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.