Project Accelerator News The latest project management news, views and project management sites from the around the world Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New comparative glossary from Praxis Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:54 +0000 Praxis, the free on-line framework for managing projects, programmes and portfolios, has now launched its comparative glossary of P3 Management terms. The first edition compares and explains terminology from PRINCE2TM, the PMBoK® guide, ISO21500, the APM Body of Knowledge and Praxis. It also includes hundreds of common project management terms. Future editions will include other publications from Axelos, the Project Management Institute, ISO and the APM.

No registration is required and the glossary can be downloaded here.




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IT Project Management – Successful Outcomes Are Won And Lost In The Numbers. Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:53:24 +0000 David Cotgreave - Stoneseed


I’m often parachuted into organisations to consult with or coach project managers and leaders who have become lost. It could be that a project has blown off course from its business aligned goals, it could be running late or over budget, perhaps key project talent keeps leaving or in some cases the whole project may be about to sink into a quagmire of utter failure …

… and they just don’t know why.

I’m also often struck by how the answer was sitting on their desk the whole time.

Sure, sometimes the answers are hard to find and together we have some really hard work to do, but more often the answers are not just readily available they’re actually staring the Project Manager in the face. Often the answers to a Project’s apparent failure are lying unread, being used as a coaster for a PM’s latte.

Of course, I’m talking about the data, the numbers, the black and white measurables that just haven’t been analysed. Those measurables vary from project to project but they ALL need to be studied through the lifecycle of a project.

“If you can measure it – you can manage it.” You will have come across a variation of the maxim. Thing is, across all areas of your business from your supply chain management to your data centre and IT estate management, this old business adage rings truer now than ever – and especially in Project Management – where projects are creating loads of really useful key data.

Identify your project’s key variables and measurables and study them! So often, Project Managers and CIO’s get caught up extinguishing daily “fires” or in planning IT for the future, that they forget to simply crunch the numbers under their noses and make use of existing relevant data. It’s big mistake.

OK, so that’s how reading your Project data can help steer out of a negative situation, but what about some upfront positive gains you’ll get right out of the box? Three Instant Wins from Project Data Analysis

1 – Apply gap analysis between the business objective of your project and your current IT capability to support that objective and you’ll align infrastructure and service capability to your business requirement.

2 – Scrutinise your data to ensure that you have robust governance throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that vendors deliver a fit-for-purpose solution in a timely and cost-effective manner.

3 – Studying the data allows you to realise maximum value from existing and future technology choices, including Cloud, IaaS, Managed Services, Networking, End User Computing, Telephony and Network architecture.

And of course, there are IT Strategy Advisors, Big Data analysts and Project Management Service solutions available to help you get the most from all these and more.

In fact there are so many benefits to be gained from regularly running an eye across the data generated by your project – it makes you wonder why it doesn’t happen as a matter of routine.

Well, one of the reasons that those numbers don’t get crunched is that they’re rather unwieldy. Yes, projects generate a lot of data but like maintaining a beautiful garden a lot of it can be regularly pruned, cut back and dumped at the tip.

Many of the organisations I work with store their project data raw, they hoard all of it thinking it might be needed down the line. There are strong arguments for downsizing the amount of big data that your operation accumulates. One project I worked with had generated a warehouse full of data on packet latency across its network. Now packet delay variation (PDV) is an important factor in assessing network performance and quality of service but in the context of this project’s failures it was a red herring and yet expensive talent was engaged analysing ALL the data including network jitter. Sometimes it takes an outsider to spot that you’re paddling like mad in the wrong ocean and steer a new course.

I suppose what I’m recommending is that defining governance guidelines should be an upfront housekeeping task in every big data project and that there’s no shame in buying in help.

You can learn a lot from a few key bits of data and make adjustments accordingly and quickly. Data analytics allow Project Managers and indeed all stakeholders to harvest even more project information to be used in actionable business decisions.

I believe in numbers! Study them. Your project deserves the best possible outcomes. You’ll find all your answers in the numbers.


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Full programme announced at Project Challenge 6th-7th October 2015 Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:22:47 +0000 The full programme of presentations and seminars has been released from Project Challenge today.

Project Challenge is premier expo show for the project management in the UK and takes place at Kensington Olympia in London on the 6th and 7th October, 2015.

Registration for the event is free and features over 40 presentations from industry experts, trainers, software providers and practitioners.


The show guide is now available to download to allow attendees to start planning their time at the event.

The Project Challenge show also features leading project management firms who are available to take questions, provide product displays and provide advice on areas of project management.

At the autumn show, attendees can visit professional associations, Association for Project Management, Project Management Institute and the Change Management Institute. Training organisations include QA, SPOCE and ILX Group. Software providers include Planview, Workfront, Program Framework and Bestoutcome.

