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How the right approach leads to great results

Project management shifts from focusing on the result to guiding the team with the right roadmap.

Developers often tend to think in black-and-white terms. They think digital, in bits and bytes and more importantly, in specifically defined results. They like to create the most beautiful product possible, written in elegant code. On the other side you have the business needs of the client, requesting a certain result. You would think that this should not be that hard, right? Still, not every IT project seems to bring what is desired. What makes this whole process so delicate? Moreover, what is the underlying challenge we meet in IT projects?

Different backgrounds

Working on an IT project means collaboration between multiple disciplines. Those disciplines have divergent interpretations of the problems that need to be solved. Hereby, you can think of a technical point of view versus a business point of view. Furthermore, these project members will all have various experiences from earlier projects. In order to carefully align the whole team in the right direction, you should start with making clear what the result of the project needs to be. This could be defined in specific and tangible deliverables, but also on a more abstract level. Think about a new way of working.

Project versus objectives

Projects in the field of Customer Experience appear in various ways. Projects can be very technical, such as building a commerce platform with integrations to several other systems. They can also arrive as big changes to existing implementations, which requires more coordination and optimization of business elements. Every project has a clear business value, with some projects having more emphasis and complexity on a technical and integrational level than others. As a result, a big part of the team will focus on the technical point of view during those projects, while the rest of the team has less affinity with these kinds of challenges. Especially when the biggest challenges of that project mainly exist on the technical side of the project.

Focus on the way

Thinking from a product perspective versus the realization of business value are two completely different things. Not the best product is desired, but the best fit between demand and solution is desired. A perfect world does not exist; therefore a 100% fit does not exist either. You need to search for the best solution possible and find the right mix. From this perspective it is crucial for the team to have an unambiguous image of the intended result, how to get there and how to facilitate this.

It is important to formulate a specific and clear project result. For those team members that have the required amount of experience in working on technical projects, this will be enough guidance to navigate through the project. But what if you have less experienced team members on board, for whom such a project has not always been a daily job?

Project Management needs to reserve enough time to instruct the whole team about the road to the best possible project result.

Project approach from now on

Every project comes in stages. Each stage on their turn has deliverables. A stage can be closed when every part of this particular stage has been delivered. This means a clear focus on WHAT.

Experience has taught us that enduring a project the HOW can be underexposed. Discuss the roadmap with your team and how to divide all tasks. When we know what to deliver, this will be enough input for an experienced team member. Collaborations with different disciplines in varying compositions is part of the job. But as an individual you are not winning a competition. Use the sprint planning together with the business owner and key users, discuss what you are going to pick up, how you are going to validate, and how to functionally validate the tasks. This can be seen as input and control for the receiving party. As a project team, you should have focus on how to reach the result and how to validate this result with your team.

So this means that you should not only discuss the requirements of the deliverables with your project team, but also make sure that the process owner explains the business value to the team. This clarifies what is needed during the process and how to make choices. Discuss how to test deliverables and how the solution will be used by its end users. Moreover, also discuss how to embed the result in the organization and how to materialize the added value of the chosen solutions.

The business driver is key for the project approach that we use. This becomes clear during the Discovery stage. The result of this stage is very important for continuation of the process. Hence, it is necessary to take time for this part of the process. Prioritizing the business value makes it easier to preserve focus during the whole process. The developer needs to be triggered to think about the added value of each feature and the business delegation needs to be challenged to focus on what is most important.

A project approach with the right roadmap will be more maintainable. Dependencies and risks will be identified in an early stage. It becomes easier to adjust on the road and work towards to the best possible project result. It is important that this is being tracked any time during the process. In short, by adding this nuance, business will be in control during the whole process. This is a very important condition to reach a project result with the right business value.

Jan Willem Kroneman