Using Digital Disruption to Dissolve Planning Dilemmas

In our previous articles, we looked at How PMO’s Can Catch the Wave of Digital Disruption and examples of Fast Tracking the Initiation Phase using Disruptive Technologies.  Continuing the theme of digital disruption, we now look at how it can be used to dissolve planning dilemmas.

The famous quote, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” could not be truer.  With the sharp rise of technology, project teams must stay true to first principles.  However, working towards how things should be done is a much better alternative to how things used to be done.

The success of fintech companies in the last ten years evidences that.  In 2017, the KPMG Pulse showed that, in the previous two years, financial institutions invested more than 27 billion US dollars in fintech and digital innovation to give them the edge. The reason? Customers were requesting changes to customer experience from original operating and servicing models and the financial markets responded. We project managers should follow suit. It is from this phenomenon and thinking that this third article in the series was born.

This article is highly relevant to project managers and project management offices.  I would like to show how digital technology can provide them with the means to right the wrongs that have been traditionally experienced in the planning phase of our projects. In this discussion, we will focus on rolling wave planning, as found in frameworks such as Scrum, DSDM, Prince2, and PMBOK.

The Need for Planning and The Problems Faced

Certified project managers know that the argument of project managers being solely responsible for creating the project plan is a straw man. A project manager sitting alone in a locked, dark room creating a project plan has never been seen by knowledgeable practitioners as accepted best practice. However, it’s been more of a fait accompli due to the challenges of getting relevant stakeholders involved in planning. In the past, the project manager would create the plan and then try to get the whole team to buy-in.

What Agile, particularly Scrum, has done for the industry is ensure that the entire scrum team is involved in the sprint planning process. It is part of the agile ceremonies and is a timeboxed event where the team plans the activities to complete user stories in the chosen sprint. For anyone who believes that planning is not involved in Scrum, I challenge whether they have ever been in a sprint planning session; the very name of the ceremony is called Planning in the Scrum Guide. The guide shows that the planning session of a one month sprint can take up to 40 % of the total allocated man-hours of that sprint. So, yes, planning is very important.

Truly Transparent

Digital planning tools like Jira, Asana, and Microsoft Team Foundation Server are making it easier and easier for team members to chunk work down into small packages and monitor to track capacity, dependencies, activities and capacity constraints.

Microsoft Team Foundation Server allows team members to enter their capacity constraints. Based on the total team capacity, this calculates at the start of the sprint whether a team is over or under allocated.

As the team completes work, the board will automatically update and provide information. This is usually provided to sponsors and other stakeholders, the team being the most important of these, with information and status to how they are doing. The level of transparency that these new tools are bringing is second to none. The information is far easier to digest than the traditional Gant chart formats.

Collaborative Without Physical Borders

These digital planning tools integrate seamlessly with messaging platforms such Microsoft Teams, Slack and other systems.  Teams gather together around digital boards, create activities and tasks and then break up to work from their respective locations to update their tasks and dependencies to the board.

The team reconvenes to present and workshop the final plan, linking the items together in a seamless flow. Team members then integrate their work into these digital boards, and the work burns down automatically.

Staying True to Planning Principles.

On presentation of the plan, the Agile Digital Project Manager provides his or her expert input into dependencies, constraints, and maximization of flow. Asana, Trello, and TFS are ensuring that the team provides the majority of the content and the flow, and the project manager provides input, principles, and ideas. Technology is enabling us to run projects as they should be run—involving all stakeholders.

These digital technologies are becoming more and more the tools of our trade. We as digitally astute project managers need to embrace and show our development teams we are as savvy with the technology as they are.

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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