For further information and registration, please visit the website



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2015 Professional Service Leaders Forum: A fruitful innings at Lord’s Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:44:16 +0000 By Alan Crean, Subject Matter Expert in Professional Services Automation and Project Portfolio Management, Changepoint

Leading lights from the world of PSA gathered at Lord’s cricket ground on 13 May to discuss the industry’s biggest topics in the 2015 Professional Service Leaders Forum.

Former CTO of BT Global Services Correy Voo gave an insight into what drives spending on PS, before Jeanne Urich shared industry insight from PSI research organisation SPI. Later in the day Dave Pepper from the MPA Group explained how HMRC approaches taxing projects, while Dimension Data’s Gary Neveling laid bare the complexities involved in merging separate PS firms.

Spending the day in the media centre overlooking the world’s most famous cricket ground, they showed the England team how it’s done by hitting a six; here are six big talking points I took from the event:

  • Smaller projects are on the increase. In their most traditional form, projects took place on a large scale, making it easy to bring in juniors and ramp up activity where required. But the rising prevalence of smaller projects means that they are happening more ‘on the fly’ than ever before. It can prove more of a struggle to make money from smaller projects, and a challenge for decision makers to think on their feet about issues such as resourcing.

Potential struggles can be alleviated by putting templates in place that allow things to be actioned quickly. Standard methodologies can speed things along, and one effective tactic can be to treat some members of staff as a floating resource, available to be pulled into projects where necessary.

  • CVs are often too impersonal within PSI. The people will deliver the projects after all, so whether you’re pitching for new business or seeking a new role, bring the person out. Put the effort in, because as Muhammad Ali said, the fight is won or lost long before you dance under the lights.

That can involve thinking creatively about images and layout: there are no rules, so why not use a magazine-style layout rather than black words on a white background? Don’t be meek: use figures as a proof point, and outline how adding this person to the team will change things.

  • Process Intelligence is not a new concept anymore. Having matured in recent years, it is now having a real impact on the way people work. Process Intelligence has now become a vital tool for driving automation, cost reduction and revenue growth within the Professional Services arena.
  • EMEA projects are not as agile as North American ones. I know that in the European marketplace we are particularly good at service productising and packaging, and it’s something businesses we service can be comfortable with.

But that means our projects have to run in a less Agile way than our American counterparts. We struggle to scale up and down, which can come as a result of a much slower adoption of new trends compared to the Silicon Valley trailblazers.

  • Recruitment within EMEA is also different. The PS labour market is different in this region: for a start, a three-month notice period can be common, meaning it takes time to get a potential new recruit onboarded and up and running on projects. Another difference is employee engagement: it’s generally much higher in EMEA than North America, which presents an apparent contradiction. Employees are largely satisfied where they are but they are not at all reluctant to move on either.
  • Within projects and PS, there are too many bids for new business that fail to get the basics right. Spend time on the bid/no bid decision: is the proposed work in your zone, is it an opportunity to stretch your organisation further, or is this just a bog standard proposition? When bidding for new business, it’s critical to have a good idea of the organisation you’re pitching to, respect what they do and engage them in what you’re saying.

Then get to work hitting their pain points: don’t be afraid to call out previous mistakes, as they can be used as a way to position yourselves as the game-changer.

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Balancing The IT Project Management Skills You Need With The Talent & The Resources You Have – Is PMaaS The Silver Bullet? Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:01:40 +0000 David Cotgreave - Stoneseed


“To achieve success in all the projects that my Project Management Office is handling I need either an extra twenty staff or an extra twenty hours in the week.”

Sound vaguely familiar? Not enough hands on deck, not enough time…?

Perhaps you find that your Project Management capabilities are lacking?

It could be that it’s not that your team lack capability – just that they lack the right competencies for the current project. Identifying this and addressing it can be the difference between success and failure.

By the way, you’re not alone! According to John P Kotter, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, only around 5% of “large-scale transformational change projects” end in success. These are often the hardest projects to deliver – the transformational projects that can dramatically change the trajectory of your organisation and by default the trajectory of its partners and clients – but the ‘smaller’ more tactical or strategic projects, that are just as important, can be equally hampered by a shortage of relevant skills just when you need them.

When Oxford University’s Saïd Business School analysed 1,500 large global projects it concluded that IT projects are more likely to fail than large projects in other sectors, such as construction. Why?

I think it is because Project Management is a largely cerebral pastime, and as such the different individual skills that come together to make the whole are often overlooked and underappreciated.

