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Change as a Positive Force in Project Portfolio Management
By Pradeep Bhanot

My work in change management has taught me that change is enviable and should be embraced, not feared. Project management needs the formality of traditional methods to satisfy the need for rigor, auditability and control. Project management practices encourage project reviews, after the project is live, to gather learning’s that the PMO can use to refine and institutionalise practices employed in future projects. However, changes within a project that impact scope, schedule and cost are usually treated as exceptions.

Project management can take a leaf out of the software development world, which parallels PPM by implementing a formal Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) process to ensure quality and accountability, but has been far more open to make change management the norm and channel it into a constructive force.

Decades ago, when I first started programming, I would first create a shell using a boilerplate for the main program and exception handling. I would then outline all the required functions that would need to be called. This parallels the outline of a project plan. Next, I would add all the comments describing the main body and functions, which would ease maintenance, QA and provide the basis for demonstrating adherence to the requirements document (if any). Changes to requirements would also be documented in the comments. Today, these would also be captured in an external system or document that QA, project management and documentation writers would use.

The interesting part was coding the functions taking a stepwise-refinement approach (similar to the Kaizen or continuous refinement element in Lean approaches that encourages change for good). This is similar to today’s iterative methods, such as Agile approaches that enable the work to be scaled to development teams and harness the energy of many eyes and brains to build a quality deliverable in a short space of time.

Humorous interlude: It amuses me to think back to the regressive step I took, when my career shifted from building applications to mainframe systems programming, where the task was usually to get two or more different products working together. Then we used a less formal methodology we called the 4-T’s, which stood for (Try-This-Try-That).

The cultural change project management is going through now is making change management a norm, rather than an exception, and adopting agile approaches to improve planning for the fast execution of sub-projects, while maintain quality. This recognises that requirements change and foster closer collaboration between the build team and the customer as they refine requirements and the shape the deliverables together. The result is rapid delivery of projects that meet the sponsor’s requirements, increasing success rates.

It would be great to hear your views on the cultural change in project management and in particular the effect this has on change management.

Pradeep Bhanot Markets CA Clarity PPM in Europe. He has worked at BT, the UK Department of Energy, ECGD, Watson Wyatt, Oracle, Serena Software and CA Inc. He’s an ITIL v3 Foundation certified, a PMI member, and has a Computer Science Degree from Greenwich University. Pradeep’s blog can be found at http://community.ca.com/blogs/ppm/

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