Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why PMs should be involved in writing the SOW.

I know a certain Project Manager (PM) who we’ll refer to as “Bob.”

Bob has been with a number of service organizations that use the Professional Service Organization (PSO) model, where resources are used as a service to clients to implement software or as staff augmentation. In all of them, he is or was part of a Project Management Office (PMO) within the PSO. In some cases, management brought the PM into the project during the initiation phase, whereas in others they did not. Bob saw the issues that surfaced when the PM was not involved in the Statement of Work (SOW) portion of the initiation phase. Bob acknowledges that even though a PM may be busy with project work, the PM must make time for SOW meetings and be an active participant in estimating the SOW.
What are the benefits of having a PM involved in the development of the SOW, or even better, in writing the SOW?

The PM brings knowledge of the process for the project

When Bob is called to participate in the SOW process of a project, he brings with him the knowledge of working a project within that organization. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s PMO process and he can communicate the process in terms that the others in the SOW portion understand. Bob’s knowledge helps others in that group understand if the deployment date that the client is requesting is actually feasible. Bob intrinsically knows that a project to implement a service for a client will take 3 or 6 months. So, if a client is requesting a deployment date in early December and the SOW is being negotiated in October, and the service takes 6 months to deploy, even if the project if fully staffed during the duration of the project with the same resources, the SOW is effectively dead on arrival.

The PM brings knowledge of the repeat client

Bob also brings with him the knowledge he has from working with the client on previous projects. This is invaluable to the other members of the group writing the SOW, mainly because Bob will know how long the SOW will take to be approved based on reasons ranging from the client’s legal review process to the client’s procurement process. Bob will also bring the knowledge of the client’s resources and the needs that client will have during the project. He will also know whether the client has available resources to start the project immediately or if the client will need some time to attain their own resources to begin the project. Bob knows, for example, that if a service to be implemented needs new hardware, how long that client will take to deploy the hardware and what that will do to the time to deploy that service.
Bob also knows the resources and management at the client and how they operate and react to tasks assigned to them. So Bob brings reality to the SOW process and arms his SOW team with the knowledge they need to negotiate the SOW with the client.

The PM brings knowledge of resource allocation for that project

As important as knowing the process and the client, Bob also understands the resource allocation constraints of the organization. He knows that a certain large current project is consuming large number the organization’s limited resources.  So even if the client is requesting a deployment date that may be reasonable to the SOW team, it may not be attainable due to resources being utilized on another project. So the resources needed to conduct the project being negotiated may have to state that it will take X number of weeks to begin the project. This is something clients hate to see, but if communicated properly by the SOW team, the client can be brought around to understand.
Also, if the client needs to purchase new hardware or requisite software for the service being implemented in the SOW, the SOW team can use this as an explanation and bargaining chip to the client.

Bob understands that being a PM doesn’t just mean being part of a PMO. It often means that he will be tasked to be part of a SOW team or even asked to begin the SOW because he has worked with that client before. If the organization has the business sense to tap Bob’s knowledge, then the organization will more likely be successful.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

In a PSO, should PMs be vocal regarding the projects they receive?

As project managers (PMs), we strive to be the best PMs we can be. In that vein, we also have projects or clients that we would like to avoid for various reasons. The project does not have the correct resources.The project was originally scoped incorrectly and it will take a massive change order to fix it.The client on the project is known to have out-of-scope demands that senior management acquiesce to just to keep the client quiet. We all know these reasons, and we are all familiar with the outcomes of the projects with these issues. However, the question remains:Should the PM be vocal about the projects he/she receives?
A valid question; let’s discuss the answers.

Yes, but don’t make it about the client

We all have had that certain client where no matter how well we provide service to that client, they will always find the negative in the project.  And no matter what the PM does to make that project delivery as smooth as possible, that client will never be happy. So, when senior management provides you with the next “opportunity” to work with that client, do not ask senior management to pass because of that client. Rather than make up excuses and examples that show that you are too busy to take on this project, I would do the following:

  • First, ask the question: Can we review the scope of the project together with the SOW to ensure that I completely understand what is in and out of scope?
  • Once that is accomplished, inform management that you are scheduling an introductory call for the project with the client to discuss that exact scope that you have documented with senior management.
  • Request that senior management be on that call.
  • Identify the gaps (and there will be gaps) from what the client understands the scope to be vs. the SOW and the list you and senior management understand it to be. 
  • Request that senior management either resolves the gaps or that you go forward with the scope you and senior management have agreed on.
This is not a CYA exercise. This is an exercise to understand scope. In this manner, you will be seen by senior management to have the best intentions (by the way, you should be doing this with all projects) and to be thorough.