Take the aforementioned construction sector, if you were doing something physical, like building a house, you wouldn’t have a “Building Guys Office” and expect each member of the team to have ALL the necessary skills. You’d have bricklayers, joiners, plumbers, electricians, etc. – in other words a balance of talents that come together to form a complementary and efficient solution to your requirement. You’d finish one house and the whole team would pick up their tool box and take their skills next door and start again.

If only Project Management were like that! Imagine having a nice neat estate of projects to construct, all the same, all requiring the same guys with the same skills! IT Project Management is never like that – To complete the house building analogy, whereas on one project you might need an electrician, on the next you might not need one at all and on the project after that you might need six of them. It makes capacity management very difficult.

So how do you achieve the necessary balance of skills, talent and resources when managing an IT project?

Having a totally in-house project management team cannot deliver such equilibrium so previously, like the building firms, you would hire in contractors. Again though, the world of Project Management lacks the uniformity across the spectrum of projects you’ll be handling to make this thoroughly cost efficient. Cost creep for an IT project can be fatal.

However, the contractor route works for some, and while many feel that it lacks the necessary flexibility, the fact that it works in a percentage of cases means that the kernel of a winning formula lies somewhere therein.

So let’s drill down.

What if, instead of buying in the individual skills, you were to outsource the very process – buy in Project Management as a Service?

Suddenly, just by moving the touch point at which you access the outsourced talent back a single step, you exponentially increase the potential benefits and flexibility. You dramatically alter the trajectory.

You access specific talent matched with specific projects for a specified amount of time. To return to the house building scenario, if outsourcing gets you a carpenter – then outsourcing the process gets you the carpenter who specialises in kitchen cabinets when you need one … or a carpenter who specialises in dovetail joints when that’s what you require.

It is a truly flexible on-demand resource. Accessing Project Management as a Service gives you the specialist you need for exactly the length of time you need them with no lengthy tie-ins or additional headcount.

Other benefits mentioned in client testimonials include;

You get to improve your IT Project Delivery at low cost thanks to predictable cost modelling, managed by robust and consistent KPIs, governance, metrics and reporting.

You benefit from more efficient capacity management and resource planning whilst losing the headache caused by retention issues and staff turnover.

The right partner will not just broadly match talent with project requirements they will also align them culturally with your organisation and its ethos and specific business case.

Often with no net increase in your portfolio costs you can complement and improve your in-house Project Management capabilities.

Better, more objective decision making – with benefit of an external influence office politics are either diluted or erased altogether, allowing freedom to choose solutions just from a business case paradigm.

Through exposure to new methods you organically grow new in-house skills – external talent may have been exposed to different sectors and their insights can often be transferred to your operation.

There are further generic benefits and there will be many others that will be exclusive to your unique business case but if you ARE finding that IT Project Delivery is a challenge – change the trajectory – investigate PMaaS.



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Targeted communication – the key to effective stakeholder engagement Sun, 26 Jul 2015 05:55:36 +0000 Just as each project is unique, so is each of its stakeholders! Whether as individuals, groups or organizations, every stakeholder, and every stakeholder community has a unique and evolving set of cultures, expectations and perceptions. To effectively engage with, and influence, this diverse community the traditional approach to project communications of regular reports and other ‘one size fits all’ strategies need to be replaced by a structured methodology that considers the complexities of the people you need to work with and the information that is of interest to them.

Effectively managing the constantly changing group of people whose support and involvement are essential to project success needs a robust methodology supported by adequate resources to be effective. It’s too late to worry about better stakeholder engagement after the project has failed.

In earlier posts I’ve discussed the relationship between stakeholder perceptions and project success and the three types of stakeholder communication.  Project Relations (PR) and ‘reports’ cover off the needs of most of the stakeholders who are not critical at this time, with minimum effort.  This post is focused on the ‘directed communication’ needed to change the attitude or behaviour of the small group of critical stakeholders who need to be doing something differently to support the successful delivery of your project.

Each directed communication is focused on one stakeholder to achieve a desired change in their attitude, behaviour, or both.  Maybe a functional manager needs to stop obstructing your project and actively support the loan of some key resources for critical work.

The first step in this process is defining precisely what you need from the stakeholder. You also need to prioritise these communications so you focus most of your effort on the most important changes you need at this time.

The next step is to describe and understand the elements of the stakeholder’s uniqueness; national, professional and generational culture traits; as well as gender, personality and ‘their reality’. This information feeds into the next stage of planning the communication.

Once you know what you want and understand the best approaches to use to engage the person, you need to plan the communication strategy by designing carefully targeted information exchanges Strategies for achieving this can range from casual coffee meetings, to formal presentations using a range of different media and messengers. Some stakeholders you can approach directly, others need to be influenced through your network of contacts. Any organisational currency you or your team have accrued can be highly beneficial, but needs to be spent carefully.

