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Addressing project management issues in business

Project management is not only for construction and for IT but is a necessary skill for most business people faced with day-to-day projects in their work.
Companies often run projects of various sizes, whether these are a recruitment campaign, setting up new procedures, organising of an event, or moving offices but each project is used as a mechanism for the creation of business change and purpose to add to business value.

Often managers who have a natural or intuitive ability to 'get things done' but who lack the support and/or knowledge necessary to make the process as efficient as possible run these projects.

For some time, IT has been tasked with running projects, with one of the most common results being that business has become more and more alienated from projects that take on a jargon and structure that most business units are unable to understand or work with.

There is a very real need to equip members of the business community with the skills necessary to run the projects that make up day-to-day work. PiCubed has developed a short course that deals with the reality of running business projects.

Identify project challenges

When trying to create structure in chaos, a good place to start is to identify the type of project you are currently working with - is it the most simple 'Paint by Number' project type? Or the more complex 'Working in Fog' project type, which deals with the complexities of running projects where there is no clear consensus between stakeholders on what must be achieved?

A second challenge that must be tackled when running projects within business is prioritisation of project work. Getting predictable access to staff is not easy and the true availability of team members to work on the project is likely to be affected by the ebbs and flows of operational work. To make things worse, it is rare that the business project manager has any input to team member performance evaluations. Given that usually the staff's direct manager performs these evaluations, it is a reasonable assumption that their focus is often more on their day-to-day activities than the project activities.

While business projects may not be large, more often than not, they are complex. That is why introductory training courses, focused on technical project principles, so often miss the mark for managers who run business projects. In this case, projects are the best approach for facilitating operational changes and the development of new products, but they are also something that must be done on top of one's day job - and done now. Development for business project managers must provide tools that are immediately of use. It must also help managers recognise the types of project they are working with and what techniques should be applied when.

Projects can deliver strategy

Growing capability for delivering projects within the business line is increasingly being seen by organisations as crucial to delivering business strategy. Apart from the fact that there are just too many projects; many projects benefit from being structured and delivered by those people who are closest to wanting the project outcomes, ie those who want to make it happen, those who will own the outcomes and will exploit and use the benefits delivered by the investment in the project. While there will always be a place for the 'professional project manager' on our most complex projects, business project management and the need to develop capability to deliver projects in the business line is here to stay - equip yourself now.

About the author

Louise Worsley is the director of PiCubed.