2018: Keep Calm and Collaborate On

by By David Stevens, Planview / 1/9/2018 12:43:21 PM

You’ve spent your career devoted to your discipline, putting rigour around your project methodologies, governance, and tools to ensure progress and control. However, in 2018 get ready for a bunch of bulls to come charging into your china shop – if they aren’t already mustering at your door.

It’s becoming more challenging to create today’s complex, interconnected products and services. Projects are not even the focus anymore in many organisations. And the speed of business is making the annual plan a dusty relic of the past.

In addition, teams are increasingly virtual. You’re dealing with a more diverse set of people with different roles, communication styles, methodologies, and tools. They’re managing all sorts of projects in all sorts of ways – without so much as a nod to traditional project management.

Indeed, a consequence of working in multidisciplinary teams is an ad-hoc approach to management and execution. Everyone seems to be a project manager these days. In a Planview pan-European survey, 70 percent of 1,200 business professionals said they lead or participate in projects but are not project management certified.

As a project manager, how on earth do you connect all of these dots? Amid all this chaos, the traditional project management environment is more important than ever – if you are willing to adapt and adopt more of a product-centric mind set.

Here’s what you’re facing in 2018 and why you are the glue that can hold everything – and everyone – together with a broader focus on collaboration.

Collaboration on Products not Projects

Products – not projects. This will be the focus of many more IT organisations in 2018. Gartner predicted a few years ago that by next year, 20 percent of businesses and their IT organisations will transition to product-centric planning. We think it’s already much higher than that.

CIO career coach and executive recruiter Martha Heller sees digital transformation as the catalyst to this changing role of IT: “… today, software and data are making their way into a company’s products and services – including products and services that generate revenue – so IT’s role is changing. IT no longer stops at supporting business strategy. It often defines it.”

In this context, speed and agility require a product mind set connected to business strategy. In fact, Gartner is also predicting that by 2021, 40 percent of IT staff will be “versatilists” who focus more on business than technology. These “people-centric roles and experience are a critical difference that will aid digital business transformation initiatives.”

What does this mean for you? To help your company reach its strategic objectives, you must think, plan, and manage in terms of the end products and services. You need to understand and account for everything needed to create them, such as applications, technologies, services, solutions, products, locations, and other essentials.

You’ll also need to help harness expertise from every area of your company and beyond, as well as execute across partners, suppliers, contractors, and others. Organisations need programs that permeate teams and transcend department boundaries.

Collaboration with Disparate Teams

To deliver these products and services, more people will be working on multidisciplinary teams across time zones, cultures, departments, and organisational boundaries in 2018.

Already, 85 percent of professionals work on virtual teams, according to an R3W CultureWizard survey of 1,372 business professionals in 80 countries. Nearly half of these teams include members from other nations, and more than 40 percent never meet in person. In the UK, remote and flexible work has increased dramatically. A report by OddsMonkey predicts that half of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020.

Without effective collaboration among these team members, productivity suffers. Business professionals waste four work weeks per year trying to collaborate, according to the Planview pan-European survey. It’s worse in the U.S., where project managers said they waste nine work weeks per year.

One factor is not using collaboration tools efficiently. The Planview survey also showed that the average person uses about four different tools to manage projects. However, one-third said no one on their team is using the same set of tools. They continue to fall back on traditional but limiting modes of communication, such as the phone, spreadsheets, and e-mail.

In addition, more than a quarter are “accidental” project managers, which means they find themselves managing projects, but it’s not their primary role. Most don’t have your training and skills to keep projects running smoothly. They do not today – nor will they ever – use a traditional project management methodology or tool.

Collaboration across Work Methods

With specialists required at every level to work on digital transformation initiatives and create new products and services, 2018 will continue to see a proliferation of work methodologies. From lean to agile to Stage-Gate® and beyond, it is critical to understand how different work methodologies are contributing to the whole.

The need to collaborate amongst all these specialists is also creating more “unstructured work.” This is the day-to-day work that employees do both individually and in teams, consisting of everything from tasks to meetings to communications.

In addition to the more structured project work that you monitor and manage, it will be critical to capture this unstructured output and integrate it into the big picture in 2018 to keep track of who’s doing what, when, and why.

Collaboration within a Framework of Constant Change

In 2018, break free from the tyranny of annual planning. As your organisation moves faster, it’s still critical to have a plan, but you must be able to adapt quickly. According to an IDG CIO Research Services survey, 85 percent of CIOs and IT leaders said they are straying away from their annual plan several times a year.

You’re dealing with a lot of knowns and unknowns going into 2018 – think Brexit, GDPR, and any other rapidly changing initiative requiring multidisciplinary collaboration. To cope, you must move beyond the rigidity of an annual plan to continuous planning on a quarterly, monthly, and even weekly basis. You’ll also need the ability to communicate adjustments and contingencies to adapt to changes.

Steps to Better Collaboration in 2018

Clearly, you need a way to herd all these cats and ensure that the work gets accomplished. Understanding all these issues and trends is the first step. Next, think longer term. Approach your job from a wider perspective, based on the end products and services your company is trying to create and the end value for the customer. Knowing what you are trying to achieve – and all the elements needed to get there – will help you plan and work better with your colleagues.

Speaking of planning and execution, another step you can take is to create a virtual workspace for your teams. Given the different characteristics of today’s teams, it is crucial to put everything they need in one place. By creating an office in the cloud, for example, organisations can help dispersed teams collaborate seamlessly regardless of each person’s role or location.

With the right capabilities embedded in this space, the teams you work with could do things such as give project status updates that everyone can see; communicate directly with anyone; access and edit project documents; and basically ensure work gets done at a high quality. Having one place to streamline work will also help you account for everyone’s unstructured as well as structured work, in support of your goals.

You can also improve communication and execution among teams by standardising on a few work collaboration tools and ensure everyone uses them consistently. A limited toolset will make it easier for everyone to focus on the work instead of too many disparate mediums. These tools should facilitate communications (such as instant messaging), document sharing, formalised planning and scheduling, task visualisation, and mobility. The simpler these tools are, the more teams will use them consistently.

In addition, an office in the cloud will make it easier for you and your teams to do continuous planning. With an up-to-date status of all work, you can more easily adjust plans based on all the twists and turns of execution.

Welcome to 2018! Keep calm and collaborate on!

About David Stevens

David Stevens is Planview vice president of sales for EMEA, APAC and Northern Europe. David has 27 years’ experience helping organisations solve business issues related to portfolio, resource and project management across EMEA.

David has worked with a wide range of industries and stakeholders and helped organisations at varying levels of portfolio management maturity address their business challenges.



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