Then you have to implement the plan and communicate!

The final step in the process is to assess the effectiveness of the communication and adjust the plan as necessary to ensure that the stakeholder becomes appropriately engaged in supporting the project’s objectives.

The keys to effective stakeholder engagement are the strength of the relationship you have in place and mutuality, both your project and the stakeholder need to benefit from the engagement.

This process may sound like hard work (and it is) but it is far better to invest in effective stakeholder engagement and as a consequence access the support and resources needed to make you project successful, than to under invest and fail because you do not have to the support and resources needed for success; this is the key message in my latest book, Making Projects Work: Effective Stakeholder and Communication Management. You only ever get one chance to make a project successful!

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Does One Size Really Fit All or Do Supplier Organizations Deserve a Bespoke Suit? Wed, 22 Jul 2015 11:50:32 +0000 It is gratifying to note just how far project management has developed as a management discipline in its own right over recent years. I believe that much of this is driven by the clarity and focus demanded by the modern definitions of projects that have evolved. ‘A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product service or result‘ is the expression conceived by the PMI in their Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge 5th ed.’, for instance, and the use of the words ‘temporary’ and ‘unique’ are very significant for two reasons. Firstly, they clearly differentiate the project environment from that of routine operations, such as mass manufacturing and most instances of service provision. Secondly, they lay the foundations of the tools and techniques that collectively define project management. For instance it is the uniqueness of a project endeavour that directly leads to the uncertainty therein, which in turn requires the characteristic cyclical planning and control activities intrinsic to approaches such as Demming’s Plan Do Check Cycle and the PMI’s Process Groups of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing.

However, helpful though this definition is, there are drawbacks. In particular to ensure applicability to all types of projects, it is necessarily, a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Whilst this is helpful in defining the project ‘brand’ and initiating key approaches, we soon reach the point when, to achieve a better ‘fit’ , so to speak, it becomes necessary to define sub-categories of projects and address their particular needs.

Programme Management is an example of this. Programmes are unique and temporary and so conform to the above definition: they are projects. However, they are a special type of project with particular characteristics and it has been deemed helpful to sub-categorise these projects under the name of Programmes so as to enable the development of particular and bespoke tools and techniques (and standards and qualifications) that apply only to them.

I believe there is a compelling need to identify and treat another sub-category of projects in this way: those projects delivered by Supplier Organizations (SO).

Conventionally, either directly or by implication, the project management bodies of knowledge focus on the role of an Owner Organization (OO). These are the bodies that commission the project and it is they who will own the completed asset or capability (the project’s product or deliverable) and reap the reward of those benefits realised from its operation. Examples would include a car manufacturer commissioning the construction of a new factory and profiting from its subsequent use.

By contrast, Supplier Organizations (SO) are those parties that are engaged by the Owner Organization (OO) to provide the goods and services that are required to create the project asset or capability. Within the example of the car plant above, a Supplier Organization (SO) would be the architects practice engaged by the Owner Organization (OO) to design the building for the new facility. Their reward will not stem from ongoing ownership of the product; it will be the consideration, i.e. the payment to which it is entitled by dint of the procurement contract established with the OO.

The first reason why I believe this category of projects needs special attention is its widespread relevance. If we consider the above car plant project, we would expect a very significant number of Supplier Organizations (SO) providing the myriad bespoke equipment and services required by the project. We would also expect each to appoint a project manager (PM) to both liaise with the client and internally manage their own scope of supply. So, for each significant project there may be many PMs employed by SO, but there will be only one PM employed by an OO. It is my contention that this ratio is repeated across most projects and so most of the individuals engaged in the management of projects do so for Supplier Organizations (SO) rather than Owner Organizations (OO).

The second reason for special attention is that projects managed by SO are significantly different from those of an OO. Consider the following.

Reason for engagement. As discussed above, OO engage in projects to secure the benefits of asset ownership and operation whereas SO engage in projects to secure a consideration. This is a fundamental difference which has significant and far-reaching implications, some of which are expanded upon below.

Principal controlling document. For an OO the most important document to which all contentious decisions ultimately defer to is the endorsed business case. For the SO it is the contract agreed with the client.

Risk exposure. The nature of risks faced by SO and OO are different. For instance, only OO bear ‘business case risks’: risks which do not threaten the creation of the project product but do threaten the realisation of operational benefit. Within the car plant, an example would be an unforeseen hike in oil prices supressing the market demand for new cars. By contrast, OO are not faced with the commercial risks faced by a SO when dealing with a very small number of very high value projects (contracts), such as payment default by the OO.

