Executing and Delivering Projects at Light Speed
In our opening article to this series, How PMO’s Can Catch the Wave of Digital Disruption; we looked at how technology is allowing PMO’s and project managers to optimize the project lifecycle. We then went into specific examples around the initiation phase in Fast Tracking the Initiation Phase using Disruptive Technologies, as well as optimizing the planning phase in Using Digital Disruption to Dissolve Planning Dilemmas.
How technology has changed the way we do business is most evident in the way companies are now building products and projects. This seems to be happening at lightning speed compared to just ten years ago. To illustrate this to clients, I tell them to remember the days when they bought a car and it was relevant for around 10 years… not anymore. In 2011, Amazon was shipping new changes to production every 11 seconds. Companies must deliver quicker, or their competitors will.
A Greater Demand for Speed in the Execution Cycle of a Project
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that companies cannot compete if they are shipping new releases once or twice a year, when their competitors are shipping every month, sometimes every day. By far the most popular question we project managers receive is, “When will it be done?” is more pertinent now than ever before. How many of us have heard the remark from our sponsor, “The CEO is popping over tomorrow with some of the board members. They would like an update.” What follows is a mad scramble by us, our development team, and often the graphic designer to whip up a demo of flashing lights to wow the stakeholders, because the product is far from finished.
In this article, I want to focus on two ways technology is allowing us project managers to ship even faster.
1. Data that means something – JIRA and TFS producing real reports
We, as project managers, love our reports. We show graphs that depict EMV, earned market value, all to wow stakeholders with exactly where we are in our project lifecycle. Certifications like the PMP and Prince2, drum it into us the importance of these metrics. But, technology has taken us to an even better place.
You see, all that data pales into insignificance if your competitor has shipped to market while you are still producing reports. When you get right down to it, customers and stakeholders are only interested in the products that are available. Until your product or service ships to production and therefore into the market, all your data amounts to very little.
Jira and TFS tell us exactly how far away we are from being done. With short iterations for design, development, testing, and release, the project manager understands at any time in their project how far the product is away from release into the market.
The project manager can look at the last couple of sprints and get an accurate prediction of timing as well as see the performance of their teams. The product backlog in these tools are stored as the business value and so the project manager can quickly provide updates on product readiness and features to be released. In most cases the stakeholders can access these dashboards themselves.
2. Dev-Ops, Automated Deployment, and Integrated Testing – Jenkins and Kubernetes
Thank the heavens for Dev-Ops and automated deployment. Products are kept in a shippable state and if stakeholders decide they would like to deploy the product to production, it is literally at the flick of a button.
Dev-ops tools such as Jenkins and Kubernetes, allows development teams to build, test, and deploy solutions at scale from their local development environment to QA, to Staging and Production environments seamlessly.
If the team hits issues, solutions can be rolled back, and all post-tests are automatically run against the new features and the old ones as well.
I have not yet had the privilege of working at Amazon where they are shipping to production every 11 seconds, but I have worked in teams where it is done every two weeks and that is a great improvement from only once or only once every two years.
Technology has changed the speed, and quality of how we build our products. The nerves associated with requests for demos from our CEOs are a thing of the past, well maybe not the nerves but it’s a far cry from what it was. In fact, if the CEO would like a report on how the project is going, I say, “Would you not rather like to see a demo?”