February 04, 2009

Trends in Account & Project Management

Here are some of the Common Themes In Conversations with Managers about How the Role of Project Management is Changing:

Trend No.1:    From Projects to Profit Centres

Project budgeting and control has become increasingly sophisticated, backed up by powerful management information systems and tools.  

More effective on time and within budget tracking of projects is leading to a broader view of projects as profit centers and leveraging increasingly sophisticated activity based costing techniques.

Thus, project management and performance is being increasingly viewed in the context of corporate strategy and performance.  And as corporate performance is the aggregate of project performance, large projects are being treated as profit centres and managed like business units, with more rigorous apportioning of costs and revenues.

Trend No.2:     From Information Gaps, to Information Overload

New systems and advanced project management skills, have enabled greater project visibility, predictability and control.  However, the risk of information overload is high, with managers increasing looking for real-time KPIs in a management dashboard. 

Furthermore, users are not getting all that was expected from their new tools, often because of a deficit of skills training, or support.

Managing large projects has become increasingly complex, driven also by increased competition, tighter margins and new business models (including shared risk and reward.  These trends have eroded some of the benefits delivered by new systems. In reality, the job of the project manager has not been made any easier.

Trend No. 3:            From Account Manager to Client Advocate

Many managers will admit that their account management needs to be more proactive – that it must anticipate, as well as respond, to the changing needs of both project and clients.  

Managing accounts is no longer the objective, the focus is on not just this sale, but the next and the next.  Key to unlocking this future stream of revenue is the deepening of relationships with and within client organizations.  The test in the success of this strategy is the successful transition from supplier to strategic partner - a journey that is often not a straightforward one.

But, what is the difference between Account Manager and Client Advocate?

     1.    It is the degree of passionate about client and project success, as well as the level of innovation, partnership, pro-activity, etc.  It is characterized by a spirit of true partnership, careful management of expectations, excellent communication and reporting, deepening personal as well as professional relationships, client development (including skills and knowledge transfer), etc. 

     2.   The Client Advocate has equal loyalty to two organisations – the clients and his/her own - and is aligned with the culture, strategy, vision and goals of both. The relationship and contact does not end with the project ends

     3.   The demarcation between sale and delivery are increasingly blurred.  For example, more upfront work is required to win the sale, while delivery is key to the next sale.  

     4.  The team selling and delivering increasingly overlap, as organisations strengthen their team-based approach to sales and delivery.

     Trend No. 3:            From project teams to networks and alliances

According to managers, project success depends on collaboration across a range of increasingly diverse actors.  That presents its own particular challenges, especially given the increasingly multi-cultural nature of project environments.

In particular, cohesion between different contractors and sub-contracts is key and requires the merging a diversity of interests into one project roadmap.  That requires excellent communication, but goes deeper to issues of; culture, esteem and trust.  One test is that people know what is happening, fell committed to it and indeed feel part of a team, even if working on a client site for a long engagement.

Access to and sharing of information in real time, has been made possible by online collaboration tools and networks.  However, managers also suggest that electronic communication cannot replace the more personal methods.

Trend No. 4:       From project manager to project champion  

It was once the highest form of praise to describe a project, or a business, as 'well managed'.  But in a more complex and fast changing environment 'well managed' can fall short.

That is why managers are now expected to be leaders.   What is the difference, between the two?  Well, vision, passion, empowerment (team work, motivation, etc.), innovation and creativity.  That means the job description has expanded, but has the skillset?

Trend No. 5:       Creativity Within A Framework

Delivering on time and within budget requires rigid project delivery in line with an agreed scope, subject to periodic review meetings and controlled change management processes.  However, larger and more complex projects are accompanied by demands for new levels of flexibility and innovation.

In software development project definition generally takes place day one and testing of developed code at a 'waterfall' date many months thereafter.  To tackle the fact that software projects have a 80% chance of slipping on quality, budget or delivery date, a alternative to this waterfall method has emerged.  Called Agile, it involves periodic and ongoing testing and review, results in progressive iterations as opposed to a single

Creativity within a framework – that is the flexibility to adapt to emerging needs and changing requirements, to creatively overcome obstacles and delays. 

An increasingly scientific approach to project management, including merging a variety of practices and processes throughout the organisation into one.  That includes; the application of management techniques such as TQM, lean thinking and continuous improvement.

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