Article: Project Management – Will you do what it takes?

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2010 is an Olympic year in Canada.  Every time the Olympics come around, I must admit, I get emotional about those athletes who have given so much of their lives to participate in the greatest sports spectacle of our generation. I have a daughter who swam competitively and, as many parents do, I was struck with awe by the amount of effort she dedicated year after year to improving herself in her chosen sport. I’ve had the privilege of being at two Olympic Games. At my first, in Montreal in 1976, I worked at the games helping to raise the flags at different medal ceremonies. It meant hanging out a lot with people who had just won medals and had a profound effect on me. In 2000, I was able to take my wife and daughter to Sydney where we enjoyed the games as spectators. The perspective was very different. Perhaps having a teenager who goes to practice 7 times a week (2 mornings, 5 evenings) for 2 hours or more at a time, gave me a different look at the games but it struck me that the games aren’t so much about who wins. It’s true we obsess over medals but of the 10,000 athletes or so who are participating this year in Athens, only 500 or so will win medals. The other 9,500 have devoted years, in some cases more than a decade of their lives, to intense personal development and will have little or no hope of winning a medal.

When I bring this back to the project management industry and the organizations that I work with who are deploying enterprise project management systems and processes, the parallels are evident. Deploying epm isn’t trivial. Being successful in an epm deployment has a lot to do with treating the project seriously and being ready to do what it takes.

We have no trouble counseling a teen that to succeed in sport will take dedication and hard work but all too often we diminish the work required to make an epm deployment work.

Year after year we talk to mid and large organizations who wish to implement an enterprise project management system. It’s not just me, but many, many sources of information who outline what will be required to make epm work. Yet, somehow, time and again, someone in management characterizes epm as a technology project or as a simple software installation. The impact that changing how project management works might change the character of the entire organization is rarely identified. Yet many organizations in the past 20 years have become project driven. Project management has become a mainstay of management thinking and project management is definitely a horizontal industry.

Projects affect everything about an organization; where the money is spent, how effective the organization is at delivering new products, how fast revenue can be generated, how resources are allocated and much, much more. The idea that the installation of some new software will instantly transform this broad-reaching process from a silo-oriented single-user process into one where diverse employees and departments collaborate is optimistic at best and dangerous at worst.

We should take a page from those Olympic athletes who have planned and strategized and (let’s not forget) worked for a long period of time to achieve their goals. The question, you’ve got to ask is, ‘Are you ready to do what it takes?’