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Hybrid project management: is it your next challenge?

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Have you ever thought about what your next project might bring in terms of management challenges? Could these be different in a hybrid project? Would you be able to recognise and prepare for any differences ahead of time?

I’m sure you have all read about hybrid project management – perhaps in the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition. But in case not, here’s a quick recap. We have all been involved in managing, or have worked within, a project that’s had a single product development approach, be it agile/iterative, or the more traditional: linear/waterfall.

For example, agile is the predominant choice for cutting edge technology-based projects because the end product cannot be easily defined at outset. Whereas waterfall is likely to be a development approach for something like a house-build construction project - as the reverse is true, the end product is known and can be defined.

But what if your next project is not quite so straightforward? What if the deliverables required are varied and might be best delivered using mixed approaches – a hybrid? Are you prepared for the differing management challenges that this may bring throughout the project life cycle to you, your project and your sponsor?

Ask yourself the following:

Would you recognise the key characteristics of a hybrid project?

 If not, then some characteristics tend to include variances in:

  • requirements: are some deliverables very well defined and predictable – whilst others are not?
  • benefits position: is it well understood? At outset, are you able to clearly inform your sponsor when all elements will be achievable?
  • timescale flexibility: are your clients and / or stakeholders open to the concept that some but not all deliverables will be in a finished state before handover?

If any of the above are applicable to your current project you are probably looking at a hybrid project. So, it’s best to be prepared.

What different, or perhaps more complex, challenges might you face?

Consider the following situations in which you are likely to encounter conflict, or higher levels of complexity, in a hybrid project.

I am sure that you will have identified a few common themes, including:

  • Stakeholder management: you are likely to be engaging more frequently, and sharing a wider set of messages, with your stakeholders than before.  
  • Planning: you may have to consider two differing planning horizons in parallel as the product development approaches are likely to run differing timelines – requiring more complex planning. 
  • Governance: your sponsor may require additional support depending on their background because the content of and messaging from status reports may not be in line with, or provide the same degree of confidence in the likelihood of benefits achievement as they have been accustomed to receive.
  • Communications: the variety of message and approach, together with the need for an increased level of communications to the wider stakeholders /end users - particularly around the ‘are we there yet?’ question - will be more complex. 

These are critical areas to manage which may not be subject to the common management approaches, so you will need to consider doing things differently and enhancing your knowledge, where necessary, so that you are able to plan and manage effectively.

To help you with this, when thinking about the increased challenges and complexities of hybrid ask yourself the following:

  • Do you have a fundamental knowledge of the differing product development approaches?
  • Have you managed, or worked within, projects using each approach?
  • Do you have a preferred approach that you may lean towards?
  • Have you experience of working with a sponsor who may be uncomfortable with the differing levels and type of status information available?
  • Will your business users be comfortable working with a mix of uncertain and certain requirements and differing delivery cycles?
  • How experienced is your team?
  • Will your planning skills be able to cope?

If you are honest with yourself about the challenges you and your project might face – and you seek help and professional development support – a successful outcome is far more likely.

If you would like to extend the conversation, please let us know your experiences in the comment section.

Further reading:

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