Archive for January, 2008

The Presidential Candidates on Globalization and Technology

On InformationWeek’s Outsourcing Weblog, there are two interesting posts that have sparked some lively debate on where the presidential candidates stand on globalization and how the United States manages the outsourcing of technology jobs.

The posts include links to the candidates’ web sites, and the comments on these posts are quite lively and run the gamut from enthusiastic support of candidates to vehement opposition.

I won’t be using this blog to support a US presidential candidate. However the presidential candidates are responding to the demands of the flat world on several fronts:

  • How do we balance the "talent crisis" that we keep hearing about with the desire Americans have to protect their own jobs from outsiders and from other countries? 
  • Most candidates support increasing the cap on H1B visas, which would allow more international workers to enter the US. Is this pro-globalization, or pro-corporate interests to the detriment of the technology worker?
  • How much can Americans’ concerns over outsourcing be addressed by better education? Will increased math and science education, public school reform, and other measures make the US more globally competitive? And can these measures make a difference soon enough?

There are many comments, blogs, and videos on the web covering these issues. Several good links are in these InformationWeek blog posts and the comments, representing much of the political spectrum. I hope these questions continue to get the attention they deserve as the US presidential race narrows, and the candidates bring their platforms into sharper focus.

As for my personal opinion, I am in the "fair" not "free" trade camp. If there is a level playing field, then North American workers are every bit as competitive, productive and capable–if not more so–than any other workforce on the planet. If trade agreements and globalization are progressively based on common labor standards, mutually open markets and fair competition, then Americans will thrive.

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Rise of the Project Workforce, Chapter 2: Managing the Project/Service Delivery Life Cycle

For more details about the project/service delivery life cycle, see Rise of the Project Workforce.

Agile organizations maximize internal efficiency by investing only in high-performing and strategic initiatives. However, silo thinking often prevents organizations from having the visibility, across departments, to implement imperative initiatives such as project selection, ROI analysis, risk mitigation, and continuous business process improvements.

Understanding the project/service delivery life cycle helps organizations to break down these silos and build a shared long-term vision for managing people and projects across the organization in today’s dynamic world. The project/service delivery life cycle consists of these five steps:

  1. Initiate. First, managers define the objectives and scope of the work to be performed.
  2. Plan. Plan the work, the resources to deliver it, and the milestones to track progress.
  3. Track. Review time, expenses, and budgets for each milestone; account for costs and revenue by group, project and task; proactively handle requests, risks, and issues.
  4. Charge. Create accurate and timely chargebacks or invoices; integrate data with billing, finance, accounting, HR, CRM and other core information systems.
  5. Analyze. Through executive dashboards and reports, present high-level metrics that assist with project tracking, compliance, process improvement, and decision making.

Project Workforce Management allows organizations to automate this life cycle, and break down departmental barriers throughout the cycle. It offers direct benefits to the various communities both inside and outside the enterprise, by addressing their specific needs and challenges.

Account Executives: Enables them to check the status of their customers’ projects at every phase, and look for new business opportunities that they can turn into new projects.

Customers: By tracking both external customers and internal ones (as interdepartmental chargebacks), the company gains considerable insight into enterprise-wide execution and utilization metrics.

  • External Customers: Provide them with online billing and invoicing, and issue reporting and resolution.
  • Internal Customers: Provide them with business intelligence and reports on chargebacks, progress, and project status.

General Administrative Staff: Relieve them from repetitive manual labor with automated workflows for time and expense entry, purchasing, and support for project and resource management.

Project/Service Delivery Teams: For the resources assigned to projects, automate time and expense and project status reporting, with support for input via web browsers and PDAs. Automation is especially beneficial when resources are assigned to multiple projects and tasks at one time.

Finance Team:

  • Accounts Receivable (Billing): Automate billing to external customers according to approved project milestones and billable work completed.
  • Accounts Payable: Automate the workflows of matching invoices to purchase orders and charging billable expenses.
  • Payroll: Automate the workflows associated with employee timesheets and applying pay rules such as exempt/non-exempt status and overtime.

Project Managers: Provide a platform for creation of work breakdown structures and overall management of project delivery teams; track time, expenses, issues, change requests, and purchases. Gain visibility into the project pipeline.

Resource Managers: Provide a platform for fine-tuning the organization’s capacity in response to demand, with project calendars and plans, skills repository, resource request workflows, and skill matching.

IT Department: As a large and highly visible cost center, IT benefits by managing and controlling project costs and justifying spending.

Product Development Teams: By treating product development as a project, the organization can track effort and expenses for informed cost-benefit analysis.

C-Level Executives: From the various data collected across the organization, generate accurate reports and dashboards showing trends, financial indicators, customer satisfaction, project pipeline, billing, revenue, cash flow, overhead, and margins. Reports and real-time information executives can rely on.

