The world of work is transforming at a speed we haven’t seen before. Changing customer demands and new technologies are impacting products and services, organizations as a whole, and employee expectations. Organizations are looking for new skills among talents to remain relevant. Employees, in turn, demand more flexibility, a different work-life balance, fair and transparent compensation & benefits, reflecting their personal preferences and the desire for meaningful work. Agility is key. Modern project planning and management software should provide this agility for project-based organizations.
This whitepaper is providing an outline on how project-based organizations in engineering, architecture & planning, environmental services, design, software development, IT services and consulting in professional services and research & development should factor in some of the key trends in their IT modernization strategy. This to support their primary business process and manage their key assets: people with their know-how and customers. The key trends and software requirements are compiled based on professional experience working in and working with project-based organizations for more than 30 years. Information on talent management and high-performance teams is coming from external researchers and is used to highlight the importance of how a modern project planning and management system should have a people centric approach in order to remain successful.
But first we need to zoom out to understand what is driving change for modernization:
1. Digitalize your workforce: working remotely in project teams and digital delivery of services will remain, as professional services organizations had to move to a digital way of working due to the Covid-19 measures;
2. Digitalize onboarding: with ‘Generation Z’ entering new jobs there is an additional challenge, as it is the first truly digitally native generation. ‘Gen Z’ does not just appreciate a connected world: they expect it. Professional services organizations must prepare to onboard this new generation by examining their team culture and their technology priorities. Failing to adjust, puts companies at risk of missing out on top talent;
3. Create and enable high-performance project teams: working in high performance teams (HPT), where the best teams are built around the optimal fit between strengths of people and their roles. To compose and track further development of people in these teams requires to evaluate people via sophisticated methods like Belbin or comparable methods with the software to support this for e.g., capacity planning, resource management and talent development purposes;
4. Digitalize customer experience: an accelerated focus on customer experience and customer success leading to a different way of servicing customers and impacting the sales process as well towards how to approach current and new accounts through orchestrated teamwork (which has an impact from individual towards team or even company compensation plans as well).
How can these developments be leveraged through modern project planning and management software and optimize project results, revenue and profitability at the same time?
This requires a holistic approach towards People, Process and Project Planning & Management Technology. It starts at the sales process assigning the right people for the feasibility study of a project resulting in a (winning) project proposal for the customer. Mostly, after various revisions, the final quotation is the baseline and budget for the project. When the sales opportunity is at a particular stage of the sales process this opportunity needs to be taken into account in the forecast and penciled-in in the capacity planning to optimize demand and supply.
Capacity planning, resource management and project management
Intelligent scheduling software for multi-project capacity planning and resource management should take a number of things into account:
– How can we easily manage a role-based high-level planning and rolling sales and financial forecast, which is aligned with the detailed project planning?
– How can we provide the best project results for the customer?
– What is the best team for this project (skills/capabilities and roles)?
– What is their availability?
– How can we optimize project profitability, across all projects?
– What is the priority of the project compared to the other projects?
– How can we develop talents and improve their skills?
– Modern software should provide automated suggestions for decision making, taking all these aspects into account with impact on other projects and provide suggestions to solve potential issues as well.
Furthermore, modern software should:
– Enable collaboration in project teams for both internal and external team members;
– Present information easily for individuals and aggregated for teams;
– Really help team members in fulfilling their job;
– Share documentation with version control and deliverables with customers in an easy way via e.g., a customer portal;
– Provide interactive activity cockpits for team members, project- and line managers;
– Easy to configure workflows for processes with automated digital signatures;
– Extremely easy to use interface for time tracking with as less clicks as possible;
– Project management tools to plan via e.g., Gantt charts and track progress (scope, milestones, deliverables and change requests) in time, financially, quality and risks;
– Real-time dashboards to track project progress and estimated project profitability.
These are challenges project-based organizations face every day and often still solved through multiple spreadsheets combined with project accounting software.
Talent management and high-performance teams
As people are the most important asset of professional services organizations and as mentioned earlier, Gen Z are entering new jobs a closer look is provided on their priorities (from Gartner Research below) and how to develop high performance teams.
Gen Z’s Top Five Priorities at Work
1. Broadening my skill set;
2. Gaining relevant experiences;
3. Progressing upward in the organization;
4. Gaining expertise in specific areas;
5. Receiving higher total compensation.
n = 3.970; Source: 2019 Gartner Leadership Effectiveness for Employees
Gen Z prioritizes developing skills and gaining experiences. Leaders should embrace these priorities and have them influence the employee value proposition. Specifically, they should:
– Ensure these priorities are included in entry-level job descriptions;
– Maintain open lines of collaboration and communication;
– Understand the desired skills and experiences that are most valued;
– Allocate budget for continued learning and development;
– Design career paths with incremental steps that better illustrate career progression.
