July 26, 2017

Project Challenge Expo: Four big industry talking points

Members of the Changepoint UK team recently attended Project Challenge Expo, an event taking an independent look at best practices in project, programme, process and resource management. We were joined by our partner CQC Solutions, who engaged in many conversations about the design cycle and implementation of PPM tools. Through a combination of panel sessions and networking, it was a great event for keeping our finger on the pulse of the latest trends and challenges across the industry n Europe. Here are three big talking points from the show which are currently on the lips of those working in projects in the UK:

1) A strategic approach to agile

It came of little surprise to see liberal use of the phrase ‘agile’ through the duration of the event; it is on the radar of most of our customers, and this summer I outlined how organisations can adopt agile in an article for Project Accelerator News. While an agile approach can work with projects, the most important thing is that it must integrate with activities in the rest of the business. A strategic approach is key, Eileen Roden, the Global ATO lead for P3O and PMO Authority in the Association for Project Managers’ PMOSIG told me. Without having a clear picture of what agile means to an organisation, Eileen says PMOs find it difficult to work in tandem with other departments. The PMO could even be in a position to set the agenda for the organisation, recommending an approach and bringing leaders together to agree on a unified agile strategy.

2) PMOs are coming together

Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (PMOs) play an important part in the drive to improve programme and project delivery, but the people who work in a PMO can sometimes be disconnected working as part of remote teams or on a freelance basis. So it comes as little surprise that one of the busiest stands at the event was for the PMO Flashmob; an organisation set up in 2013 to enable PMOs to socialise and share knowledge with each other. It can prove difficult for PMOs to perform well when team members are unsure about exactly what is expected of them, and if they do not have a community of people performing a similar role who they are able to turn to for guidance. As a Forrester analyst report recently reported, PMOs have realised they need to focus less on hierarchical approaches to project management, and instead embrace communities of practice that develop consistent, measurable and effective delivery. With that in mind, it’s great to see PMOs making a concerted effort to reach out to each other. We’ll be attending the next PMO Flashmob event in central London on 22nd October and look forward to continuing the discussion there.

3) Greater importance on outcomes

It also became clear to me that there is a growing awareness of the need to build tolerance levels into projects. Mike Acaster, PPM Portfolio Manager at AXELOS, illustrated the situation perfectly, explaining that if somebody pays £250,000 for a Rolls Royce, they will not accept being given the keys to a battered Ford Fiesta instead. However, they might be willing to accept one that comes without the advertised cup holders, possibly for a reduced price, or with another extra thrown in. A similar shift of mindset is happening within projects, as organisations can often find themselves in a similar position. If a new office could be located in an adjacent building to the one initially earmarked, or an IT project could deliver a slightly different software package that still contains the functionality desired at the outset, why should an organisation reject this? Slightly adjusting the course of a project in this way could even deliver cost savings. Where possible, organisations should look to outline a wider scope of what would represent a successful outcome to a project.

4) Digitalisation means real-time information is critical

With internal and external IT becoming increasingly important to the success of organisations, a large number of digital transformation projects are taking place. Project Managers and CIOs are increasingly battling to maintain stewardship over this large number of projects, but admit this can be difficult without real-time visibility of progress of the entire project portfolio. As such, our recently-announced Business Execution Management Platform proved a popular talking point. Those are four big talking points I took away from the day, but I’m sure there were many other conversations taking place I was unable to be a part of. It would be interesting to hear about other big issues people were discussing at the show, please leave a comment below if you were in attendance.