Do we really need a “New Project Manager” discussion?

After creating and announcing this new space to discuss a possible new approach to Project Management, I’ve collected really interesting feedback from my network, specially on LinkedIn.

Open discussions provide knowledge and progress. We must find time to participate in our personal development as well as the community of practitioners of the fine art of Project Management.

For instance, Miguel Mira da Silva wrote:

“in fact there is already lots of research about “usage” being the main cause of information system success/impact/etc.
However, information systems have been developed according to so-called scope (i.e. requirements defined before the project by IT experts) not usage (i.e. measured after the project from real-world users) and that’s the required change! So the solution should not be a new focus on usage away from time and budget, but a focus on usage instead of scope!!
This change is even more important today when requirements are becoming ever more difficult to define… but that should not mean that time and budget are less important! Quite the opposite — the less we rely on scope, the more important time and budget become!!
PS: Usage is just a measure, John Ward has written a lot about benefits that go far beyond usage.

I totally agree with Miguel when he says that we can focus on usage (or other benefit from a network of benefits, like the one J. Ward described) but we still need to manage time and budget. When I’ve mentioned before that usage is not top of mind in the typical Project Manager “mindset” and it should, I didn’t want to say to completely forget about other variables.

I wanted to convey about usage as a priority, not as a replacement for everything else.

Maybe usage as a metric to understand if we do have a good User Experience. And sometimes people still think that User Experience (UX) is only about web design, it’s not crucial, and the web designer will solve all the problems on this matter.

It’s important to remember that UX means building something Useful, Usable and Valuable… for the user! That’s why it’s called User Experience.

But to attain the desirable level of UX (useful, usable and valuable…) we can easily agree that’s the job of the whole team and not only the person with the responsibility for “web design” (user interface only, in most of the cases).

Pedro Martins wrote:

“moving from PMs to Product Managers, or Product Owners, can only happen when the projects funding approach also change.”

From my personal experience, I agree with Pedro’s comment. Specially if it’s a project based on public procurement rules, where you usually need to specify the full scope and how much it will cost to build the product or service.

This approach also known as “fixed price project” is an heritage from the waterfall methodology were one should guess everything at the initial phase. Usually it’s a fallacy and that’s why we now use iterative and incremental methodologies as a solution to the initial ambiguity one can find in software development endeavors.

We have an open flank here to discuss how procurement is directly correlated with the success of failure of a project and how an organisation must be (re)designed to have the right conditions to better support the Project Manager…

… and we can also discuss when an organization buys a “fixed price project”, usually the Project Manager is only focused on protecting gross margin instead of celebrating project’s benefits (usage, conversion, etc). In most of the the cases the Project Manager will be from the vendor and the customer will have one or more points of contacts to follow-up with execution. This is the typical architecture of a software development project in public organisations in Portugal.

Andreia Bastos shared her thoughts mentioning that a Project Manager should be renamed to Engagement Manager because the focus should be on people and relations. Something that Outsystems is promoting since more 10 years ago with the “methodology that bundles with there agile low code platform”. And yes, I agree with Andreia. “Engagement Manager” is more meaningful specially if you want to show that you are more focused on users than on other variables.

Rui Vale wrote:

I wonder how much better able stakeholders would be at validating such prospective ‘usage’. The Agile mantra also longs to replace scope with ‘business value’, an intangible more akin to a social research construct than verifiable fitness to stated purpose. Standish Group did that too, to extend the ‘usage’ of their report. Not sure if this is a paradigm shift but I tend to give in to Kuhn that we’re dealing with a mélange of sociology, enthusiasm and scientific promise, not a logically determinate procedure. I would stick with old scope, take an honest pain to define the requirements, and the required stamina to revise and change it whenever necessary.

First of all, thank you Rui Vale for the outstanding comment you shared with us. It shows experience and deep knowledge on trying to understand the dark science of <you name it> management. :)

I do agree with the melange of sociology, enthusiasm and scientific promise. From my experience as a Project Manager (or Engagement Manager like Andreia Bastos defends) I can say that 90% of the success I’ve had was mostly about sociology and enthusiasm and adjustable scientific methods according with the situation. I would like to understand if the mixture is something that depends on the organisation (culture), the project, team, project manager, or any other variables. Something I will have more to share in the upcoming months since I’m currently managing projects in Ireland after moving from Portugal, were all my experience was gained.

To cope with this different points of views I think the best decision will be to continue to post about Project Management, Project Managers, and all the subjects related with this passion we have :)

The more we study the better we will when performing this fine art. The more engaged we are with discussion forums, the better the community will be.

…and yes, I think we have enough arguments to continue the discussion about a new Project Manager / Project Management approach.

I wish you a wonderful 2018 full of success and joy! And keep sharing, commenting, following, to make sure we are all better professionals by the end of this year!

Hugo de Sousa

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.