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Project Management Lessons learnt from Covid Holiday Disruption

This time of year is normally a bit of a nightmare for project coordination. Holiday Season! 

Ever tried to organise a meeting in August or early September?  I recently tried, of the five invited attendees, two replied they could dial in remotely as they were working from home, two would be away on their holidays and the last to reply, Sue – the key decision-maker (and not her real name) – was stuck in quarantine after Spain was removed from the UK’s Covid travel corridor list…

It has been a strange summer period this year for everyone, adapting, dealing with holiday cancellations, disappointments, and rain.  Many families were all packed up to head to the sun, jumping on planes and ferries headed overseas, but we had to adapt to staycationing – holidaying in England.  Making the most of the British summer and maximising the potential of, for many of us, a different kind of holiday.  Will rust become the new tan?

The very definition of Holiday (Noun – an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling), is an entirely flexible parameter to work within, so how do we adapt? And what Project Management lessons are to be learnt from this summer?

Adapting to change

Holidaymakers have had to rapidly flex and change holiday plans to keep in line with Covid travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. So too have businesses, long drawn out planning schedules have had to be cast aside, for rapid results and streamlined project processes. Project teams have never needed to be more agile,  business change and business process change have been the most common drivers for projects at this time, with businesses working to cut costs, enable remote working and battle recessionary trading levels.

Thinking outside the box 

Holiday Package deals and long-term plans have had to be shelved, and holidaymakers have had to assemble their own summer breaks, booking travel and accommodations. With projects too, this is the case, larger transformational projects that had been planned or scheduled may have been paired down or carved into bite-size deliverables or re-evaluated for cheaper quicker wins. Project Teams may need to cast aside any historical practices within the company, to shake up the project processes and speed up delivery time.

Reset expectations 

Many holidaymakers have had to reset their holiday expectations, swapping out some swimwear to make room for a raincoat, just in case. Fast-paced, high impact projects have come to the fore, but with this, has come the need for your Project Team to manage internal customer expectations, and “resell the benefits of new or adjusted project plans.

Covering shortages 

The holiday period always presents challenges with covering annual leave shortages, but this year, on top of that are unforecastable quarantines and sick days due to Covid and complications due to remote working. How do you cover these resourcing shortfalls? The traditional route via the contract market is available, and there has been a rise in available PMs due to layoffs, but you may only need to infill resource shortages for a few days at a time? 

Many businesses are turning to Project Management as a Service (PMaaS), to keep a tight rein on overheads and resource.  A relative newcomer to the Project Management Services market, PMaaS offers a full range of project services available remotely or on-site and gives you the flexibility to dial-up and down IT project resources quickly, to meet delivery needs.

Utilisation can be from 1 to 5 days per week and resources can be deployed to support just one project, multiple projects, or a programme of projects in any geographical location.  You can align resources as and when you need them, on a cost-effective, full-time or part-time basis and you are only billed for days delivered.

External support

Tourist offices and online UK booking websites, have seen a rapid rise in visitors looking for travel information, as they assembled their own holidays. Businesses can also benefit from a fresh set of eyes to examine their project delivery capabilities. As well as flexible resourcing, engaging with a PMaaS supplier gives the double benefit of access to an external pool of expertise and skills, that can be interchanged on demand, rather than just hiring additional headcount.

In conclusion, IT Projects over the Summer have always had their challenges, so too have holidays, whether it was striking French air traffic controllers, or this year, miles of cones on the M5.  The secret is to flex, adapt and reset your goals. And seek external help where needed.  After all, a holiday can be anything you make it. 

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