How to ‘sell in’ project management’s value in a post COVID-19 world

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Summer 2020, it’s quite a time to be reflecting on our profession. We have navigated some of the biggest challenges in living memory, deeply affecting each of us in so many unique ways.

Whilst the backdrop remains uncertain, the demands on our businesses is clear. Adapt or die. We have seen already organisations successfully pivot and adapt their operations at great speed. Think of the rapid delivery of NHS ventilators, for example. Or more recently, the government’s flagship ‘furlough’ scheme, up and running in just four weeks. When we look at the reasons why, “it will be clear… that great project management was at the heart of this success”, says APM President Sue Kershaw.

But how do we build on these successes and realise the strategic importance of project management at organisational level? In my new role as associate director of operations, and as a former project manager, I regularly find myself advocating the virtues of good project management to business and believe that as we move beyond crisis response to COVID-19, now is the perfect time to ‘sell in’ project management to senior decision makers.

Here are some factors to consider in achieving that goal:

Don’t get complacent. Now, this is an interesting one. Complacency is a dangerous corporate phenomenon. It’s a trap at the best of times; right now – it’s perilous. We have entered a chapter where project professionals can’t assume the luxury of sitting tight. It’s now all about, growth and aggressively looking forward. When delivering a project, it’s now imperative to understand that stakeholder expectations have increased from where they were 12 months ago. Whilst this can be frustrating, it’s unavoidable. Be on the front foot here. Offer more, provide more, and evidence more.

Walk into every stakeholder meeting providing more value than you did 12 months ago, this approach will pay dividends to all involved. And most likely, the lion’s share will be received by project professionals involved.

The project management starting block. For those at the beginning of their journey, like graduates, apprentices and junior team members, you must understand your power at this moment. Why? You are likely the most resilient group. In your lifetime, the ‘new-normal’ will be a very present reality – your memories of previous ways of working will be the dimmest. This is key. Looking forward, you must hunt each and every opportunity, get involved as much as possible – avoid looking for personal gain and aim to contribute a huge amount from your position. The truth is organisations expect project managers (of whatever level) to expedite value to the business. Try to remember this primary aim.

Project management’s worth. Have you ever worked in an organisation that doesn’t value project management? If so, this applies to you. It goes without saying that the enlightened individual, doesn’t need educating around the colossal value of effective project management, however some parties will need reminding, particularly in times like these. My advice is to approach the topic outside of project management speak – and talk financial benefit.

Almost all conceivable benefits to effective project management can be brought back to the primary organisation receiving financial benefit. Look to demonstrate this and offer a projected forecast with profound emphasis on how the bottom-line will be positively affected by the proposed changes. Whist this perhaps risks only providing a snapshot of the many benefits delivered by good quality project management, it will provide a shock wake-up call for the organisation in question, and ultimately a revelation to a better way of working, significant for today’s environment.

Once accepted, keep revisiting this topic with your organisation, and ensure you have agreed appropriate metrics to evidence the successes of putting project management firmly onto the radar.

After all, they do say ‘Good is the enemy of great’

Organisations are traversing some truly epic challenges – I see this as a unique opportunity for project professionals to support their organisations from the front, so make your impact known and sell in the benefits.

Visit the APM blog for more views on why project management will be the key to recovery post COVID-19.


Image: Shutterstock / Costello77

Sebastian Harris

Posted by Sebastian Harris on 19th Aug 2020

About the Author

Sebastian Harris is currently an Associate Director of Operations at NCC Group, previously the acting Head of Security, Networks and Operations Delivery responsible for all project delivery within division for NCC Group (100+ programmes and projects). Leading a team of highly skilled project managers from the front, alongside a team of world class consultants. Vast experience of Cyber Security Project Management within boutique, AIM listed, and FTSE cyber security companies.

Outside of the industry he strongly supports all programmes associated with supporting individuals find and unlock their full potential, both Inside and outside the corporate setting.

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