Have you ever come across cases of projects, that satisfied all the predefined constraints yet they were perceived as failures?
I recently attended a CIO conference, and took the opportunity to talk with a lot of people trying to understand if they applied formal project management and operations practices. I was not surprised to find out that many were frustrated by the formality of such frameworks and practices. Frustrated, to the point that even successful by -conventional KPIs- projects “did not feel right”.
I wondered: is it the project management formality that is frustrating, or the contrast of it against the way business needs to operate today? Would agile project management provide the answer? Well .. it is not an easy answer.
Agile Project Management would be the solution, if the problem was the application of plan-driven project management in an agile organization. Unfortunately in most cases we as CxOs face the incompatibility of any framework no matter how flexible it is with the way the rest of our organization operates. In fact, one of the top challenges in organizations today is the strategy-operations mismatch. This results in :
- increased operation costs as well as in
- failed projects leading to rework
Environmental volatility mandates operational flexibility, as strategic horizon shortens. In order to meet this mandate, organizations either invest on adapting their organizational structure to a more lean and change receptive one, or just pay the increased cost of attempting to operate in the old fashioned way.
In many cases, the first step towards a more lean and flexible organization is adopting agile project management methods. I cannot stress enough, that the selection of change-driven (agile) project management methods is definitely part of the answer, but it does not provide a complete solution and will definitely not meet high expectations regarding lean change driven management.
In my experience, the part of the operational environment that is usually missing in order for the lean and flexible organization target to be achieved, is the one that corresponds to Business Architecture and Business Analysis (the “ownership undefined” part in the image above that you can enlarge if you click on it). This function is the structural joint, that connects Business with IT and in most cases is dispersed in an ad hoc way among business stakeholders without a common approach. This results in increased indirect costs due to the disconnect between strategic options and operations, as well as in direct costs because specific business challenges are addressed reactively, with specific high maintenance solutions instead of platform solutions, that will support strategic initiatives.
In either case, the main issue is that unless the whole business environment is supported by a commonly agreed set of flexible frameworks, methods and tools, there are communication gaps that can be dealt with a penalty in flexibility, increased costs and stakeholder frustration.
IT may have selected and implemented the most flexible methods for lean project management, and the best tools for building and managing low cost solutions but unless there is a seamless flow from the expression of a business need or the appearance of an opportunity to operationalizing the result of the related project, gaps are bound to exist penalizing agility and increasing operational cost.
Regardless of the organizational structure, the ownership of the Business Achitecture / Business Analysis domain, either as an independent unit of in-house business consultants or through IT, can and should drive the effort to :
- design and implement a lean, specific, change-driven Business Framework that would combine the merits of different existing frameworks as shown in the picture above and
- select or design and implement the necessary tools and processes in order to support a seamless flexible operational environment.
WARNING: Such a framework would represent the culture of the organization and cannot be a product or a tool that can be purchased and applied. It is not a “get a consulting firm to introduce Balanced Scorecard” kind of approach, although such an approach could be part of the business framework.
So if it is not something that can be purchased, how can an organization build it? Having an extensive experience on managing projects within the financial services industry, I decided to study the most important frameworks as soon as I understood the issues that lack of common formal knowledge and the myopia of fragmented approaches causes. The certifications in ITIL and PMI as well as my current effort for BA certification and study of TOGAF have strengthened my belief that a holistic approach and well trained teams with clear interfaces across the organization from board members to operators are the ONLY chance any effort has to succeed when it comes to increasing the operational agility of an organization and reducing operational costs.
What does this mean in practice? How do we do it? If you’ve got this far and you’re interested, please contact me with a description of your organization and I’ll be happy to provide a brief description of how would I approach a business framework implementation in your case.