Notes from Strategic Project Management Courses

Over the last two weeks I had the pleasure of taking two online courses offered by Skillsoft: Strategic Planning and Positioning for IT Projects and Strategic Approaches to Managing IT Projects.

Each of these courses accounted for 5 professional development units (PDUs), which I needed to get me over the 60 PDU threshold to renew my PMP certification through the Project Management Institute.  As I  was taking the course, I quickly realized that the content was quite good in comparison to many of the other online courses I participated in for the sake of collecting PDUs.

Below are some of the notes I took that highlight the key takeaways for strategic project management.

Three strategies to approach project management like a consultant

Strategy 1 – Map critical business process to information systems, then develop recommendations to enhance or replace the information systems

  • Define critical business processes
  • Identify the information systems that support the critical business processes
  • Analyze the strengths and weakness of the information systems
    • Create a strategic systems plan
      1. Determine objective for each system component
      2. Identify constraints that  may not allow you to reach the objectives
      3. Look for workarounds for the constraints to try to still reach your objective
      4. Come up with action items for each component objective that addresses the objectives and incorporates the workarounds for the constraints in the form of a tangible project
  • Develop a recommendation
    • Decide whether or not the information systems complement the critical business processes and identify system activities to address this
    • Classify system activities as being either operations, maintenance or enhancements to ensure that the budgeted cost for each activity are used appropriately

Strategy 2 – Review all current projects and develop recommendations for changes

  • Assess all current IT projects to determine if and how they are aligned with the critical business process
  • Prioritize IT projects based on the current assignment of critical resources
  • Develop recommendations to change the priority that may include project termination due to limited benefits to the company or inefficient use of personnel

Strategy 3 – Come up with ideas for new IT projects and make sure all new projects use information systems effectively

  • Talk with team members to see if they have any ideas for new projects
    • Lead your team in strategic process planning
      1. Access current IT processes to find weaknesses/issues
        • Define the requirements to fix the weaknesses/issues and
        • Define the benefits of the change
      2. Analyze the system and technology required for the requirements and high level cost
      3. Get buy-in from executives if cost  or user impact surpasses threshold
        • Impact on profits
        • How it will affect work schedules
        • Long term benefits
      4. Determine the cost of system requirements to implement  and maintain
        • Number of users affected
        • Number of licenses needed
        • Training cost
        • Deployment cost
        • Operation and maintenance cost
        • Upgrade cost
        • Outside consulting cost
  • New ideas must include the purpose, scope, high level schedule, benefits and, high level cost
  • Ensure new projects use information systems effectively by playing an active role in discussions kicking-off all new projects.

Taking a Strategic Approach to Project Planning

  • Use a SWOT analysis to help gather information needed to create a strategic project plan
  • Get clear understanding of what your company does well and what areas can be improved
  • Know if your company is in a good position to accept a project
  • Help you approach your project with a clear view of what your company has to offer the project at hand
  • Talk to your client about the purpose and identify their high level goals
    • This will not be the tangible finished IT product, but more of a business result (increased sales, decreased cost, etc.)
  • Get end user input
    • Find out what they want they want from the project deliverable
    • Use surveys, interviews, and internet research
  • Develop a strong measurement tool
    • Make sure you are certain that your are meeting the project goal
    • Look through the eyes of the person who will reap the benefit
    • Develop the tool before the project begins
    • Ask your client how success will be measured
    • You may needed technical people to develop a custom measurement tool
  • How you will make work instructions available to the team, provide technical support, bridge technology gaps, and support the following types of methods and tool you will use to
    • Managing network and security
    • Software updates
    • Editing software and media libraries
    • Configuration management
    • Monitoring software use
  • Method to develop project template (table that list tasks and resources assigned to task)
  • How you will create the budget
    • Hardware
    • Software
    • Network
    • Personnel
  • Strategic  steps to follow to be confident that you satisfy your client
  • How to create a strategic project plan

Strategic Project Positioning

  • Determine the critical areas of performance goals of your clients
  • Influence their perception of what you can provide them to help them reach those goals
  • Don’t be an order taker, instead find a way to be a partner
  • Strategic positioning starts when prospecting for potential clients and in planning sessions before meeting with a client.
  • Focus on more than the client’s main goal and position your project to achieve multiple goals
    • Place each goal into an echelon
    • Use the echelons as stepping stones to help increase the significance of your project to the client by making each project goal reach to a higher echelon
    • There are 5 general echelons of project goals listed from most to least important
      • Organizational (increasing profits/decrease cost)
      • External/Customer (improve retention/ reduce complaints)
      • Inter-departmental (improve work functions)
      • Operational (improve the performance of operations)
      • Feature (performance of a system or process)
  • Steps to develop a strategic project position not accurately
    • Identify decision makers and who will determine whether or not your project was a success or failure
    • Identify the decision maker’s critical areas of performance (challenges or problems that the decision makers are trying to resolve)
    • Place these critical areas of performance into echelons to find links to business goals
    • Present your findings to the client
  • Strategic positioning alternatives to save a project when client is expecting something not accurately described in the scope statement
    • Lower exceptions of decision makers
      • You must write a tight scope statement a try to achieve at least part of the vision with the client’s approval to reduce scope by presenting them the pros and cons.
      • Must ensure decision makers understand the reasons for this action
      • Gives you the change to have your project seen as partial success
    • Elevate the scope to achieve higher project goal
      • Must plan resources carefully and watch timeline
      • Choose this alternative when
        • Refusal to increase scope will jeopardize change for future business
        • Scope can be increased with minimum impact
        • You can improve the current project and still be profitable
    • Move the project forward with client consultation
      • Very risky approach
      • Could lead to disappointed client
      • Must ensure your project team is aware you are taking this course of action
      • This may be a good option when you have insufficient or little guidance from client

2 Responses to Notes from Strategic Project Management Courses

  1. Ahmed September 27, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Thanks Chistopher it’s vey helpfull, I am search for any articles that can help me in my thesis which about the strategic project management so kindly if you know any sources I will be higly appreciated tanks agin

    • Christopher Mance II September 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      I’d recommend Michael Porter’s articles: “The Five Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy” , “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy”, and “What is Strategy”

      Michael Porter’s body of work on strategy is not directly related to Project Management, but it will provide you some great insights about strategic thinking for a thesis.

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