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Keep the Value Coming

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In this age of hyper attention on ROI, it's no surprise organizations are worried about sustaining value--or not sustaining it, I suppose, in the case of some organizations. According to the preliminary results of PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management, organizations that stop focusing on the value of project management can, in fact, destroy any value they ever had.
    Seems simple, right? To remain competitive, continuous improvement is necessary. Look through job descriptions related to project management and you almost always see the words "continuous improvement" in the list of duties.
    But continuous improvement doesn't just happen. Project managers get in ruts. And it's easy to just do things the way they've always been done. It takes a leader to keep things moving--and to ensure project management continues to support the organization's strategic direction.
    Because with the loss of value comes expanded scopes, extended schedules and exploding budgets. And nobody wants that.

Everyday Value

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I've been covering project management for nearly three years now. I've learned many things about scope creep and schedules and budgets. I know intimate details of some of the world's most extravagant projects (usually in Dubai, United Arab Emirates) as well as some of more mundane ones--both types equally important to their stakeholders, of course.

What I've also come to learn is the ways project management can be implemented into everyday life. Whether it's planning a party or publishing a magazine, life sure can be made easier with a project plan.

Here at PM Network, our project manager has the title of managing editor. He builds and monitors the schedules, prioritizes work and makes sure all members of the team are communicating any problems that may delay our final delivery. It's a role that takes patience, for sure, because in the world of publishing something inevitably always comes up.

You don't always have to have the title "project manager" to use project management to deliver value.

The New ROI, continued ...

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Roger Chou, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan-based CEO of Advanced Business Consulting, a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.), recently weighed in on project ROI and the project manager role in strategic direction:

"If executives want project managers to think about the organization's strategic direction, the best way is to include them in the discussion of long-term strategy planning and in the relevant processes that help form a consensus. Constant discussion between executives and project managers on how to achieve the organization's long-term objectives allows project managers to propose feasible solutions, projects or programs that addresses, and is beneficial to, the organization's strategic direction, forming a top-down mutual understanding."

The New ROI?

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The Researching the Value of Project Management study raised some serious questions about ROI. It may even cause project professionals and executives alike to re-evaluate their definition of what ROI actually is. According to the study, organizations are looking for more than just the usual "on schedule and on budget" demands from project management.

So what satisfies organizations now in terms of ROI? My theory--and granted, it's not a groundbreaking one--is that organizations now expect project management to contribute to the overall business strategy and results of the organization.

I checked in with Sheilina Somani, PMP, owner of the U.K.-based Positively Project Management consulting firm, and a PM Network columnist. And here's what she had to say:

"I'm experiencing more management commitment to meeting performance indicators and creating organizational value--such as optimizing a process, increasing efficiency, streamlining business efforts and, of course, cost saving, which in the current economic climate is critical."

But that raises another important question: How can executives get project managers to consider the overall business strategy of an organization when they launch a project? Ms. Somani had some thoughts on this as well.

"I believe this is the responsibility of the project manager. For me, working as a [project manager] for a client, I expect to have to know the business, ask questions about strategy and understand where the project fits for the organization. To have executives encourage/direct project managers to think this way--first of all make it part of the job role--an explicit responsibility to know the business, the marketplace of the organization and the corporate strategy. Thereafter, it's by asking questions of the [project manager] regarding the organizational value of the project, the perceived benefits to the organization and of the course the strategic fit."

The Benefit of the Intangible

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I have interviewed countless project managers, program managers, team members and executives for PM Network, PMP Passport and other PMI publications and there was often a common theme: Good project management practices equal a single vocabulary, increased transparency, and better teamwork across cultures and time zones. So when the preliminary results of Researching the Value of Project Management were presented a couple of weeks ago at PMI's Research Conference was it really any surprise the sources interviewed said basically the exact same thing? No.

Just because these benefits are often described as "intangible," it doesn't mean they are any less important than "tangible" benefits. In fact, these intangibles are often what make the tangibles--such as on budget and on schedule--possible.

What was surprising, however, was that many companies in the study--probably even ones that have been investing in project management for long periods of time--don't track their ROI. Why not? It's not as if this is some small investment or time commitment. If an organization was investing in the latest piece of technology that promised to save money or reduce the time spent working on a single task wouldn't they track that? Wouldn't they want to know they invested wisely?

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Voices of Project Management is the place for all things project management—covering sustainability, talent management, ROI, programs and portfolios and all points in between. The goal is to spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with, want more information on or even disagree with leave a comment.