Project Management after the fact: Lessons I have learned

I have recently been addressing an issue of transition I have had with one of my  projects at EMC. I believe this issue affects a lot of people in the tech industry who find themselves entering Project Managment. When do you & your organization turn your project over to operations ?

Lets get some definition of a project for clarity.

A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken, to create a unique product or service”.

So it says on page 14 of my Project Management manual.

It goes on to say:

  • Temporary implies a definite beginning and end. “
  • “Unique implies different from previous work”

So I undertook formal Project Management Certification training in late October of 2012, as we had started to execute on EMC Elect and well after we had established EMC Ask the Expert as a going concern.

And was my head reeling after learning the PMI process in its correct form?

It was.

Did I feel like a bad Project Manager?

Yes.

Did I feel incompetent?

No.  I realized that while I had not followed the  PMI Institutes process to the letter I had still effectively managed the Project to a success.  Particularly as EMC Ask the Expert had ceased to be a project and was now an operational process. I had used common sense, EMC best practices and processes, and had manged the project successfully. But not without pitfalls.

You see I believe I hit the problem most Program Managers have in corporations around the world. Intending to turn your project over to operations but not fully planning it? As in, when exactly that happens or how you manage it? How do you manage turning a project into an operation or part of operations? Especially when you are in an environment where execution is taking place and rather rapidly and continuously across your organization at a fast and sometimes frenetic pace?

Lets look again at what the my manual says about “Projects Vs Operations”

Projects

  • Unique and Temporary
  • Have their own charter, goal and team
  • Driver of Change
  • Delivers a unique product or service
  • Heterogeneous team mix
  • Focus on effectiveness

Operations

  • Repetitive / Ongoing
  • Semi-permanent charter, goal and team
  • Manage “status quo”
  • Delivers Repeat product or service
  • Homogeneous team mix
  • Focus on efficiency”

It’s clear with time and a clear head plus training to see the distinct differences. But really it all can be avoided with planning (and training). Planning is the most important of all Project Management processes. But it seems to be something that suffers the most. Most of us if not all of us know planning is important. But in an execution mind set it can falter. You are working rapidly to bring something to life that will address a unique need. You want it to a be a long living operational piece. But did you set that out as part of your planning?

Planning is obviously where I fell down. Now I am not saying I had no planning. Of course I did. But I never documented in the plan about moving my project to operations. .  It was an assumption without including that in a formal plan in nothing other than a line to say that it would be integrated into eServices Support Community operations.

if 90% of a project Managers time is in communication, it is important to have a complete plan to communicate.

Having realized this following my training ( PMI Institute recognized training, provided by Velopi Ltd through EMC’s education program) I had to address this.

EMC Ask the Expert was an operational process. Furthermore there was another project underway for EMC Ask the Expert , which was a phase II execution. (integrating EMC Ask the Expert into newly launched products and services)  Once I saw the disconnect I had a hard task before me. The project team, was now the managing team for Ask the Expert Operations and Ask the Expert Phase II project and Part of the EMC Elect Project Team.

This caused contention for resources. Not a thing you need to invent for yourself. Hind sight is 20/20 vision. And once you identify a fault you have to address it.

We are in the process of doing so now.

While keeping Ask the Expert operations running, managing the phase II Ask the Expert Project, and Managing the EMC Elect Project,  both Stephanie McBride and I have documented the operational piece of Ask the expert. We also utilized a work break down structure and work packages to communicate with relevant business units,  on how they will integrate Ask the expert Operations into their business operations. We are communicating this out now and integrating it into operations.

This is in all honesty is work we could have done earlier in the project. It actually is now an additional mini project. It is worth the effort to do this however and if you are in this predicament I urge you to look at your project. Is it in fact an operations module now?  What planning have you done to integrate this operations piece to your current operations process? How do you avoid becoming the operations manager? Or have you planned to do that?

These are vital questions to ask, to plan for and to communicate with your stakeholders. It is worth it and in the end you will be a better Project Manager for it.  Your business unit will be more streamlined and robust for it .

I know I am the better for the experience. I also know there is so much more to learn and that no one and can rest on their laurels.

I would hope this helps others in their forays in Project Management. Do let me know your thoughts and feel free to share your stories around the subject. Does your organization suffer with transitioning from Project to Operations?

How do you mitigate and manage the transition?

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