Yes, and remember about having strategically-focused projects

In previous blogs, I have mentioned that a PM should be on strategically-focused projects. Now, we all know that this is not always feasible. There will be times you will be asked to work on non-strategically focused projects. With these types of projects, working with senior management to identify scopeis mandatory because scope creep becomes harder to avoid. I strongly recommend that, if you are given a project that is not strategically focused,you as the PM have the opportunity (there’s that word again) to provide excellent service within scope that is identified and agreed upon.

                                  No, don’t make it about senior management

As a PM, you will never win the battle if you pose the problem as you vs. senior management. As a PM, you must be a partner with senior management and you must be seen as a reliable resource. If you try to make senior management out as the villain, you will lose. If you do both of the options I suggest above you will be seen as the go-to PM and the PM that gets the job done. If you pose to senior management that you do not want to work with a certain client, or that senior management does not understand the scope the client wants, or if you state that senior management does not provide you with the correct resources or guidance without providing them the opportunity to review the scope of the SOW with you, you will lose. There is no other way to suggest this to senior management.
I am not going to sugar-coat this. These options are not easy, but they are necessary. As a matter of fact, here is the challenge for you: If you think that there are other options, let me know what you think they are and we can have a discussion. If you can convince me, I will write a blog about our discussion.  

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How does a PM get resources for the project?

I know a certain Project Manager (PM) who we’ll refer to as “Bob.”

Bob meets with his manager and is told that he has a big new project that has to be staffed. When it comes to staffing a project, there may be three scenarios: 
1.) resources are given
2.) resources have to be requested
3.) resources that will fit into his project team
In each scenario, Bob has to review the project and find the right fit for the positions on the project. And, let’s not forget the “fit” on the project. Is the resource the right fit for this project, or in other words, will the resource work with the other resources?
Let’s take a look at how each scenario plays out.

The resources are given to Bob

Bob is given two resources for this project: a business analyst (BA) and a software engineer (SE). Bob suggests that he needs time to review the statement of work (SOW) for analysis. Bob’s manager gives him an hour because an introductory call with the client project sponsor along with the client user will take place in about 90 minutes. 
Immediately, Bob clears his calendar for the next 60 minutes. He studies the SOW closely and the specific tasks for this project. Bob has worked with the two resources before and Bob likes the choices. But Bob also sees a need for developer for a specific delivery, and neither has the skills for this specific delivery. So Bob’s first task before the call is to request another resource from his manager, stating the facts supporting the need for this resource. Seeing that need, the manager agrees, but states that this resource is not needed right away and can be assigned in a couple of weeks. Bob agrees and states that he will follow up with the manager in two weeks, because he has a specific resource in mind for this task.
The introductory call goes well and the project kickoff is set.

Bob has to request resources

Bob is told by his manager that he is responsible for reviewing the SOW and requesting the specific resources he wants on his project team. In addition, a client introductory call will be conducted tomorrow and all, if not most, of the resource requests must be made by then.
Bob cancels meetings that are not critical and begins studying the SOW. He knows he needs a BA and a SE, but he also sees a need for the delivery of a specific task in the middle of the project. Bob meets with the BA and SE team leads and requests specific resources for the BA and SE roles. Along with the SE role, Bob requests a specific developer that reports directly to the SE for the specific task scheduled for mid-project delivery. This is tricky because the SE lead has a need for that same resource during that timeframe for another project that has already started. Bob now has to negotiate with the other PM to see if the task that developer is needed on for the other project is a critical path item. Bob finds that it is not a critical path delivery and can be delayed for 3 weeks. Bob needs this developer for only 2 weeks and they strike a deal. Bob and the other PM must keep each other informed about the progress of the project and Bob must make this a risk on the risk and issue list.
Bob speaks to his manager before the introductory client call and shares his progress. They have the call and Bob mentions that there should be a kickoff scheduled as well as an identified risk before the project begins. Bob will take all steps to mitigate this risk and the introductory call goes well.

