IT Project Management: The value of experts. A moving story
What is it they say? The two most stressful things in life are moving house and commuting! People who live in mobile homes must be perpetually stressed!
We just moved house and the process wasn't without its fair share of drama. You'll have been there yourself: the viewers who have just come for a nosey; the offer that pulls out just before exchange; the weak link in the chain breaking; the anxiety over whether you're making the right move (a friend bought a house off a farmer a few years back and it was only after she moved in, that the farmer moved his herd of cattle into the quiet field next door!).
The whole process reminded me of the value of subject matter experts. Whether you’re moving home or delivering a market-disrupting piece of software, it pays to have the best resources at your disposal.
As I alluded to, we were all set to go at an earlier stage. The offer on our dream home had been accepted and we were really excited! The sale of our house was progressing nicely, in fact, the whole chain seemed robust. Then ... our buyer pulled out. We were crestfallen and more than just a little anxious: would we be able to find another buyer in this current climate; would we do it in time to keep the hopes of moving to our dream home alive; did we have the stomach for more nosey neighbours having a free tour of our house?
The estate agent didn't seem crestfallen, they didn't seem overly anxious. To us, a buyer pulling out of a house sale is a once or twice in a lifetime event, a huge drama, to them, it was a bread and butter, a regular occurrence. They assured us that they WOULD find another buyer and they were infectiously calm as they set about doing what their years of experience had prepared them to do. The fact that I am writing this from the kitchen table in our new dream home is testament to how true to their word they were.
The solicitor’s work seemed to be done in the blink of an eye (now there’s a profession that doesn’t mess about!). No fluff, no fat!
Then there is the removal firm. I think, chatting to friends, we paid a little over the average for the removal service - but what a service! My wife and I have been together for many years and raised a family. You accumulate a lot of stuff and much of that stuff is highly breakable and highly valuable, not just financially, but sentimentally too.
When the estate agent called to say they had found a new buyer and that the whole process was not only back on but able to proceed at pace, we had to make removals arrangements quickly. I'd been super cautious about booking a firm and fixing a date in case things fell through and, although this had been proved to be a good decision, I was now left with a dilemma. Is a removal firm that can move you at such short notice any good, I wondered, I mean, if they have vans and men sitting idle - is that a warning flag?
I needn't have worried. The firm we hired had short notice capacity, and not because they weren't any good but because they were GREAT. They turned up with their "A-game", the vans were spotlessly clean, the staff were polite and well turned out and nothing was too much trouble. They dismantled furniture at one end and reassembled it perfectly at the other, placing it exactly where we wanted it to go. The breakables were packaged and transported with such care that it was as if they were the removal guys' own. Bulky furniture seemed to almost magically load itself, in fact, in the time that it took me to make the lads a brew, they had emptied our living room and secured its contents safely in their van.
As they left, they wished us good luck in our new home and you really felt that they meant it!
The point is, that any of these services could have been done by ourselves. I deal with contracts on a daily basis, I have years of sales experience so 'finding buyers' is second nature and I have two strapping young lads who could have helped me to load a hired van. I could have done it all, probably, maybe, but I could not have done it all quite so well or quite as quick.
IT Project Management also benefits from the expert touch and you can get this with resources and talent from the Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) market.
The list of what you want from an estate agent, solicitor or removals firm is pretty much the same as a list of what you'd expect from buying in services to bolster your IT Project Management capability.
1) Skills and experience
Using PMaaS, you can access talent with the specialist knowledge that you need for a particular project. I know how to lift a settee onto a van, but the removal guys did in such a way that our whole living room seemed to take up no space at all in their van! And all while I put the kettle on. Many IT projects fail entirely or at least fail to realise full potential due to a lack of experience or skills within the team. It makes sense that a Project Manager, who is idly waiting for a project to manage, should be given the next one that comes along, they are earning a salary, after all. But when your PM, for instance, lacks key skills needed for a particular project, it starts to make less sense and can soon turn into an unmitigated disaster!
2) A sense of urgency and tenacity
Removals firms and hired in Project Managers and resources have something in common. They can’t afford a day when they are less productive, an off day is NOT an option. As I once wrote on CIO.com. "They want to get in, get the gold and get out...and move onto the next project”. That makes commercial sense for you and for them – but they don’t cut corners, because their next job depends on the reference that you give them.
3) Efficiency (cost-effectiveness & productivity)
I suspect that if we HAD decided to move ourselves, we'd either still be doing it or by now I'd be gluing bits of furniture back together. I certainly would have spent the first-night rebuilding beds. Instead, on the first night, we found the local fish and chip shop and sat at our dining room table eating them like we'd lived there forever. Similarly, with expertise bought in via PMaaS, not only do you just pay for what you use, you get to tap into expertise and experience when you need it. And when you no longer need it – it isn't sitting on the bench burning a hole in your payroll. Larger scale or more complex projects require more experienced Project Managers, and they come cheap. Having such pricey talent on your books but idle (between projects) can significantly impact on the overall cost-effectiveness of your PMO. You wouldn’t have a 7.5-tonne lorry sat on your drive in case you decided to move house!
I have not yet come across a Project Management challenge that would not lend itself to accessing Project Management talent, in the same way, that you are buy in other IT resources, from Platform to Infrastructure to Software, or, for that matter, estate agents, solicitors or removals guys ... as a Service.
The real value of experts is measured in the end result, whether that is an IT Project delivered on time and within budget, like I am now, or sitting in your new home with a glass of red wine wearing your slippers. Cheers.