If you look at any of the myriad project management flow charts or functional descriptions, you will see a set of functions and practices focused on budget and risk management.
The typical project manager is asked to keep the assigned project on time and on budget while minimizing risk items to both of these. This is important from an accounting perspective; however, I would like to inject notions of value and innovation.
In contrast, the concepts of value and innovation are strewn across product and product market management models and practices. Adaptive models on the product management side and pragmatic ones on the marketing side use words like “innovation,” “value” or “competitiveness.” These terms and frameworks instill a sense of business value and long-term outlook.
Most IT project managers are given a set budget and a concrete timeline for delivering a given application. These rigid channels of performance are meant to control scope and risk. Statistics reported by the Standish Group International have placed project failure rate due to disappointing results or abandonment as high as 75 percent. And only 16.2 percent of projects are delivered on time and on budget according to the Standish study. These are frightening numbers. So, tight control is needed to avoid wasting time and money, right?
I posit that many projects are failures in the eyes of investors regardless of whether the project is on time or on budget. I also suspect that the delivered application/solution value will erode quickly and the cost to maintain will increase after its release. The project manager is trained to control the scope of their delivery and avoid becoming concerned with future implications. In fact, most project managers are then moved to another project while another operations team takes over KTLO (keep the lights on) maintenance.
This practice of scope management taught to traditional IT project managers constrains the initial release functionality and potential customer base. Post-release, the delivered application goes into maintenance while enhancement and expansion slow or cease. Who evangelizes the delivered product and shepherds the future generations?
The practices, methodologies and mindset of the product manager must be put into place to create a sense of investment, rather than that of a one-time project . The product manager is a long-term owner. From version 1.0 to version X, the product manager nurtures the solution and, with the product marketing manager, exploits the investment into new customers and markets.
The project management practice is not set up for exploiting their delivery into other areas of the business. They have no incentive or direction to leverage efforts to other uses or customers. The project manager is tasked for the delivery of their assigned budget and time allotment – period.
As an example, let’s say that a company is developing a new customer master solution geared toward a new online presence. The project manager will be provided the scope of the effort and the resource allotment estimated to cover the delivery. Requests from the customer support group to leverage the wealth created by having a single integrated customer view will be shunned if it is not in the original scope. Likewise, overtures from the financial analysis team to exploit the data for customer value analysis will also be shunned. The project manager is trained to keep concrete requirements and ignore pleas to expand the scope.
However, the product manager and the product marketing manager will look at these as opportunities to expand their customer base and leverage the development dollar. Their practices will quickly assess the business value and investment for a longer-term success. The typical project management practice will start a lengthy change request process designed to hinder rather than embrace change.
IT delivery teams need to take a lesson from product management and product marketing. Thinking value-based delivery will increase the initial delivery value and set a process for longer-term investment management.
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