Resources that will fit into his project team

Bob is given three resources for the project and must have a team meeting immediately as an introductory call is scheduled for tomorrow. Bob reviews the SOW and the resources for the project (a BA, an SE, and a developer) and sees that all the resources have the necessary abilities to complete their tasks. Bob also notes that two of the resources don’t get along very well. Before he schedules a team meeting, Bob schedules time to meet individually with the resources that have an issue with each other. He states the same thing to both of them: he understands that they had issues in the past, but they are professionals and they have to put those issues aside for this project. Bob also mentions that he will have individual meetings with each of the three resources along with the project team meeting prior to the client status meetings. Bob knows that this is additional time and must make an adjustment to the time allotted to the project for this. Bob mentions this to his manager, who does not take this very well. Bob explains that this is necessary to avoid trouble on this project. Bob agrees to update the manager on the status of the project, as well as the status of the resources.


So as you can see, each situation has a specific need that Bob must address. PMs must be able to address each scenario for their sanity and ensure that these risks are documented and addressed.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How does a PM get project team members to do the tasks assigned to them?

Or should I have titled this, “GET TO WORK!”  This is an age-old question, isn’t it? And you would think that if the Project Manager (PM) did their job and was very specific as to what is expected from any resource, this would not be an issue. Unfortunately, it is, especially in a Professional Services (PS) organization where resources are stretched very thin. But even in a Project Management Organization (PMO), this is true because the same can be said of resources: they are stretched thin. In this current environment of “doing more with less,” the truth is that organizations are getting less with less.
So how does a PM confront this? Once again, I would like to introduce you to a PM named “Bob” and a situation he confronted. 

Organizing the team

Bob was given a highly visible project that was strategically aligned with his organization. After reviewing the SOW and meeting with the project sponsor and his management team, Bob understood the importance and significance of the project. He went to the resource manager with the abilities needed of his resources and was given a Business Analyst (BA), a Technical Analyst (TA) and even a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who was to provide technical and product guidance to the project team. Bob had several project team meetings, and in these meetings Bob communicated that this project was strategically aligned with the organization and was a key deliverable to the organization.

Troubled Waters

After the initiation and planning phases of the project, Bob and his project team were well into the execution phase of the project. Bob believed, because his resources had told him, that they were proceeding along just fine on their tasks. Bob set meetings with each of the resources individually to review their work and ask if they needed him to help them meet their assigned tasks.  The BA had a deliverable for a Functional Design Document (FSD) where the BA had to consult with the TA and the SME for their input to that document. The BA told Bob that he was placed on a new project with a critical delivery that took him away from Bob’s project. Bob inquired as to why the BA had not told Bob earlier that this may be a risk before it became an issue. The BA told Bob that he believed he could deliver both tasks on time, but was overwhelmed with the work on the other project. Bob did not accept this explanation. The BA assured Bob in very strong terms that he was going to deliver the FSD in three days.

I didn’t lie, I just stretched the truth

So Bob immediately did two things. First he scheduled the meeting with the BA in two days. Then he scheduled a meeting with the client and the project sponsor that day and told them of the late delivery of the FSD. They were not happy, as that made them late on their deliverables to their management. Bob then walked into his manager’s office and closed the door. Bob reported what had happened and told his manager that in two days if there was a further delay.
After two days, the BA told Bob that he was going to be late again in delivering the FSD. Bob told the BA that he was not pleased and stated that he was going to have a meeting with his manager and ask that the BA and his manager attend. At the meeting, Bob asked the BA directly, “Why did you lie about the delivery of the FSD?” The BA was visibly shaken at the question and stated, “I did not lie, I just stretched the truth.” Bob, his manager, and the BA's manager did not accept this answer. The BA was immediately replaced on the project and the BA manager had a new BA assigned that was familiar with the deliverable.
Lesson Learned

Should Bob have known about the BA sooner? Honestly, this has happened to all of us, whether or not we are a PM. The issue is not if Bob should have known sooner; we all should know sooner about a specific project resource. The issue here is Bob's reaction and if it was appropriate. I contend that his actions were good and Bob did exactly what he should have done in this situation. I am sure there are high-level managers who would disagree with me that Bob’s first job was to know sooner. I am not disagreeing with them. I am, however, going to say to them that if you ask for more from less, you sometimes have to expect this situation. In this situation, Bob did what he could and learned, the hard way, not to completely trust this specific BA in future projects. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

How does a PM in a PSO/PMO get the right people for the project?