Marketing and selling as project management activities. For the OO, the prelude to a project involves identification of operational benefits; defining the requirements of a product (or products) that will facilitate the realization of these benefits; selecting the preferred product (option); and establishing and endorsing a business case contrasting these operational benefits to the costs and risks of creating the product. For the SO the prelude is the activities of marketing and selling.

For these, and other reasons I believe that the two scenarios are sufficiently different to warrant their own models and skill sets. The following is a brief summary of those described under the headings of Soft Skills, Structure and Hard Skills.

Soft Skills. Projects are delivered by people for people and although it easy to focus on the very obvious tools and techniques of project management, what really matters is the less obvious and abstract interpersonal skills. Managers need to understand their subordinates, their imperatives and their instincts, and in this respect Supplier Organizations (SO) have a particular dilemma. Consider the following.

Soft Skills. Projects are delivered by people for people and although it easy to focus on the very obvious tools and techniques of project management, what really matters is the less obvious and abstract interpersonal skills. Managers need to understand their subordinates, their imperatives and their instincts, and in this respect Supplier Organizations (SO) have a particular dilemma. Consider the following.

  • Project teams are temporary groups of individuals brought together to create something that is unique, and their ethos can be summarised as ‘deliver and disband’.
  • Manufacturing organizations, by contrast, are permanent institutions that produce (preferably) identical products and whose ethos is all about survival.

Unsurprisingly, these two paradigms lead to very different structures, and the adoption of very different managerial tools and techniques. A SO that is servicing a project with bespoke goods or services has a foot in either camp and, whilst the technical challenge of integrating these two approaches to management is formidable, to my mind there is something more significant at play; a clash of cultures.

‘Culture’ is the expression used to describe the special ensemble of thought patterns, instincts, attitudes, values, accepted norms, customs and language that is shared by a group, and their emergence and refinement over time is not a random accident. They develop as an idealised response to the particular environments and challenges faced by each different group, and the two paradigms described above represent two very different challenges. For this reason, with ‘a foot in either camp’, it can be said that SO stand astride a fault line between two very different cultures.

Attitude to changes, importance of individual customer focus, appropriateness of rule based governance, importance of stability of structures, importance of stability of numbers, appropriateness of different incentives, importance of job security, terms of engagement, favoured attributes of employees, favoured attributes of employers, prioritisation of efficiency over effectiveness, and many more, are each areas that I have identified, where the culture favoured by each of the paradigms adopt polar opposite views.

Achieving an accommodation between these two cultures is not straightforward but I believe it is of paramount importance in determining the success or otherwise of SO. I further believe that practitioners are poorly served by the literature on project management, which offers scant advice for identifying and dealing with these cultural conflicts.

Structure. Projects, like ourselves, are all different: each is unique. However, again like ourselves, projects do have some common features. Most notable amongst these is a life cycle model. The transition through the phases of infancy, childhood, adulthood, parenthood etc. is common to us all. This forms the basis for understanding of the human condition, and the transitions from one phase to the next are associated with the making of important decisions (‘shall I finish my education and start work?’, ‘am I ready to be a parent?’).

The division of projects into phases and the identification of key decision making points in between is well accepted by the practitioners of project management. The PMBOK® Guide 5th ed. suggests that projects can be represented by a lifecycle consisting of the phases of

  • Starting the project
  • Organizing and preparing
  • Carrying out the project work
  • Closing the project

This project lifecycle model represents a very broad brush approach. To ensure its relevance to all projects it has to be that way, but when addressing just a sub-category of projects it is possible to more specific. The projects of Supplier Organizations (SO) are such a sub-category and warrant their own dedicated lifecycle model. I propose that shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Supplier Organization’s Lifecycle

As can be see, the identity of the phases and the decision gates represent a radical departure from the conventional model associated with the lifecycle of an OO project, and it highlights the predicament of the SO.

The early phases of projects are when most influence can be exerted over the project and are disproportionally important to the project’s ultimate success. As discussed above, for the SO project, these phases are the activities of marketing and selling. Marketing is concerned with ensuring that the right product is put in front of the right customer at the right time, whereas selling is the process of persuading prospective customers to buy your product for the maximum price and on the most favourable terms.

The SO simply must have expertise in these vital areas, not least because it is far more important to an organization to choose the right project than it is for them to manage it well. Also, the profit to be secured by the SO is as much determined by the selling price as it is by the cost. Given this importance it is therefore unfortunate that so few books on project management address these topics within the context of projects.

