Deploying 'Super Hero' Project Managers in the Enterprise

Marcus E. Walker, Director-IT Project Management at Wellmont Health System
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Marcus E. Walker, Director-IT Project Management at Wellmont Health System

The purpose of project management, simply put, is to deliver successful projects. This means delivering project requirements within approved time and cost constraints while maximizing the resources and assets of the enterprise to achieve its strategic priorities.

Due to the ever increasing complexities of the technology ecosystems deployed at organizations across industries and the speed with which change is implemented, project managers must apply an increasingly diverse set of skills to consistently deliver projects that are on time and within budget, and that  deliver value for the project’s stakeholders. In essence, organizations must recruit, train, and deploy “super hero” project managers to lead the complex initiatives that will deliver winning strategies in the marketplace.

As organizations deploy project managers who can thrive in the complex business and technology environments in which we compete, there must be an emphasis on increasing the project management discipline and competency in their enterprise. There are numerous skills a project manager must have in order to be a “super hero”, but some of the most important skills organizations should focus on in recruiting new project management talent or in training their existing project managers are portfolio management, data analytics, and change leadership.

“To keep up with rapid implementation trends, project managers must apply an increasingly diverse set of skills to consistently deliver projects that are on time and within budget”

Portfolio Management 

A portfolio is the collection of projects, programs, sub-portfolios, and operations managed together to achieve strategic objectives. It is the culmination of all the work an organization undertakes to achieve its strategic objectives.    

In today’s environment, managing multiple complex projects is more the rule than the exception as organizations are pressured to do more with fewer resources. With these pressures, it is important that project managers not only be able to manage multiple high-priority projects well, but also understand the overall strategic context within which they manage their projects. As a part of initiating, planning, and managing their projects, “super hero” project managers must maintain an understanding of the overall project portfolio and how their projects contribute to overall goals of the portfolio and the organization’s strategic objectives. 

Takeaway: If not being done already, be sure enterprise projects align to the organization’s strategic objectives, and document the alignment as a part of the project charter. 

Data Analytics

“The data will set you free.” This is a phrase that succinctly states the truth that in order for an organization to realize sustained and consistent success, there must be a focus on identifying, collecting, organizing, governing, publishing, and analyzing the organization’s information- related assets at every level. Likewise for project managers who want to rise to “super hero” status, there must be a focus on doing the same for project information throughout the project lifecycle. “Super hero” project managers must lead the way in defining the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that can be tracked through a project’s lifecycle based on the approved scope, budget, and timeline constraints.

In addition to understanding project data, it is increasingly important for project managers to be comfortable with data analysis and data manipulation. “Super hero” project managers should be comfortable using advanced spreadsheet features and may even have experience using SQL and other data manipulation tools to query data and to find patterns. More and more, in the data-intensive environments in which we work, having an understanding and appreciation for managing and manipulating data is a key skill for project managers. 

Takeaway: Stretch your project managers to find trends in the project portfolio data. Some areas for analysis include resource capacity, resource utilization, and project ROI. This endeavor can be centrally managed across the project portfolio if your organization has a Project Management Office. 

Change Leadership

The only constant in organizations is that there will be change and that the rate of change will inevitably accelerate over time. Knowing this fact, change leadership is more important than ever. While this is not a revolutionary or new skill, there has never been a more critical time for project managers to have the skills necessary to lead change. As organizations implement new business strategies and become comfortable with new technology paradigms to execute those strategies—such as cloud-based or mobile technologies—“super hero” project managers will be called upon to lead the charge in successfully implementing change.

Project managers must not only do the basics well (i.e. formalize the change scope, develop a timeline and communication plan), but they must also have the courage to lead from the front in word and deed. This means being a proponent for the change and taking ownership of helping the organizational culture prepare and adapt. Project managers can accomplish this in both formal and informal settings as they work with the project team on specific change tasks or milestones and as they interact with their peers, such as around the proverbial water cooler. 

“Super hero” project managers recognize that being a project manager is an organizational trust and, accordingly, they take ownership to ensure change initiatives are successful. 

Takeaway: Provide specific change management training to your project management staff as it can prove to be a very smart investment to help your organization manage accelerating change. 

Conclusion 

Organizations that are able to deploy “super hero” project managers with competencies in portfolio management, data analytics, and change leadership will be well positioned to compete and win in a complex business and technology environment, both today and well into the future. These “super hero” project managers will be well equipped to deliver successful projects and will help ensure the resources and assets of the enterprise are maximized toward the achievement of its strategic objectives.

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