“Mr. Program Manager of the Project Management Office/Professional Service Organization (PMO/PSO), I think for the new project that you have made me Project Manager (PM), Jane would be the best Business Analyst and Jack would be the best Technical Analyst (TA). NO? Why not”?

If this conversation sounds familiar, you are not alone. We PMs love to get the best resources for our projects because we want every edge we can muster to be successful. This especially includes getting (or begging for) the resources you are most comfortable with. I know I ask for the same resources for similar projects I am receiving as a PM. I know what they deliver and their “modus operandi” or MO. So, if I am comfortable with these resources, or even if I may have some issues with them, but know they would be successful on the new project I just received, I ask for them.  So how does a PM, with good intentions, make a request for a resource to his management team?

The Ask
So the first piece of advice I would suggest to any PM is to be on the resource managers’ best side. Some would suggest that this is a** kissing. Well, I am not sure what YOU would call it, but I call it sales. Yes, we are ALL in sales, whether you like it or not. The sooner you come to accept that truth, the better for you.  You have to know that manager and what that manager likes and especially what that manager dislikes. Also, you have to be able to prove that your request is not only in the best interest of your new project, but in the best interest of the Project Management Office/Professional Service Organization (PMO/PSO). To do that, you need to understand the new project by reading the Statement of Work (SOW) and using the deliverables in the SOW to your advantage in attaining the resources you desire. Now, here is my caution: Do NOT do this for every single project. Remember Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf? This is why I suggest that you read the SOW before you request resources.

The Give
What do I mean by the give? Well, that resource manager you are requesting resources from may require you to give a resource from another of your projects, even if for a short time. When this request is in front of you, do not reject it out of hand. I suggest (in the strongest terms) that you go back and review the schedule for the other project. See where that resource may not be needed and begin the negotiations like so: Resource manager, I can release Joe the TA on my other project for three weeks between this day and that day. I do need Joe back, or the other project may go yellow or red if Joe is delayed for longer than that.
You see what I am suggesting here? You don’t want to come across as a taker ALL of the time. If that is the perception the resource manager has of you, then you will soon become unsuccessful in attaining the resources you request.


As part of a PMO/PSO, you will be having resources taken from you and you will request specific resources for your projects. You need to be seen as a PM who is reasonable and can be negotiated with. If that happens, you can be successful in attaining the most important resources for your most important projects. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The PM job-search Effort

As some of you may know from my LinkedIn status, I joined NICE-Actimize in June 2014 after a search. Also, even though I am employed, I am an active member of several job network groups in New Jersey. I have been privy to many job-search stories from Project Managers (PMs) and individuals outside the field. I must tell you that the job search is no different from any vocation. We may think that our own vocation has its own idiosyncrasies, but in truth, all job-searches have the same common elements.
However, as PMs, we should know that putting together a job search is very similar to setting up a project. As a matter of fact, it’s exactly the same. So let’s go through the phases in a project-oriented fashion.

This beginning phase can occur in one of two fashions. Like in my case, you may believe your current organization is not in your long-term plans and it is time to move on from your current position. Or, in a worst case scenario, you are let go by your current organization. If this is the latter, most likely you did not see this coming. Whether or not you should have is another post, but let’s say the signs were not there for you to read, and one day you get the word that you are no longer part of the organization. Either way, the planning must begin. Sure, you want to start hitting the job boards and calling your close contacts. These may not be the best things to do first.
When planning in a job search, you have to begin with the end in mind, to steal a line from a famous author. Is what you have been doing or what you are currently doing what you want to continue doing? One of the first steps is to begin a campaign to research the organizations that you would like to be associated with. Hopefully, they are not too far from your home and are a short commute.
Also, begin by writing your marketing plan. This is the written document you can share with your contacts that highlights what it is you are great at and includes a brief description of what role you are seeking to fill. Next, you should list the companies that you have researched.

