How PMOs Can Catch the Wave of Digital Disruption

The wave of digital disruption has arrived with a vengeance and, it has left all C-suite executives floundering in its backwash.

In the last three years, I have been privileged to first-hand experience of the wave. I am currently involved in a project where the most ardent supporter of change of structure and employees’ profiles is the HR director. Her motivation? The company becoming more digitally competitive. This is not a software company. It is a large retailer, with more than 28,000 employees.

The evidence for this change is not only anecdotal however.

A survey conducted by Fujitsu in 2016 found that out of the 1,180 global C-suite decision-makers they interviewed, 98% attested to the fact that digital has already disrupted their organization in some shape or form.

Large corporates are being threatened by smaller innovative companies who can make quick decisions and execute changes more quickly. Technology is allowing these entrepreneurial companies to level the playing field in areas historically sheer size often precluded them from playing.

For example, small virtual e-commerce businesses can now reach as many customers online as large block and mortar retail stores. In response to these challenges, large corporates are now running substantial projects and looking to their PMO’s to support and manage these changes.

Executives are also showing their support in the form of financial and time commitments. They are establishing structures that will allow project teams to fast-track governance processes. Bi-modal IT and Digital Fast Track or Fast Lane teams are direct responses to this.  Other companies have created their own digital “Shark Tank” or innovation hubs to meet the demand for more strategic change, by fostering and cultivating new ideas to give them a competitive edge.

So, how do qualified project managers and diligent PMO’s leverage this new support from business and ensure faster turnaround while still promoting sound project management principles?

I believe the answer lies in harnessing these disruptive technologies in our daily project management activities.

1. Build A Mini MVP By Utilizing Cloud-Based Environments And Prototyping Tools

Products produce outcomes and outcomes produce benefits. Digitally astute project managers are aware of this. They (and their teams) focus on building mini MVPs (minimum viable product) in the initiation phase of projects when preparing the business case.

Through the use of CaseWare tools and rapid prototyping applications, teams can spin up models of working code in a matter of days to demonstrate ideas to project steering committees. These tools help with uncovering initial requirements, assumptions, risks, and constraints, for a fraction of the costs that were associated with these activities in older projects and when working with older technologies.

Scrum development teams have long learned to incorporate a sprint zero to test the viability of concepts. This is a short time-boxed event where a small working piece of the proposed software is built before the official sprints start. The wisdom in building thin slices of code, or working on mini versions of applications has helped to advance the DevOps industry hugely.

As well as cloud-based platforms, also consider freelance services. There are now freelancer platforms which allow project teams to spin up and decommission teams in the space of days or even weeks. These services provide the affordable, quick human resources required to build a light prototype in the initiation phase. Again this is something that simply was not available to past project managers.

2. Use Digital Technology To Interact With Stakeholders

During the initiation phase, use your prototype and test it on staff or a small sample of your potential customer base.  Amazon and a number of companies are known for developing pilot projects and rolling it out to staff as a testbed for planned projects.

Projects no longer can rely exclusively on surveys, reports and company representatives to supply customer data. Project managers are learning to use UX demo sessions where potential customers are encouraged to come in and test products and work alongside project teams.

Prototyping tools can track potential clients’ interactions at a fraction of the cost of getting a research paper together or organizing a string of meetings with marketing executives. These client interactions are then filmed, reviewed and integrated into the presentation of the business case. Digital affinity diagrams are often used to powerful visual aids in business case presentations to investment committees.

3. Embrace And Begin To Drive The Wave Of Digital Disruption

We, as project managers, have long been the champions of change in organizations. I believe it’s our responsibility to be embracing disruptive technologies in our daily lives. We should be the most ardent supporters of these changes and keep asking how we can incorporate these technologies into our day-to-day operations.

We can use disruptive technologies to stay true to the project managers of the past by honoring the principles of the discipline while executing faster than ever before. Project managers have always worked as fast as they could by using the most advanced technologies that they could access.

A final thought. Just the other day, my project sponsor was traveling internationally and I was struggling to find time in her diary for a meeting or even a virtual call. By using a cloud-based tool, I was able to create a video to take her through my status reports and demo. She could then able to download and play this back whenever was convenient for her. In the end I think she reviewed it on a flight. She was able to view the video, comment and send me feedback.

There has not been a more exciting time to be a project manager provided you ride the wave of disruptive technologies.

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson runs Acuity Training, an IT training business offering classroom courses in London and Guildford, Surrey. A leading provider of MS Project training the UK, it offers a full range of Project courses, from introductory courses through to advanced.

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