We have been trying to transform the project delivery for over 6 years, but it is a difficult journey. Part of the challenge we face is that project professionals are head down delivering projects and often don’t have the headspace or understanding of advanced data analytics to imagine what the future looks like.
If we ask people a question about what people want, they typically would like us to improve line of sight on project delivery, rather than reimagining how they work. So how do we expand their horizons and shape their level of ambition?
When asked about customer input in the development of the Ford Model T, Henry Ford famously said;
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."Henry Ford
This is why we created a series of Visions for 2025, working in collaboration with the Project Data Analytics Community to reimagine how we work. Rather than creating risk management dashboards, can we pivot from process heavy risk management to pre-empting variance? I wrote a post to stimulate debate on the topic and there was generally a lot of support. How would this apply to a range of other topics?
So how do the Visions work?
We map out our shared ambition across 3 time horizons.
- Horizon 1 is an iteration of the here and now. Generally, adding polish to what already exists. This is where most organisations are currently and what they tend to be asking for.
- Horizon 2 begins to look at new methods and ways of working.
- Horizon 3 is where the greatest value resides. We begin to leverage data to reimagine how we work, working towards a north star. The image below summarises a vision for risk management.
But it is too difficult to deliver horizon 3 in one jump. But there is no reason why we can’t begin to experiment now to understand how to unlock these modules of capability. These experiments will enable us to tease out some of the obstacles at a profession and organisational level. Data quality, data access, data alignment will all be issues. Rather than conducting lengthy landscape analysis, it can be more cost effective and beneficial to experiment at pace.
What we have discovered from developing these visions is that they begin to converge. We’ll move towards automated data ingestion, project delivery ontologies and connected data at scale. The case for collaborative data pooling via data trusts becomes increasingly compelling. There is a clear need for a community level ‘Project Brain’ that enables us to map alignment between the problems that we aspire to solve and the data that we collect. The work on the visions enables us to shape this trajectory.
But where should you start?
Step 1. Establish your level of ambition. Map out your strategy and high level plan.
Step 2. Understand your current priorities. Is it to release capacity by automating the here and now, or to outline a path to driving up project delivery performance. How close to the leading edge do you want to be or are you happy to be a laggard? How can you use the visions to uncover the implementation challenges, drive a data culture, create FOMO and much more?
Step 3. Up skill. This isn’t about vendor provided silver bullets. Rubbish in, rubbish out. We must get the project delivery community involved with shaping roll out. Demonstrating the art of the possible. Shaping the pipeline of change. Championing the cause and inspiring others. The Project Data Academy is a great place to start and is funded by government for residents of England.
Step 4. Work through the swim lanes. Skillset, mindset, toolset. Improve the data. Fix data access and data engineering. Develop incremental change using paths of least resistance rather than trying to change the unchangeable. Then scale up and out.
Come along to our community hackathons too (the next one will be held in June at Manchester City FC), where we collaborate at a vast scale to shape and deliver components from these modules. I’d welcome your help in shaping a challenge or 2 for this event that bites off part of the roadmap.
We’ll be releasing these Visions in the coming weeks. Please get involved and help to make the Vision a reality. As a profession, we can’t afford to be complacent; we must up our game.
Reach out to me too if you need any help. We aren’t just taking a lead role in shaping this future, we are also making it happen.