As you are writing your marketing plan, you should begin writing your job search plan. This should include, but is not limited to, a list of individuals and companies you want to contact, what days you want to be out “pounding the pavement” and meeting individuals, and if you were let go, the beginnings of a budget because you likely now have limited funds.
In this plan, I would suggest putting together a board, a group of individuals who can offer you advice and counsel during your search. I would suggest that most of these individuals be in your line of work, but there should be at least one individual who is not but who is successful in their own line of work. Plan to meet with your board via conference call (there is a free website for conference calls, on a monthly or every other month basis. I would suggest that they make it a point to hold you to your plan as you should report your progress to them. You also want to continue working and finalize your marketing.
I strongly suggest that you join a network group. I belong to several and like to keep active in them. Yes, I am employed and like “giving back.” That is not the only reason I belong. I know that, if by some chance I am asked to leave an organization, my contacts and my network groups know me and can help me as soon as the separation happens. I urge you to join a group and stay active even after you land a job.

Execution and Control
Once you have your plan in place, it is time to execute it. While you are executing the plan, you must document your progress (the control phase). This is what you will be using to report to your board, or to just see your progress.
Yes, you should keep your significant other in the loop regarding what you are looking for and what is happening. As a matter of fact, you should employ your whole family in this endeavor. It is in their best interest to help you. This is all part of the execution and control of your plan. You may also discover, as in a project, that you must re-plan or re-scope a portion of your plan. Hopefully not your whole plan, but never stop reviewing your plan for updates and for modifications.

This is the phase where you land a position. When this happens, you must still keep in touch with the contacts that you have made and the groups you belong to. You should also make an effort to help those you can; as you sought help, others will look to you for help. The closing phase is really the “never forget” phase. Yes, you will be busy making a decision on which organization you want to join and other critical factors. But never forget that you once were looking for help and others helped you. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Are Service-oriented Firms More Suited for PMs?

You may be thinking that if you are in the Information Technology (IT) space, that EVERYONE is in the services industry. That may not be very accurate and the reason why is that if you are a project manager (PM) in a large corporation’s IT group, you may not necessarily be in a “services” group. We can argue that point of view during another blog. However, what I would like to ask you is this: Do you believe a service organization is a better place for a PM? What I mean is this: is a service organization more like a consulting organization rather than a professional services organization, and is it a better organization for a PM to use his/her skill set? In a service oriented organization that has a strong Professional Service Organization (PSO) the focus for the PM is a bit different than a Project Management Organization (PMO).
It seems that service organizations need good quality PMs because of the increased emphasis on project budget. A downside may be the number of projects a good PM may have to manage at one time. And let’s not forget resource scarcity. So let’s take this one at a time.

Budget Emphasis
In a service organization, the focus on budget is intense, and not just for expenses. The reason a service organization is in place is to provide specialized service for the client at a profit for the service organization. So, like other projects, this project must be on budget or under budget. If there is a possible budget over-run, the PM must communicate that risk to the client and convince and commit the client to a change request that adds to the budget and possibly the scope and timeline, while keeping the project green.

This is not easy since this project is to generate not only revenues, but most importantly, profits. The PM in a service organization MUST know the difference between those two terms and must be in line with the profit-generating mind-set. If not, that PM is looking at possible failure within the project and most likely within the organization.

Project Resource Emphasis
Service organizations are historically “lean and mean” to promote profits. That makes it additionally hard for a PM to attain and keep project resources. I can’t tell you how many times a resource manager has come to my desk in the middle of my project and said, “Oh by the way Benny, we have to take Jane away from you for XYZ project.” If you hear a scream, that is me. We can all say, “Then why doesn’t that organization staff to the project?” Good question. Mainly because, the organization may go through economic phases where they may have a good pipeline and times where they have a very shallow pipeline. Some service organizations may staff with third-party consultants. However, what service organizations don’t want to so is “home grow” their competition. So having third-parties may be both a blessing and a curse.

