Becoming cross-skilled in projects, programmes and portfolios
Blog posted by: David Smallwood – Director, e-careers, 13 July 2022.
Business leaders taking stock of the past couple of years know that skills are going to be hugely important for recovery and growth.
Delivering extraordinary change at pace has highlighted the need for structure, standards and expertise that isn’t bound by traditional role definitions of business analyst, project and programme manager.
Skill sets that stretch across these disciplines are now what’s needed for success. Today, HR is more likely to be tasked with finding project managers with business analytical skills and vice versa, or a programme manager with project management skills.
One of the driving forces behind these demands it that businesses are now realizing that just throwing in new IT or doing some new project just to add something to the business for the sake of it, when it doesn’t add value is not change. But, to facilitate real change and make sure it is done right, means that we need the right people in the right places to make sure that we change for the better, rather than just applying a buzzword.
It may surprise you that in Europe the practice of business cases, risk management and benefits management is relatively immature compared to counterparts in the Middle East, China, and the US.
In part, this immaturity and the employment of narrow specialists is a hangover from the economic shock in 2007-9. Survival was very much about control, with leaders employing specialists rather than generalists. Today, organizations need people with a mixture of depth and breadth in their skill.
Achieving real business transformation
However, things are starting to turn. The economic upheaval and change associated with shocks like Covid-19 globally and Brexit in the UK has illustrated that versatile skills deliver far more benefit to the business in the short and long-term.
While there’s been a great deal of focus on transformation and change, invariably what’s happened is that a project or programme’s completed solution or outputs to solve a problem or gain an opportunity have been thrown out into the business in the name of progress. It misses the point, which is not about any one product but changing the business fundamentally.
True business transformation happens when bringing together projects that share a common goal. In effect, they build the overall jigsaw puzzle of small changes that add up to a full picture, or what we would consider a strategic change. This creates the synergy that is lacking and ensures projects are not loosely tied together.
It’s for this reason that I think the Axelos ProPath designations are so apt.
By combining certifications in PRINCE2 or PRINCE2 Agile, Management of Risk (M_o_R), and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), project managers will understand both management of change and risk within an overall programme. And this also leads the practitioner to either an Axelos ProPath Project Expert or Agile Project Expert designation.
At Axelos ProPath Programme Leader level, which includes MSP, Management of Portfolios (MoP) and Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O), professionals see how programmes fit within the constraints of an annual budget as well as being able to provide the right support mechanisms for all change initiatives.
These practitioners will be the most successful at delivering change at a project or programme level, while gaining the support of senior leaders tasked with sponsoring these changes.
Turning knowledge into power
As a trainer, I believe I play an important role in ensuring this is the outcome. Helping people complete courses and get certificates is, of course, my remit; but knowledge isn’t powerful unless it’s applied to the real world and the context of the organization.
When delivered this way, people tend to have a ‘lightbulb’ moment. Theory clicks into place, and they become champions for standards and getting things done the right way. Trends that have become normalized, like ‘cutting costs always requires redundancy’, are challenged. They begin to see that costs can be trimmed by process improvement and skill can be retained and deployed to innovate and grow.
It’s for this reason I think those who complete the certifications that feed into Axelos ProPath designations will become future business leaders: championing best practice that pays dividends for the company, the shareholder, the employee, and the customer.
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