I’m far from a sports fanatic, but I did watch the Superbowl a few weekends ago. The Patriots hashtag, #notdone, got me thinking about parallels within the project management world. One of the hardest questions to answer is: when are you done, and how do you know you are done?
From an academic perspective, the question is easy to answer—a project has a defined start and end date with defined scope and resources. You are done once you have delivered your scope and hit your success criteria.
However, from a business perspective, the answer is much more complicated. We are living in a time when users expect constant improvements to their capabilities and tools: think iPhone and frequent app updates at the push of a button. This creates a natural conflict between project teams and business users where one party seeks closure (#done) while the other party pushes for continuous delivery of capabilities (#notdone).
So how do we close this gap and deliver continuous capabilities while managing the work through defined projects?
Methodology: Starting with the most obvious, the project methodology chosen will contribute greatly to bridging the gap. Agile is one of the most popular methodologies to achieve a continuous delivery model, but it’s not enough on its own; you need to factor some other things into your approach. Read on…
Organizational alignment with dedicated teams: How you align your project resources to business units will also help bridge the gap. Is your project team comprised of people you know well, who understand your business needs as well as you do, and can act as your proxy in a day-to-day project setting, or have you been assigned people from a project resource pool (or off the street) whom you’ve never met and you’ll likely never see again once the project has completed? Being aligned to a dedicated team will ease the anxiety that comes with project closures. It will also ease the inherent fears that the project team will leave deferred items on the table and “you’ll never hear from them again.” With dedicated teams, those fears and anxieties are off the table and the long-term roadmap and vision continues to be executed upon through new projects. Your project team can run but they can’t hide…
Strategic planning process: Lastly, can you adapt and change your project queue based on evolving business needs, or are you locked into something that was committed to last summer during a rushed planning cycle? It is a best practice to lock down budgets, but maintaining the ability to decide how to spend that money during the course of the year provides the business with the power needed to feel in control. This also provides the assurance that capabilities will be delivered on a continuum that aligns exactly to the business needs as one project wraps up and a new one spins up. Strong leadership at the project sponsor level will ensure this tactic does not result in flood of projects with ever-changing priorities.
While projects start and finish, business needs continue to evolve at a faster rate than ever. Gone are the days when you can install a system and use it for 20 years without any major interim transformations. To stay competitive, investment managers are constantly looking ahead at the next capability, the next product, and the next solution that will keep them ahead of the pack. Transforming your project management organization to support those ongoing needs will allow your capabilities to expand and allow your firm to continuously evolve.
Ultimately, the answer to the question is this: you’re never done. #notdoneever