s gone into breaking down silos in IT project management over the years, I imagine a breakdown of cross-project communication might lead to a return to isolated, haunted silos, increasingly disconnected from the broader organisation.
RISK – ON STEROIDS
Who mitigates risk in your IT Projects? Who else? Risk management is a core function of the IT project manager.
We not only identify potential risks, but we also assess their potential impact, and even develop the strategies to mitigate them – a one stop risk abatement service!!!
In a world without project managers though, risks would be on steroids, running rampant and out of control!
Imagine being back at that software launch in the quality section, launched without testing. Now layer in the prospect of no project managers to consider the potential security vulnerabilities.
I know of a massive hardware project, in progress right now that was hit by ‘unexpected’ disruption to the supply chain. I say ‘unexpected’ because the project lead anticipated what no-one else imagined and had a contingency plan.
Project managers identify, assess, and manage risks, we see round corners, anticipate roadblocks and potential project failures – and we work magic on them!
An absence of project management could trigger the absence of risk management and catastrophic consequences for IT projects.
INVERSION OF INNOVATION – THE DEATH OF STRATEGY
In this thought experiment, we’ve made a lot of Project managers’ ability to, well, manage. We are not just ‘coordinators’ though. Project Managers are likely to be among the most strategic thinkers in your organisation. We align projects with business goals and drive business-case innovation via IT.
Take IT Project Managers out of your mix and the space for strategic planning could implode in on itself. Projects could become disconnected satellites, cut off from the overall mission of the business.
Beyond strategic thinking though, PMs are also great creative thinkers! Project managers are often the first to explore new approaches, like Project Management as a Service, which opens up a universe of resource possibilities. We innovate and ‘think outside of the box’ and beyond our comfort zones.
“Projects by numbers” is how a colleague once described a previous organisation he’d worked at. Every spark of creativity, ingenuity, and the innovative curiosity that drives true technological breakthroughs, was beaten out of the project teams, leading to formulaic delivery and failure to realise best possible benefits! Who wants that?
BACK TO REALITY
“Have some fun with it”, Lula-Tabitha Myra, Stoneseed PMO Coordinator, said when she shared the idea for this blog. It started out as fun – but now I think I might have actual nightmares.
A world without IT Project Managers, effective PMs that is, with capabilities aligned with your specific business need, is a toxic, dystopian prospect.
It’s a world plagued by chaos, where deadlines are missed, scope creep is the norm, and quality is a concept consigned to history.
It’s also a world that does exist now, in some quarters, due to talent and capability gaps, so let me once more remind you of the solutions made available by the Stoneseed Project Management as a Service model.
Thankfully though, for most of us navigating this increasingly complex world of Business/IT driven projects, it is a world very much with project managers. Let’s pause, every now and again, to recognise the value delivered by those in this role. PMs are the architects of success, they navigate projects through uncertain waters, and they are gatekeepers of quality. If you’re a project manager yourself, I salute you! Continue “doing you”, carry on honing your skills and be brave in advocating for your role as the catalyst for innovation and progress – that it is.
On reflection, perhaps the title needs a rebrand. Project Manager perhaps doesn’t do us justice – we do everything you’ve read here and more but, I guess, it wouldn’t fit on the business cards!
And … probably, as a job-title, “Project Linchpin” sounds a little showy!
So … Project Manager it is!