The identity and nature of the decision gates also points to another key aspect of the business of the SO, namely that their behaviour is dominated by the contract they agree with their client, the OO. One consequence of this is the decreasing autonomy enjoyed by the SO. The first gate (Bid/No Bid), when the SO decides whether to submit to the sales process, is wholly owned by the SO, however the second gate (Make or Accept / Reject Offer) relates to whether a contract should come into being and since this requires the agreement of both parties, it is shared by both the SO and OO. By contrast, the final decision (Accept Deliverable), for all intents and purposes, is wholly owned by the OO. Unlike an OO, post-contract, the SO is not able to mitigate its risk exposure by prematurely terminating their project.

A second consequence of the SO predicament is the existence of the Warranty Phase. The SO lifecycle terminates at the point when their contractual obligations expire. This exact point is usually determined by aspects of law and is seldom clear cut. At minimum it means that the obligations extend beyond the completion of the work. This ongoing risk exposure needs to be acknowledged not least by this dedicated phase within the SO lifecycle.

Hard Skills. The commercial astuteness required of a SO PM, especially in respect of their aptitude for contract administration, is an order of magnitude above that which, generally, is required of an OO PM. Whereas an OO project may not involve the establishment of any contracts, by definition, each SO project will involve at least one. The SO PM must be intimate with them, and the consequential rights and obligations of each party. Consider, for example, the management of changes. To an OO, changes are almost always costly and unwelcome intruders into their projects, but for SO they often represent their best opportunity for maximising profits. Canny SO PMs can dramatically extend their contract value (and profit) by the diligent pursuit and negotiation of favourable change, a process which encompasses those disciplines of marketing and selling. This is one reason why these key SO competences SO cannot be left solely in the hands of their sales persons and marketers.

Hard Skills. The commercial astuteness required of a SO PM, especially in respect of their aptitude for contract administration, is an order of magnitude above that which, generally, is required of an OO PM. Whereas an OO project may not involve the establishment of any contracts, by definition, each SO project will involve at least one. The SO PM must be intimate with them, and the consequential rights and obligations of each party. Consider, for example, the management of changes. To an OO, changes are almost always costly and unwelcome intruders into their projects, but for SO they often represent their best opportunity for maximising profits. Canny SO PMs can dramatically extend their contract value (and profit) by the diligent pursuit and negotiation of favourable change, a process which encompasses those disciplines of marketing and selling. This is one reason why these key SO competences SO cannot be left solely in the hands of their sales persons and marketers.

Intrinsically entwined with commercial astuteness, is risk management. Risk management is not the sole preserve of SO, it is vital to OO as well, but the type of risks and their mitigation is different. As mentioned above, SO are not exposed to ‘business case risks’ but it is most likely they are very heavily exposed to ‘product based risks’. This is because the OO has most likely taken the Transfer option for such risks and engaged the SO, perhaps solely, because they can both minimise their likelihood and bear their consequences. Rather than shying away from such ‘product based’ risks, astute SO will welcome them since they will appreciate that the greater the risk, most likely, the greater reward. There are though, many hazards lurking here and to mitigate them the SO will rely on a very sophisticated understanding of different procurement chain configurations, different contract types (sub-contracts, consortia, joint ventures, framework contracts etc.) and different reimbursement types (lump sum, target cost, cost reimbursable etc.). They will also rely on their special instincts, for instance, ensuring the clarity of scope pre contract takes on board a special relevance for SO.

Another consequence of the special risk exposure of the SO rather than the OO is the timing of activity within the lifecycle. For instance, when contemplating acceptance of a contract involving a firm price and a firm completion date, the SO may engage in very detailed planning much earlier than an OO may choose to do so. This is because the activity is undertaken not as a preparation for execution but as means of commercial risk mitigation, since it is the only way of securing a sufficiently precise estimate of cost and duration.

The reliance of a SO on one (or very few) customers also poses special risks. Letters of Credit, and Bank Bonds are not things that OO very often have to deal with and yet to many SO they are a core aspect of their business.

To conclude. If we were to draw a Venn diagram and represent the contents of the PMBOK® Guide as one circle, and another to represent the skills tools and techniques that I believe are required of a SO PM, there would be a very considerable overlap. The former would cover most of the latter and the latter would occupy almost all of the former. This and the other bodies of knowledge, therefore, are hugely relevant to SO, but, crucially, within our diagram, there will be margins. There are aspects of the PMBOK® Guide that are of little relevance to the SO, but there are many more techniques, tools and knowledge that are of enormous relevance to just SO projects that are not addressed in this or other project management bodies of knowledge. Further, since I believe that more project practitioners manage projects on behalf of SOs than do on behalf of OOs, I feel a huge constituency is being let down. To address this I feel the time has come to accept that one size does not fit all and Project Management for Supplier Organizations should be recognised as a significant sub-category, and, like Programme Management deserves special treatment.


