The Lost Art of Project Management
Project Management was a prominent discipline in Information Technology in the late 1990s and 2000s. As companies scaled up, Project (and Program) Managers were considered key for the successful execution of large complex transformational initiatives. They had authority over the project they managed, and were accountable for the project’s on-time, within budget delivery. Many good technical individuals chose to become Project Managers as part of their career progressions. Certifications like PMP and Prince 2 became popular and a ‘must-have’ in many organizations.
However, over the last decade Project Management has lost the importance it once had. Project Managers are seen in many IT Organizations as overhead resources who carry out mundane process compliance and reporting tasks. This is accentuated with the advent of Agile and self-organizing teams. Technical Architects and Domain Consultants are considered as the prime resources for getting a project done.
While technical and domain expertise is key to project success, good project management can ensure the consistent and predictable results that organizations are looking for.
Project Managers bring in the following aspects that are vital for every project
Alignment to business needs: Every IT project has a business need and value. Putting a bunch of technical people together may lead to a highly advanced system getting developed utilizing the latest technologies but not meet the business needs. Good project management ensures that the project scope aligns with the goals of the customer.
Leadership: The Project Manager provides direction to project team, motivates and inspires them, empathizes when required, and removes blockers. Project Manager serves the team and also enforces appropriate responsibility on team members.
Planning: Planning is probably the most important responsibility of a Project Manager. A clear and realistic plan gives the team a path to meet project objectives as per deadlines. In Agile, since plans frequently change, a common misconception is that planning is not required. On the contrary, in Agile projects, it is extremely important to plan with the details that are available upfront and modify the plans as more clarity is obtained.
Oversight and monitoring: Accurate monitoring of project progress helps identify potential risks and issues, and bring in appropriate interventions if the project begins to deviate from course. Status reporting is important for project sponsors, customers, and other stakeholders to understand where the project stands.
Continuous improvement: Project Managers use retrospectives and project closure reviews to identify what went well, what did not go well, and what can be improved. It is important to document and communicate these learnings so that teams do not repeat the same mistakes. This also helps organizations embark on a continuous improvement journey with teams imbibing learnings and best practices from other projects.