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Is Project Management a Commodity?

PlanView’s Terry Doerscher wrote an excellent blog post, “Is Project Management Passe?” in response to a Gartner research report published last month. The synopsis of the Gartner report reads:

PPM leaders are investing in methodologies, processes and organizational constructs that are quickly coming to the end of their useful lives. Now is the time to start edging your organization toward the next destination.

Doerscher suggests that Gartner is predicting a world in which the Project Management Office finds a new role, because Project Management has attained a level of growth and acceptance that makes it a commoditized skill. PM is being pushed out and down to the project teams—not managed centrally by the PMO.

I would say that for IT, project management has been commoditized in this way for some time. But applying project management concepts to non-IT teams is still very much in its infancy. There is a lot of potential for improvement in applying project management techniques in billable organizations, product development (specially software or IP-type products), and marketing teams, for example. There is also a long way to go in improving collaboration on projects between these other teams and IT.

As I see it, the problem lies in the fact that companies still operate in silos with a tribe psychology. You have:

  • The IT manager, the IT budget and the IT department
  • The sales manager, the sales budget and the sales team
  • The product manager, the product budget and the product team

And the list goes on, with everyone keeping their cards closely at their vest. Gartner’s PPM report and PPM category is too focused on IT-specific needs and IT-specific commoditization. If project management and business processes are viewed as enterprise-wide challenges and are treated as disciplines and tools that should cross the boundaries of departments and business units, then a whole new world of opportunity for improvement and innovation is up for grabs.

However, organizations still promote the tribe psychology by implementing software and other business solutions on a department-by-department basis, or by forcing departments to use inadequate enterprise tools (like a large ERP) without their input and total buy-in. Business processes, project selection and prioritization, and the means to collaborate rarely cross departmental lines. Centralized PMOs have not been able to break down the silos or unite the tribes. Perhaps this is an underlying reason for the coming changes that Gartner predicts.

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Eight Business Technology Trends that Validate Project Workforce Management

Thanks to Parallax View, one of the blogs on CIOInsight.com, we found a summary of a new report on The McKinsey Quarterly’s web site that describes eight-technology-enabled business trends that will help shape businesses and the economy in coming years. These eight trends fit in perfectly with the concepts underlying Project Workforce Management.

The full article on The McKinsey Quarterly is here:
http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_page.aspx?ar=2080&l2=13&l3=11&srid=27
(free registration required)

The blog post on CIO Insight, which we quote below, is here:
http://blogs.cioinsight.com/parallax_view/content/emerging_technology/
eight_businesstech_trends_to_watch.html

McKinsey groups these trends into three categories, around relationships, capital and assets, and information. My comments follow in italics.

Managing Relationships

1. Distributing co-creation that furnishes companies radical new ways to harvest the talents of innovators working outside corporate boundaries.

The report makes note that while software and editorial content are easily co-created today, this trend will expand to physical goods.  In my opinion, this will continue to "flatten" the world so that even more types of work are managed by globally dispersed teams.

2. Using consumers as innovators by exploiting Web 2.0 technologies to tap a new mood among consumers to engage online with organizations of all kinds.

In this sense, a business’ customers are becoming its innovation partners, and the lines defining a "corporation" are becoming even more blurred. Business organizations are less and less defined by the buildings where they are headquartered or by a well defined group of full-time employees.

3. Tapping into a world of talent that allows companies to outsource increasingly specialized aspects of their work—such as finance, marketing, IT and operations—while still maintaining organizational coherence.

4. Extracting more value from interactions through tools that promote tacit collaboration, including wikis, virtual team environments and videoconferencing.

These two trends have "Project Workforce Management" written all over them: using technology to enable a truly project-based workforce, consisting of the best available talent wherever it may be found. The McKinsey article goes into some detail about how creativity and motivation–and therefore productivity–are enhanced as a result.

Managing Capital and Assets

5. Expanding the frontiers of automation by interconnecting existing automated systems through common standards. This information can be combined in new ways to automate an increasing array of broader activities, such as inventory management and customer service.

This trend is all about breaking down the information silos: a major objective–and a critical prerequisite–to enablement of the project workforce. According to McKinsey, " Companies still have substantial headroom to automate … and to interlink “islands of automation” and in so doing give managers and customers the ability to collaborate and communicate better than ever before." In other words, there is a lot of opportunity for technologies including Project Workforce Management to improve the ways in which we work.

6. Unbundling production from delivery by disaggregating monolithic systems into reusable components, measuring the use of each and billing for that use in ever-smaller increments.