So how does a PM keep an important resource? Make that resource important to the client they are servicing and most likely that client will compliment the resource to the senior management team of the service organization. In that case, the management team wants “return business” from this client and the last thing they want to do is make the client unhappy.

Number of Projects that a PM Manages
Service organizations historically are known to keep their staff size small. So a PM in a service organization may have to work on more than the desired number of projects (5-8 projects depending on the size). However, in a service organization, that number may jump to 10 projects. If that happens, it is up to the PM to discuss this with management and provide input to the term “diminishing returns.” However, the PM must be prepared when having this discussion. The PM must come with proof that he or she has performed admirably in the past and now the PM's work is compromised because of the quantity of projects, NOT because of the quality. Perception is reality here and the PM must focus on the past quality of work to management so that the quality of the PM's work is never in question.

I have used this term in the past and it serves to repeat it: the PM walks a tight-rope in this situation because of perception. Once the PM proves that he/she can do the work with the right staff and number of projects, the PM has the ammunition to discuss issues with management. However, if a PM is considering working in a service organization, that PM must know  going in that a service organization is a challenging place to work because of budgets, resources, and the number of projects. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How close are you to the Business Side of Your Organization?

I know a certain project manager (PM) who I will refer to as "Bob."
Bob seems to have a knack that other PMs do not have. Bob listens to the business side of his organization and he acts as if he owns his projects as if they were his own business.  Basically, Bob introduces himself as a partner of the business to not only the project sponsor, but the whole project team.

So how does Bob do this?

Bob listens to what clients are saying in meetings

Bob keeps his ears and eyes open during project meetings, but not just these meetings. Bob makes it a point to read the client and have a good line of sight of what makes the client happy or uncomfortable when it comes to the actual project. However, in these meetings, the client may begin discussing future needs and possible projects. That’s when Bob LISTENS to the whole message and discussion. The next move that Bob makes is critical. Instead of stating anything publicly in the project meeting, Bob meets with the client lead or the client sponsor who made the statement(s) and asks for additional information and clarification.

Once confirmed, Bob then contacts his direct manager and the client manager, who both need to be aware of this opportunity. Once those individuals are notified, Bob makes every effort to have the client agree to a meeting with those interested parties as quickly as possible. Bob stays in the middle of this effort and is seen as the catalyst both by his organization and, more importantly, the client.

Bob listens to the project team

Bob also listens to his project team for information regarding a client's business climate. Bob is close to the Business Analyst and/or the Technical Lead, who hear the “gossip” from the client's employees. These individuals may have information that could predict possible future scope creep on a current project that would necessitate a change request or information that could lead to a new project. Bob delivers this information to his direct manager and the client manager, as I mentioned above. Once this is done, Bob approaches the client sponsor with this information to see if he can schedule a meeting with the interested parties as soon as possible.

Bob reacts quickly to the news

Time is of the essence when new information is received. This information may grow “cold” quickly and the opportunity to bring in additional business may be lost. Bob understand that the current project is why Bob is there in the first place and that project is going to be referenced by the client organization. If the project is going well and is in the green, then Bob’s management team will have an advantage to gain additional work from the client organization.


So what Bob brings to the table is his ability to listen and watch what the client and the project team say and their body language. Bob also uses his project team as his ears and eyes while he is not around and uses that intelligence to benefit both his organization and the client for additional services that brings a solution to a problem. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Carrot or the Stick

I know a certain Project Manager (PM) who we’ll refer to as “Bob.”

Bob was a new employee. As a Project Management Professional (PMP), he believed he was ready for the position at an established organization. This organization was a medium-sized company between   3,000-5000 employees and had been in business since the early 20th century. Its’ clients and customers were loyal to the products the organization sold and the organization was adept at keeping the price of its products within range of a typical middle class family unit. This is what attracted Bob to this PM role.

In the interview, Bob neglected to ask how the organization treated its associates in the IT department. But even if he did, he would have received the answer “no different from other organizations treat their IT associates.” This would be a bit of a stretch because in this organization, IT was seen as a necessary evil, even in the early 21st century. The other departments, especially sales, did not believe that IT brought “value” to the organization. So when Bob started with this new organization, he was presented with their version of a Project Management Office (PMO).