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Autumn Project Challenge – First Sessions Announced Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:04:28 +0000 Project Challenge returns to London on the 6th and 7th October 2015 at London Olympia. The first seminars for the show have just been announced. Registration is free and is now open, please register to attend:

Managing Agile, Waterfalll and Hybrid projects within the Portfolio

with Jon Lewis, Director, Ninth Wave

Ninth Wave has extensive expertise in supporting project portfolio management. We find that introducing agile management techniques alongside traditional waterfall based planning is becoming increasingly important for many of our customers.

In this session, we’ll describe and explain some of the issues in managing a mix of waterfall projects, fully Agile projects and projects following a hybrid agile/ waterfall approach, all within the same project portfolio. We’ll share Ninth Wave’s ideas and experience in this area and show some of the tools and techniques that we use to support project portfolio management with these different project approaches.

cmiWhat change activities should I include in my project plan?

with Melanie Franklin, Co-Chair, Change Management Institute UK

To ensure our projects realise their benefits we have to take responsibility for the development of project deliverables and their implementation and adoption by users.

In this practical session, Melanie uses her extensive experience of change management to identify the key change activities to include in project plans. She will highlight those activities that engage users and those that reduce resistance and build support for the changes brought about by projects.

Optimizing the utilization of your skilled resources. How to balance demand and capacity in volatile multi-project environments.

Barry Muir, Director, Innate Management Systems Ltd.

Poor levels of resource utilization can severely impact overall profitability, but sufficient skills must be available to ensure timely completion of assignments and avoid client disappointment.

Drawing on recent experiences with Petrofac, the Oil and Gas facilities provider and others, we will see how project and services organizations can maintain the right balance in a constantly changing environment.

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Valuing Soft Skills Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:33:27 +0000 The project management community and the wider business community are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of soft skills. However, being aware of their importance and investing in developing improved capabilities are different.  Before most organisations (and individuals) will invest in developing improved soft-skill capabilities, their value needs to be demonstrated.

A recent report prepared for McDonald’s UK[1] provides a solid foundation for understanding the importance of soft skills to the UK economy as a whole, and is likely to be indicative of the situation in the Australian economy.

Soft skills fall into six interlinked sets of competencies[2]:

  • Communication skills[3]
    • Effective listening
    • Accurate and concise communication
    • Effective oral communication
    • Communicate pleasantly and professionally
    • Effective written communication
    • Ask good questions
    • Communicate appropriately using social media
  • Decision-making/ Problem solving skills[4]
    • Identify and analyse problems
    • Take effective and appropriate action
    • Realise the effect of decisions
    • Creative and innovative solutions
    • Transfer knowledge between situations
    • Engage in life-long learning
    • Think abstractly about problems
  • Self-management skills[5]
    • Efficient work habits
    • Self-starting
    • Well-developed ethics and sense of loyalty
    • Sense of urgency to address and complete tasks
    • Work well under pressure
    • Adapt and apply appropriate technology
    • Dedication to continuing professional development
  • Teamwork skills
    • Productive as a team member
    • Positive and encouraging attitude
    • Punctuality and meets deadlines
    • Maintains accountability to the team
    • Works with multiple approaches
    • Aware of and sensitive to diversity
    • Shares ideas to multiple audiences
  • Professionalism skills
    • Effective relationships with customers, businesses and the public
    • Accept critique and direction in the workplace
    • Trustworthy with sensitive information
    • Understands role and has realistic career expectations
    • Deals effectively with ambiguity
    • Maintains appropriate decorum and demeanor
    • Selects appropriate mentors and sources of advice
  • Leadership skills[6]
    • Sees the ‘big picture’ and thinks strategically
    • Recognises when to lead, and when to follow
    • Respects and acknowledges contributions from others
    • Recognises and deals effectively with conflict
    • Builds professional relationships
    • Motivates and leads others
    • Recognises when change is needed, and contributes to the change effort

To assess the contribution of soft skills to the overall economy required some extensive analysis; as a starting point, the overall productivity in the economy was disaggregated into the five drivers of productivity (as defined by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills):

  1. Investment,
  2. Skills,
  3. Innovation,
  4. Entrepreneurship and
  5. Competition.

The value of the skills driver component was then further disaggregated into the following elements: technical skills, technology skills, literacy, numeracy and soft skills, where soft skills covered the range of capabilities outlined above.

Based on this analysis, soft skills were found to underpin around 6.5% of the economy as a whole, and this contribution was expected to grow strongly over the next five years.

The research highlighted that employers ranked soft skills above academic qualifications and ahead of or equal to other competencies, with 97% believing that soft skills are important to current business success. Worryingly, 75 percent of employers say there is a soft skills deficit within the workforce but many job applicants don’t list soft skills in their résumés.