The delivery of services is becoming uncoupled from the infrastructures, as we see with wireless services and some other utilities, and with Amazon.com’s offering of its ecommerce platform. Just as organizations are breaking down into more flexible and usable project teams, monolithic systems are breaking down into usable and reusable parts.

Leveraging Information In New Ways

7. Putting more science into management to help managers exploit ever-greater amounts of data to make smarter decisions and develop insights that create competitive advantage and new business models. Ubiquitous standards-based technologies promote aggregation, processing and decision making based on the use of growing pools of rich data.

McKinsey’s article cites several examples of fascinating ways that companies are using technology to generate more useful and actionable business information.  The authors state: "… it’s hard to believe that we are only at an early stage in this trend. Yet we are." Given the  vast amounts of data that businesses can now generate, the next imperative is to put it to use.

8. Making business from information by capturing accumulated pools of data in numerous systems to serve as the raw materials for new, information-based business opportunities.

This trend is where #5 meets #7: breaking down the barriers between large silos of data and generating new business as a result.

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Rise of the Project Workforce, Chapter 1: The World is Flat, Again

In this series of blog posts, we will summarize each chapter of the book, Rise of the Project Workforce, and highlight a few key take-aways from that chapter. These posts will make it easy for me to refer back to key ideas in subsequent posts, and provide an online "landing page" for these concepts.

We are at a strategic inflection point in the ways that we work, compete and win–these require a new approach that is no longer suited to large, hierarchical organizations. In what author Thomas Friedman calls the "flat world," the best talent for a task might be anywhere in the world. He writes, “More people than ever…collaborate and compete in real time with more other people, on more different kinds of work, from more different corners of the planet, and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world.”

Globalization has given rise to flatter, more agile teams that take on more discrete projects and make decisions locally. The Internet and faster computing technologies have enabled this phenomenon. Hierarchies are flattened, and enterprises are fragmented through outsourcing. Meanwhile, increasing regulatory scrutiny requires these flattened, fragmented teams to carefully assign, track, and manage the accountability for the work being done.

In this flat world, businesses need solutions to rapidly increasing problems, such as: the inability to get actionable business information while there is still time to take action; the inability to measure productivity; the inability to make sense out of massive pools of disconnected and sometimes conflicting business data; and the inability for teams to collaborate and share knowledge with one another.

Enter Project Workforce Management–designed to enable progress in a flat world. Project Workforce Management, by necessity, combines human capital management, project management, business process management, and cost/revenue accounting into a synthesized solution that meets the challenges of a flat world:

  • Project Workforce Management helps design and oversee business processes, while it provides real-time visibility into areas including cost accounting, productivity analysis, budget-vs.-actual comparisons, utilization, and profitability.
  • Because change is a constant, it enables managers and teams to manage changing and fluid processes while change is occurring.
  • It enables work to be broken down to accommodate the many units, teams, cost centers and individuals in today’s flattened organizations.
  • It is an interactive environment for real-time tracking and analysis of project workforce data.

Moreover, Project Workforce Management is a workflow platform that allows mangers to model project, workforce, and financial processes, represent those processes graphically, and then automate those processes.

Project Workforce Management encompasses and integrates:

  • Time and expense tracking
  • Cost and revenue accounting
  • Workforce planning
  • Project planning
  • Project process management
  • Analytics

While traditional business management systems perpetuate silos of information and narrow departmental views, Project Workforce Management brings together talent, work, and finances into one system that provides a common vantage point for decision makers, provides real-time views of business operations, and supports more accurate decision making. It enables the cooperation and collaboration that must occur in a flat world.

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How to Stop Being Busy and Become Productive in a Flat World

A recent article by Margaret Heffernan, on Fast Company’s Talent & Careers center, is entitled: Creativity is in the Detail, and Everywhere…. She makes an interesting observation that it is now creativity and innovation that is starting to eclipse globalization as a top concern of businesses.  Organizations wonder: how will we come up with the next big idea?

Heffernan disputes the myths that creativity is limited to a few gifted people, or that it only comes naturally and can’t be taught. She tells a story about a business leader who "threw away his Blackberry and went walking across New England for three weeks," and found a profound source of creativity int he process.

He was surprised to discover that his journey became more meaningful when he stopped worrying so much about his destination, and simply relished the journey. It may sound too philosophical for some, but with so much talk about how we reach our business destinations, I believe there is some value in paying attention to how we arrive there.

Heffernan asks: "Are we sometimes (perhaps even all the time) too focused on getting
work done to extract any value from the experience of doing it?" I have asked myself the same question. In my own experience, the more I focus on accomplishing the details of work, the less meaningful work I get accomplished.

I happened to address this question during a recorded interview to The Student Operated Press:

What key quality would you say that all successful people share?