Using the PMO as a stick

The PMO was created by the organization to keep costs low and to maintain content control over the IT department. This PMO was set up with the most stringent rules that did not allow any deviation or process improvement. Whenever a PM submitted a document or put an artifact within its file share system, the leader of the PMO went over every single word, phrase, and task of that document. Project plans could not deviate from the template that the PMO had produced.  And every time there was a deviation of any kind, the PMO lead had a meeting with the offending PM. This meeting was not a constructive meeting in any way. This meeting was set up to demonstrate the errors of the PM and to suggest, in very strong terms, that the PM, even the new PM, had to follow the rules and instructions of the PMO. For example:

  • The PM had to use the prescribed MS Project template that was developed by the PMO even though each IT project had its own caveats.
  • The PM had to present certain artifacts during certain phases. Presenting them too early or too late resulted in the project being put on hold until the PM corrected this.
  • If the PM was brought in front of the PMO lead, the PM was not allowed to explain himself/herself regarding the deviation, no matter what the reason.  This meeting was set up to demonstrate the errors of the PM.
If the PM made a similar error more than once, the PM was written up to Human Resources.  Bob eventually left this organization.
  • There was an introductory webinar for the PM defining the PMO and its methodology.
  • A new PM “shadowed” another PM upon starting. Even though the new PM had projects, the shadow PM provided guidance.
  •  The PMO lead had regular PMO meetings and one-on-ones with the PMs to provide guidance and ensure all PMs understood the PMO process.
  • New ideas from PMs to improve process were discussed in the group and if the idea provided added benefits or reduced time and costs, they were eventually introduced into the PMO

Using the PMO as a Carrot

Once Bob left that organization, he joined a new one. This organization was the same size and also had loyal customers for the same reasons. This organization had an established PMO and used it to promote its IT projects. The big difference was the way the PMO was managed and how the PMs were treated in that PMO. For example:

Whenever a PM is taking on a new role, whether it is at a new organization or a new division in the same organization, I have tried to illustrate the types of PMOs that are in existence and the ones that are obviously preferable. 
When PMs are interviewing for a PM position, the obvious questions about the PMO should be:
  • How are PMs and other employees treated? 
  • What is the culture?
  •  Does the PMO allow any improvements?
  •  Does the PMO lead have regular meetings and one-on-ones?
  •  What is the organization’s belief towards IT?
  •  Is there growth for the PM?
If the PM can get positive answers to these questions, then the PM can distinguish how the PMO works with the PMs: with a carrot or with a stick. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Strategically Aligned Projects or Tech Projects: Which is More Exciting?

Sometimes, a Project Manager (PM) gets an opportunity to work on a new technology project, while other times it may be a project that has a straight line to a strategic initiative in the organization. Most times, there will not be a choice; the PM either works on technology projects or the PM works on strategically aligned projects. However, if a PM is torn between which of the two the PM should work on, a dilemma may present itself. Traditionally, when a PM works in an organization, there is an assumption that the PM would be working on technology projects. However, it should be noted that the Project Management Institute (PMI) began with mostly construction or engineering PMs, not technology PMs. So, there is no reason why a PM cannot handle a strategically aligned project. That said, which type of project would a PM be more comfortable with? Or a better question, which is more exciting for a PM to work on?

Technology vs. Strategic

Sometimes we do not see the forest for the trees. What I mean by that is the fact that a technology project can be a strategically aligned project. I have stated this in previous blogs and I will say it again: if the project cannot be traced to a organizational strategy, then you are not working on a project, that even when completed successfully, will have an impact on the organization. We PMs who work in technology get mired in the weeds and sometimes have a professional convulsion if our project  not a technology project, especially a new technology project. We PMs have to move beyond our belief systems regarding project management and think like executive management.  Maybe not so much like the CEO or President of the organization. However thinking like that would benefit us. Why not like the COO or the CFO? With security strikes like the hacking of Target, we definitely should be thinking like the CSO for our projects. If we cross that gap, we then can, as they say, think outside the box, and think like leaders, not just managers. Thinking strategically, whether we are on a technology project or not, means that we have to go beyond the “four walls” of our comfort zone, and begin thinking like the leaders and managers of the organization. This can be scary because we may see that the project we are working on does not fit the strategic future of the organization. That is a risk we all must take.

