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May 2017

Project management profession can make the difference for leadership teams

Ahead of this week’s Association for Project Management conference on balancing your change portfolio, L3 TRL Technology’s Director of Programmes, Tim Hadfield, considers how the project management profession can step up to the plate to help businesses keep pace with a rapidly evolving world.

The latest PricewaterhouseCoopers CEO Survey1 provides a good opportunity for us all in the project management community to reflect on how to best shape project management strategy and keep it aligned to business direction. My key takeaway from the survey is that great leadership, supported by strong benefits and risk management, are the critical facets to advance in this dynamic world to ensure future success is delivered and that includes both business leaders and the project management community.

I’m excited that there is such importance placed on leadership in this diverse and technologically changing world. For me, this emphasis on leadership is needed in a strengthened, emotionally intelligent manner that engenders the essential trust that is required and clearly articulated in the survey. This leadership is not isolated to one business discipline and must be a key feature in the project management arena.

There are other surveys that back this critical link up too. The first State of Project Management Annual Survey2, was great to see and I agree with Steve Wake’s (Deputy Chair, APM) view that ‘this is just what the profession needs’, has a number of themes that tie to the CEO’s future view that I’ll return to later. But, I want to start with the Project Management Institute (PMI)’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession Survey3.

The survey’s conclusion highlights the future focus on ’more visionary conversations around the value of project management’. For me, this is vital for two reasons, first, to move the profession forward from the APM gaining its Royal Charter. This new commendation is excellent but we must now earn the right to retain it by showing what can be done and the APM’s ‘Future of Project Management’ launch is a great start. The second reason ties to delivering business strategy.

I’ll refrain from talking about benefits for a moment; but suffice to say the vision of project management must clearly link to delivering business needs to enable successful strategy execution. Hence it must run through all project, programme and portfolio Management (P3M) and ensure consideration of the business future.

So back to what our business CEOs are saying and what gems I’m taking out to inform the future:

  • Leadership – aligned to trust and appreciating the changing and ever more technologically connected world
  • Skills – a greater emphasis on creativity and innovation with our talent, in all disciplines including leadership with emotional intelligence
  • Threats – ensuring that we change the risk approach to reflect the changing environment, especially those aspects that have a direct impact on the trust, for example cyber security.

So let’s now get into how the heart of the project management environment can bring this together, firstly ‘The State of Project Management Annual Survey 2016’ findings and my key takeaways:

  • Benefits – For me, this is the number one takeaway and theme through the survey, starting with Steve Wake’s initial comments on ‘benefits driven portfolios: joined up project management and portfolio management producing real qualitative and quantitative value for users, be they customers or citizens’. This truly resonates and is core to future project management improvement that will be a great driver for promoting the leadership and trust that businesses need, especially the realisation approach.
  • Risk management – As a profession, generally we are not where we should be. I would suggest that we face an ever changing risk (threat and opportunity) environment that is presenting new challenges every day. The pace of improvement and tie-in to the strategic business picture need to be addressed to ensure coverage of the threat perspective that our business leaders are presenting.

From the PMI’s 2017 pulse of the profession survey, there are some common themes and additional aspects that I find as key takeaways:

  • Benefits – Again the number one, with Mark Langley’s foreword stating ‘completing projects and programs successfully – on time, on budget, meeting goals – is essential. But just as important is a focus on expected benefits. A broader view of performance includes an organisation’s benefits realisation maturity level.’ This must tie together through the P3M environment with alignment to the business strategy.
  • Talent – The recognition that the approach to talent management as a critical capability is gaining focus is great to see, especially with leadership linked to strategy, as people are at the heart of all endeavours. This is an essential item to support the leadership and skills aspects identified by the CEO’s survey for the here and now plus for the creation of future business leaders. This supports a more visionary approach to project management and will bring this discipline closer to being at the top business table.

When looking at TRL’s own project, programme, portfolio management maturity model (P3M3) assessments over the last two years (completed by all the project management community and a number of key stakeholders around the business), we’ve improved in both overall maturity and organisational governance.

This is good to see and recognises the talent management and skills aspects. Benefits management and risk management maintained their previous level, although the supporting lessons learnt business analysis highlighted these as areas where we can make more of a difference in P3M.

So, what does this all mean for my business and what we are going to be targeting for future improvement to make a difference towards business success?

  • Customer focus – continues to be a key consideration with us talking to customers, in the widest sense of the word, at the very early stages of P3M activity undertakings. From bidding for work, strategic business case development and contracting, we can lead the discussion to agree the benefits and risk position, which importantly includes the ongoing approach for best performance and success for all parties.
  • Governance – Increasing the focus on leading P3M aligned to business strategy through gates and reviews with specific increased consideration of the risks and benefits environment. This can only add to the agile approach we employ and will ensure we more spend time on the right aspects with increased adaptability to how the business world is changing.
  • Talent development – We plan to specifically focus on two key areas:
    • Leadership development - Activity focussed more around behaviours and emotional intelligence in P3M with linkage to the business approach to raise the game, especially with the customer community.
    • Risk management - Workshops across the wider business to inform and develop risk management from initial strategy through consideration of the changing environment to business perspective aggregation. This not only develops talent but improves governance.

With these undertakings I expect to build a better P3M environment and deliver increased business success with a community trust that is essential as we move to the future.

I hope that this provides people with some useful views for consideration and it would be great to hear about how others are approaching future project management requirements, so please do get in touch.

Here’s to leading a better benefits future!

About the author

Tim Hadfield is Director of Programmes at L3 TRL Technology. His qualifications in electronic engineering and management initially led to an engineering career in the defence industry. Tim quickly moved into the projects arena as he progressed through projects, programmes and portfolio roles within defence, telecommunications and information assurance sectors. More recently Tim has been leading businesses through products and programmes within the cyber security sector and is currently directing the cyber security portfolio for L3 TRL Technology.

About L3 TRL Technology

With 30 years of experience at the forefront of technological development, L3 TRL Technology is an official supplier to Her Majesty’s Government, and our cutting-edge, best-of-British technology is certified and approved by NCSC.

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  1. 20th CEO Survey by PwC
  2. The State of Project Management by Wellingtone Project Management & APM PMO SIG
  3. Pulse of the Profession – 9th Global Project Management Survey by the PMI