Employee results supported this concern as it was revealed that 54% of employees said that they have never included soft skills on their CV and one in five felt that they would be uncomfortable discussing their soft skills with an employer.

The research found that deficiencies in the UK’s current stock of soft skills were imposing severe penalties on the economy, causing major problems for business and resulting in diminished productivity, competitiveness and profitability. Over half a million UK workers will be significantly held back by soft skills deficits by 2020.

Observation of project managers in Australia, the USA and South America suggest to me that the UK findings are likely to be repeated in most similar economies. Helping to change this observed lack of focus on the linked capabilities of effective stakeholder engagement and communication was one of the reasons for writing my latest book Making Projects Work: Effective Stakeholder and Communication Management; it really does not matter how good the technology is, if people don’t understand it and don’t want to use it your project will fail!

In summary, soft skills matter and contribute significantly to productivity.  But there is a measurable, and widening, skills gap and soft-skills are under represented in skills development initiatives.  Changing this is a major challenge for organisations, business and people seeking career development.

How do you think your soft-skills can be developed?

[1] See:

[2] See: Crawford et al: Comparative Analysis of Soft Skills, Michigan State University, August 2011.
A seventh cluster – Experiences has been excluded from the table above.

[3] For more on communication skills see:

[4] For more on decision making see:

[5] For more on personal time management see:

[6] For more on leadership see:

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Limber up: Are Project Managers getting Agile? Fri, 26 Jun 2015 14:11:58 +0000 Jean-Pierre Ullmo, VP EMEA Sales at Changepoint

It can be tough to keep up with buzzwords in the project management world: in recent years we have seen ‘scrum teams’ using ‘game theory’ tactics to play ‘zero sum games’. A phrase that has risen to prominence recently is Agile. Familiar to those working in IT, the term is growing in popularity in a number of other sectors as they become wise to the potential benefits of working in this way.

Adoption of an Agile approach to project management is certainly on the rise: a quarter of all projects in the UK now happen in an Agile way, according to research from Arras People. And it’s already having a positive impact: fashion retail chain Zara has credited some of its success to an agile project management approach to its supply chain.  Is Zara’s successful adoption of the approach just a flash in the pan, or is Agile in a position to transform the way projects are approached?

What is Agile? 

As mentioned earlier, the Agile revolution actually began within a very different setting: software development. There is an Agile Manifesto, which was created in 2001 with the aim of creating a better way of developing and coding computer software. The summit of leading computer programmers got together to set out a better way of working, which valued:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Essentially, Agile represents a whole new way of working. Instead of having a rigid process and determined outcome, in an Agile world things are much more fluid. This is because people work in smaller, non-hierarchical teams; there is no rigid plan or path to stick to, and it is accepted that the end product you are working towards can often look very different to what was initially planned if a better way of achieving the strategic purpose of the product is found.

Now these principals are being adopted by businesses from both the private and public sector, and it could prove a good fit for project management too because it allows people to react and adapt to issues on the ground as they happen, finding new ways of working around problems, rather than being trapped in fixed boundaries.

Can I do it?

As interest in the Agile methodology continues to grow within the project management community, we have started thinking about what that means on a practical level. Here are five qualities a team needs in order to be capable of working in an Agile way:

  • Trust: You can rely on each other to produce high quality work.
  • Commitment: To each other, the project and the company. This means acting in good faith and shooting towards the desired project outcome.
  • Collaboration: If somebody asks, you can’t say no. Share information and spread knowledge across the team.
  • Cooperation: Because Agile involves working in close quarters and pairing with a colleague, it is critical that everybody plays nice.
  • Discipline: Although Agile can involve some erosion of hierarchies, team members must obey their own processes, charters, aims and decisions.

Businesses across an increasingly wide range of sectors are realising they can start working in an Agile way too. These five guidelines can act as a starting point for project managers to follow, but in its present form, attempts at Agile project management are just that: a starting point. Existing working practices will need to be flexible to incorporate this new approach, and rigid PPM platforms could prove a barrier to adoption for some.

Of course it is also important to remember that Agile will not be the right fit for everybody. It is dangerous to change the way you work just because it is en vogue; the UK Government encountered big problems with its £2billion Universal Credit project because it tried to use an Agile development method when that way of working did not suit the way it worked with suppliers.

The formal future

As a concept that is still emerging, Agile project management has not yet been properly formalised. The Arras People survey also revealed that while a quarter of projects claim to be run in an Agile way, just 8% of them involved somebody with Agile certification.

This means that at the moment, it’s only largely innovative firms, often smaller and fresher-faced ones, which are able to take advantage of Agile. Formalisation, certifications and processes will make it easier for adoption to take place across the board, even at the most process-driven, traditional organisations.


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