Which Project Provides Greater Visibility?

The answer is both, depending on the strategic importance of the project.  If we take a good hard look at the direction of our organization and read the organizational philosophy, as well as any related strategic statements, then we will see whether we are working on projects that align with those philosophies. I know that most of us PMs are over-worked as it is now. I know that we are “doing more with less.” I get all of that. However, if we PMs truly want to stay in the organization we are currently in, then we have to make the time to do that research. By the way, doing that research would not take a great deal of effort. I know that it may impact personal time, which we already have less of. But the fact remains that it is up to us to make that effort.

Should a PM Try To Point His/Her Career Towards One Type Of Project?

Yes. However, you have to sell to senior management that you can take on one of these projects and complete it successfully. That may take some time, but you will have to chart a course that reflects that. We all believe we can be the best PM on any project we start. We have to convey that confidence with visible results to senior management. If we just drop our chins and believe that we do not get the best pick of the projects because the odds are stacked against us, then we will convey an aura of defeatism that will be picked up by senior management and they will not award you with one of these projects.  A colleague of mine told me that you must always be positive,a although even when it is very difficult to be positive. I am asking you to do so and convey that positive aura about yourself.

In conclusion, strategic and technical projects should not be separated because of any pre-conceived notions. These projects can and should be strategic and aligned with the corporate philosophy. And yours should be too.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Is the PMP as portable as PMI says it is?

In my career, I have been most fortunate to work on a variety of projects mostly those that are Information Technology (IT) - or financial services-driven. The IT projects have involved mostly software delivery or implementation, but I also have had the opportunity to conduct projects in technology driven infrastructure, state government, and yes, even a few months in pharmaceuticals. So you can say that I have touched projects in a varied assortment of industries. Nevertheless, there are certain industries that require specific knowledge of the type of product or service being delivered by the project team.  This brings up the question: Is the PMP portable to different industries? For example, can a PM who has worked mostly in financial services work as a pharmaceutical PM? Can a PM who has worked in infrastructure work in government? Let’s examine some questions.

Can the PM show that he/she understands the “lingo?”

This is the first and most likely the hardest question. Just because a PM has worked on technology projects focused on software doesn’t mean that the PM is a “fit” in a pharmaceutical company if the project has to do with software. Let’s say a company is focused on civil engineering. Will a PM understand the needs of the project if the PM has been working in financial services? There may be some exceptions, but I am of the mind that trying to get this PM job may be a tough sell. Yes, I have heard of exceptions, for example, a PM with experience in the refrigeration industry landed a position in pharmaceuticals. In this case, the PM's knowledge of refrigeration was beneficial because the pharmaceutical company’s product needs to be refrigerated. That was an easy cross-over in industries. But how many experiences like that have you heard of? You see, the PM must be able to speak to at least the high-level of the product being delivered so that the project team members will respect the PM.

Has the PM worked on similar projects?

Let's go back to our PM who understands the working of software contracts. Can he/she work on a scientific software project in a pharmaceutical company or a clinical research organization (CRO)? If the PM understands the types of contracts and legal and scientific terms commonly used in the industry, then he or she may be able to make the cross over. Again, this may be the exception and not the rule. Scientists who work in CROs may need a PM that thoroughly understands their needs and understands the legal issues of deploying, maintaining, and upgrading software that these scientists use.

Can the PM show his/her flexibility in abilities?

Sure, most PMs I know are very flexible and have worked on a variety of projects, such as I have. It is good for the PM to have a broad knowledge of multiple industries, as long as the PM can be focused on one type. On the one hand, the PM doesn’t want to be “pigeon-holed” in a single area, but on the other, neither does the PM want to be considered a jack of all trades but a master of none. The PM wants to be portrayed as an expert in his/her field with a working knowledge of how projects
work in other industries.

However, the question of portability in other industries becomes quite difficult to explain. I have seen exceptions where a PM has left the industry they have been working in for some time and gone over to another industry. However, those have been the exception. The rule usually is that the PM stays within their industry and works to become the go-to PM in that industry. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.