Three project management professionals talk about the industry. What are the biggest challenges faced by project managers today? What methodology is best? And what is the true measure of a project’s success?
Eve Vickerson is a senior town planner from Brisbane who works on multi-million dollar developments and has a background as a project manager. She has a degree in town planning and a diploma in project management, and is keenly watching the shift to the Agile methodology.
“It has been described as a disciplined execution with continuous innovation,” she says. “It is more of an iterative approach, unlike the traditional Waterfall method where you come up with a big plan upfront and you work out everything. [Agile] allows you to innovate along the way.
“Instead of saying, ‘Let’s build an elaborate six-tier cake’, if you’re not sure that that’s what you want, you can just bake some basic cupcakes to try it out, see how that goes, then try some more.”
“Agile was driven from the bottom up and was developed by software engineers who traditionally didn’t have a very good relationship with project managers. Their attitude was: ‘This isn’t working, so we’ve got to come up with something’.
Todd Hunt served 20 years in Defence in communications engineering and systems architecture. He then worked for Boeing for five years in project and program management roles before entering the consulting domain.
He is now a director of P2E, which specialises in transformational change supported through strategic planning, portfolio, program and project management disciplines.
Hunt says one of the big issues is project managers not getting the right support in a business. “We have seen the same problems occur over and over,” he says. “Generally if you lift the bonnet and start having a good look around, the project manager has often been hamstrung, whether through poor business management practices and processes, security, or a lack of timely response from the business.”
Another issue is governance, with boards failing to fully investigate risk. “Sometimes you can sit in these sessions and see the same risk appear three and four times. Yet executives aren’t asking the questions around those key areas.”
Julia Steel heads up project management at Telstra and has a background in telcos and consulting. She uses a variety of project management methodologies with her teams at Telstra.
“What you need for an IT project in terms of tools is going to be very different to HR or construction projects,” she says. “You have to find the tools to suit the project and the environment. But once you’ve picked the tool, you need to be really clear that’s the tool and that’s the source of information, because the tool should facilitate the management of the project.
“The last thing you want is to have a tool that people should be using, but instead they are using a whole lot of other things around that tool. Then you haven’t got a central point to understand where your project is at. That’s not just in relation to the project manager, but also the project team, the sponsor, the stakeholders.
“You should all be looking at the same information. People need to be clear on what the single source of truth is, in terms of information. That gets rid of a whole load of communication-related problems.”