IT Project Teams are STILL driving competitive advantage

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David Cotgreave
David Cotgreave
David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, brings over 25 years of experience in Programme Management, Consultancy and IT Leadership, not only to this next edition but to his current role at Stoneseed Ltd, a company he founded in 2009. The company offer a unique proposition - Project Management as a Service (PMaaS).

“Behind every great, growing business is a successful IT Project team”.

This was the working title of a blog post that I started writing in early March 2020.

Looking back at it now, it was a wonderfully optimistic piece about how IT Project teams were inspiring, facilitating and delivering business change in every successful business that I could think of.

Sadly, I never finished the article. The UK was put into lockdown on 23 March in an unprecedented step to attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus. All our priorities changed in that instant, as business growth forecasts were side-lined, and we all focussed on business survival.

What if my belief, that behind every successful business was a successful and dynamic IT Project team, was still true? What if it were even more important for businesses after Covid-19 and lockdown to have an innovative IT Project team?

Consider the changes that your business has been forced to implement since that announcement on 23rd March – the ones that have kept your lights on and your business wheels turning. The Zoom calls, the Microsoft Teams, the remote working, the streamlining of systems so that fewer people can manage the workload of furloughed colleagues, etc, etc. What do they all have in common? They are all IT initiatives.

At the heart of every surviving business is an IT or IT Project team that is still inspiring, facilitating and delivering business change.

Remember survival is the new success! It is a story that we should be rightly proud of.

So, what’s next for IT Project Teams?

Most major business IT Projects are on hold. This makes perfect sense. Most major business IT projects were designed to help create or deliver business growth, and thanks to the recession caused by Covid-19, there’s not a lot of growth to be found. Economies are contracting, businesses that were spending on their future are cutting costs just to survive their present.

Smart IT Project leaders identified this early on, they had the best handle on where efficiencies could be made and where processes could be improved – and they found that business leaders were more open to hearing about them than ever. There are lessons for the rest of us to learn.

In his book ‘Management Challenges for the 21st Century’, Peter Drucker wrote that, “Continuous process improvements transform the business. They lead to innovation. They lead to new processes. They lead to new business.”

Drucker wrote these words in 1999!!! BUT they feel even more appropriate now.

Given the current, post Covid-19, economic conditions, organisations need to be more innovative. Not just to survive, these IT Project led initiatives can actually drive new business. One of the ways that proactive IT Project teams are doing this is by focusing on, identifying and recommending improvements within their infrastructure. These improvements, many borne out of necessity, are streamlining business processes! They have the capacity to transform the business, leading to innovation and opportunities, perhaps even relative growth as everyone else stagnates. In some cases, they are even identifying new business deliverables that can be monetised.

IT Project Teams are driving competitive advantage

Companies must strive to achieve greater operational effectiveness. It is a prerequisite for innovation, it is a basic reality survival, it is a traditionally acknowledged business instinct – but it’s also something many businesses are not fully leveraging in the enduring firefight that is our business environment since March 2020.  Much business success has been built on improving internal processes and this has never been more important than now.

In times of growth, this enables businesses to remain competitive, while providing quality services and products. In a harsher climate, like now, it’s more vital than ever that we have streamlined internal processes to allow us to be more efficient and, consequently, more competitive.

IT and Business leaders can (and regularly do!!) point to their proven track records of performance improvements and how, within their organisations, these have driven growth. It’s easily demonstrated how new methodologies or improved approaches can fire companies onto greater success, we’ve been articulating and measuring this as a part of key corporate business initiatives for years!

This is a skill set that is about to become a vital business asset as firms look for further efficiencies – IT Project teams are masters at it.

In conclusion, IT Projects are perfectly placed to shape the future of business as we emerge from this pandemic.

Businesses need to be leaner and more innovative.

It’s time for IT Project teams to say, “Hold our coffee, watch us do our thing” – this is our moment.

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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