An interesting aspect of Gen Z is its desire for radical transparency.
Research from the book Nine lies about work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World (by Marcus Buckingham and Ashely Goodall – HBR press, 2019) provides answers to why people stay and how to predict sustainable team performance. The nine lies and their opposite truths are:
|People care which company they work for||People care which team they’re on|
|The best plan wins||The best intelligence wins|
|The best companies cascade goals||The best companies cascade meaning|
|The best people are well-rounded||The best people are spiky|
|People need feedback||People need attention|
|People can reliably rate other people||People can reliably rate their own experience|
|People have potential||People have momentum|
|Work-life balance matters most||Love-in-work matter most|
|Leadership is a thing||We follow spikes|
Further in the book the authors describe the following eight aspects, and these eight precisely worded items, validly predict sustained team performance:
1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company
2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me
3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values
4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work
5. My teammates have my back
6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work
7. I have great confidence in my company’s future
8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow
Best of We questions (what do we all share, as a team or as a company): 1, 3, 5, 7
Best of Me questions (individual experience of work, what is unique to me and valuable about me): 2, 4, 6, 8
An excellent team leader has the ability to meet these two categories of needs for the people in their teams.
Of the eight conditions that are the signature of the highest-performing teams, there is one that stands out as the single most powerful predictor of team’s productivity. It is each team member’s sense that “I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.” On the best teams, the team leader is able not only to identify the strengths of each person but also to tweak roles and responsibilities so that team members, individually, feel that their work calls upon to exercise their strengths on a daily basis.
When a team leader does this, everything else – recognition, sense of mission, clarity of expectations – works better. Ongoing work-strengths fit is the master lever for high-performance teams: pull it, and everything else is elevated; fail to pull it, and everything else is diminished. Of course, the best teams are built around the optimal fit between strengths, capabilities and roles (this is where a method like Belbin can be used to evaluate people and how to assign them to a team).
As a (project) team leader you are in the outcome business. Define the outcomes you want from your team and its members, and then look for each person’s strength signs to figure out how each person can reach those outcomes most efficiently, most amazingly, most creatively and most joyfully.
We follow a leader because he is deep in something, and he knows what that something is. His knowledge of it, and the evidence of his knowledge of it, gives us both certainty in the present and confidence in the future.
Those who answer these eight questions positively are more likely to be seen as highly productive, and less likely to leave, and these predictive relationships between high scores on the questions and higher performance and retention are statistically significant and stable across industries and roles.
With this in mind modern software should support this, as mentioned earlier, when scheduling takes place to assign people to projects based on their capabilities, growth potential and not only availability.
Companies leading in digital transformation are able to grow faster when they include a digital customer experience embedded in their customer success management and digital marketing strategy and execution. What does this mean? More and more collaboration and human interaction will be digital with customers and among teams. This starts already at the buyer journey of the customer to evaluate which market players need to be taken into account for a new project. What is their track record, what is their culture, etc. Before you have been contacted the customer has done its digital due diligence. So once you’ve been contacted your team has to shine and the right subject-matter experts need to be involved right-away. The potential customer needs to be convinced that it is easy to work with you next to that you are capable to provide at least the expected project result on time and within budget.
When the project is granted, modern technology needs to be available for collaboration, sharing project results and documents via a secured customer portal. Eliminate annoying activities as searching in e-mails or folders for the right version of a progress report or deliverable.
Expectations of employees and customers are increasing, which need to go hand-in-hand with sustainable profitable revenue growth. To remain at least competitive and preferably a leader in your market to keep and attract talents and customers we have provided various success criteria:
– Adapt to a modern and digital way of working with a people-centric approach;
– Identify the strengths of people and use a method like Belbin to create high-performance teams;
– Provide a great modern and digital experience for employees and customers;
– Optimize capacity planning and resource management through intelligent scheduling capabilities.
Moreover, with the right business partner and modern project business automation software your project-based organization will be able to drive modernization and achieve improved results.
About the author Drs Marco van der Kooij
Marco is for more than 30 years working as an IT change manager and a bridge builder to bring people and organizations with innovative software solutions to an easier way of working and to improve business performance. He led multiple digital transformations as a project manager and subject matter expert.
A special thank you to Danny Gerritsen, Senior Manager Digital Transformation Assurance at PwC Nederland, for his valuable feedback.