I think in terms of management and executives, I think executives that are too busy are probably not very successful. In my case, the more time I spend with our employees, the more time I spend with our customers, the more time I spend with partners, talking, discussing, eating, or just spending time on my own, figuring out where the company can be more successful, the more successful I am.

The more time I spend doing things micromanaging or following up on little things, and being extremely busy from very early morning until late at night, the less successful the company is.

One of my biggest jobs as a CEO is to be a model to project workforce managers at all levels of my organization. I do this by allowing our people and teams to do their jobs, and paying attention to the success of our common journey.

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Gen-Connect: Mind-Boggling Implications for the Project Workforce

Our friend Jim Carroll, author of the foreword to Rise of the Project Workforce, has published a piece in CA Magazine entitled "Here we are now, entertain us," describing the trends he has studied in the coming generation of workers, Gen-Connect.  He cites some amazing statistics about the new workforce, including:

More than 50% of US graduates believe self-employment is more secure than a full-time job.

I invite you to read the article for the rest. It paints an amazing picture of the workforce that we have to look forward to in just a few years. Carroll states:

Organizations that can attract, engage, retain and amuse an increasingly complex workforce will be the ones who find success in the rapidly evolving global economy….Put the emphasis on the word amuse.

Amusement is certainly consistent with the story he tells in the foreword to the book. It is interesting to me that we will need to amuse and entertain–even call upon our senses of humor–in the flattening world.

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Project Management by Email: A Fatal Assumption

I sent this message by email to several of my colleagues and direct reports. Perhaps it is ironic to send it in an email, but I am also blogging it here, repeating it in person, calling people on the phone…and so on.

How do people win an election? Or get promoted? Or get an article or book published?
How do people get a placement for a new high tech product pitch in a major IT magazine?
How do musicians get their music listened to by a famous studio?
How do we win new deals and new customers?
How does a country get approval to host the next Olympics?
How does a new budget for new spending get approved?
How does a customer agree to be a reference?
How does a customer approve a press release, a video clip or a case study?
How does any other person on this planet, who has other things to do (and his or her own personal challenges to deal with), take the time to actually listen to you and take care of what you need done?

Do you think sending an email means you are done?

You have to…send emails…call people…talk to them…explain why what you ask is important…brainstorm on how you can work together to get things done…escalate to their managers if you are not getting anywhere with them…go to lunch with them…call them…send them a thank you card…buy them a gift…call them again…take them to breakfast…send them another email…call them again…attend a meeting they are at…sell the idea to their manager…call them on their cell…call them at home…email them again…follow up with their manager…send them another gift…

Think of creative ways to help them succeed in their jobs so that in return they will help you do yours.
Do them a few favors and see if you can get some favors too!
Think hard about what you would do if you were them.
How would you be motivated to do what you need them to do?

And do the above a thousand times over.

Persistence, communication, persuasion, negotiation and finesse, all combined, a thousand times over, will get you what you need to get the job done.

Sending an email, waiting for months, pretending like you did your part (when deep inside you know the truth) and then saying "I failed because I was ignored" is simply fooling yourself.

If it really matters to you, then own it, push for it, be timely, be creative, and assume nothing.

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The Top 10% of the Project Workforce: We Can’t All Be Superstars

Do you believe that you are one of the top 10% performers in your workplace? 90% of us do.

A recent poll in BusinessWeek (view the slide show that accompanies this article) reveals an alarming disconnect between our own perceptions of our performance and statistical reality. While only 1 in 10 of us can actually be "top 10%" performers, 9 out of 10 us believe we are. Our self-confidence is much greater than our actual performance.

Poll: Are you one of the top 10% of performers in your company?

Percent of Employees Answering Yes
Companies greater than 1000 employees: 83%
Middle Managers: 84%
Female: 89%
Overall: 90%
Male: 91%
Age 65+: 93%
Companies with under 50 employees: 96%
Executives: 97%

This gap in perception highlights a problem: a lack of regular, consistent performance reviews. When managers are not specific in their communications with workers, then workers do not know how well they actually perform within their organizations.

The other side of this story is that, clearly, not all workers can be superstars. In fact, the "ditch diggers" of an organization–perhaps those in the middle percentiles–are the real backbone of a project workforce because they simply get work done.

This poll also highlights an opportunity. If workers could apply their confidence to a career that is a good fit, a career that leverages their strengths, this gap between performance and perception could be reduced. In a post titled "Seven Survival Skills for the Flat World," I recommended ways that workers can increase their value in a world where jobs are being outsourced and internal competition is intensifying.

For project workers who want to survive in the flat world, I recommend a "reality check" to understand where you rank in performance. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you are not a top 10% performer, because too few can be. Build skills, take advantage of your own strengths, and prove value through consistent performance in the project workforce.

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