Project Management

PMs should promote value of planning for internal clients and projects

Project management is not confined to the IT department; other departments have projects too. As an IT project manager, your model behavior can have a profound impact on the entire organization.

I report into the IT Division and so it is not surprising that I spend most of my time helping project managers who are working on IT-related projects. In one recent meeting on an IT project, I met John, who works in the Facilities Department. John is one of the major client stakeholders on this IT project, but it turns out he also has a major initiative of his own. I caught up with John after the meeting.

The dilemma
"Tom," John began. "I have to coordinate a major set of office moves involving over 200 people on four floors of the building. I am used to planning out small moves on a piece of paper, but I think I need some help putting together a real plan for this work."

"Sounds like a project," I said. "Do you have a formal way to manage projects in the facilities department?"

"I guess the full answer is no," John replied cautiously. "Of course, we have ways to manage major office moves, and we usually do a good job. However, we don't have formal project management procedures."

"I'm curious as to how you manage the work if the requirements change, or if there are issues," I inquired. "Do you keep metrics or measure quality?"

"You know, we are relatively weak in those areas. We do office moves based on having good planning software and good organization. However, we are not very good at the actual management of projects. We don't define scope. We do a little bit of risk management, but not much. We don't do many of the good things you guys do."

"You sound pretty knowledgeable about project management," I said. "Have you taken some classes before?"

"No, no classes." John said matter-of-factly. "However, I have been on project teams with people in your division, and I have learned a lot of good project management stuff from your people."

Mentor advice
Usually, when we think about the work our clients do, we think in terms of the ongoing operations of finance, sales, marketing, etc. When we see them on projects, it is usually in context of one of our IT projects. It might or might not surprise you then, to see that our client departments have projects of their own as well.

John definitely has a project on his hands. He has a unique piece of work, with a defined start and end date, defined deliverables, a finite budget, and assigned resources. These characteristics are what separate projects from ongoing support or operations types of work.

In many companies, the formal initiatives around project management are confined to the IT department. However, there are a number of things we can do to help spread the work to the rest of the organization.
  • Model good behavior on our projects. If our business clients see how we manage projects and see the value associated with the processes, they are much more likely to adopt them on their projects.
  • Help the clients understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. If the clients think we are just making up a bunch of rules, they are not going to be impressed. However, if they see how the processes help us manage the project to meet their expectations, they are more likely to adopt them as well.
  • Remain positive. If our project managers complain about project management processes, the client is not going to be motivated to utilize the processes on their project. If they see project managers talking about the value of good project management processes, they are more likely to utilize them as well.

This is what made the discussion with John so interesting. Although they do not use formal project management processes, John has seen the value of project management on other projects that he has been a part of. This is something that all project managers should remember and consider. You are not only managing your own projects, but you are also modeling project management behavior to your project team and stakeholders.

Think about the projects that you work on and manage. What type of behavior are you modeling? If the rest of the organization looked at you as an example of what project management had to offer, would they adopt this way of managing work? Or would they stay far away? I think the answer is also an indicator of how successful a project manager you are.
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