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.