How to change your career within the same IT organization?
Let me say it loud and clear, the IT world is not only for programmers. The job title ‘IT specialist’ may mean thous...
It’s not the CEO or anyone from the Board either. Try as you might, you will not find this position in our organization chart. We believe that the key to company success is the role of a Project Owner (PO). It’s a term we coined around 2013, and, over time, the function only grew in importance.
Project Owners are people with bold goals and a set of project responsibilities. They engage with our clients and are fully accountable for successful project delivery.
Wait a second. That sounds a lot like a Project Manager (PM), doesn’t it?
If truth be told, they’re a lot more than that!
The name is by no means just two random words. Project Owners really OWN their projects.
And if you haven’t read Extreme Ownership, I strongly encourage you to do that. It’s a great read that shows exactly what we mean by ‘project ownership.’
In short, POs are technology experts who make sure that a project meets technical quality, deadline, and budget by leading it from the first meeting with a customer until the final support incident.
The etymology of the term is quite simple. Just combine ‘Project Manager’ with ‘Product Owner,’ and you get a Project Owner.
And it is not only about wording.
Firstly, it is a customer-perspective role as defined in the SCRUM methodology.
As a Project Owner, you need to understand client needs and be able to see things from their perspective. Those features become the second nature of Predica’s consultants.
Secondly, Project Owners oversee the three constraints included in the infamous project management triangle.
In other words, they’re responsible for:
If you fail in either of those, your client may have reasons to be dissatisfied.
People often ask me about the methods we use for our project management approach.
Years of experience have taught us that methodologies can sometimes be overrated. What matters is the mindset, commitment, and openness.
We have proper knowledge to adopt the project management methodologies (e.g., Prince2) and agile frameworks (e.g., SCRUM and Kanban).
They provide tools we use every day. However, the actual selection of the toolset and the approach itself belongs to none other than the PO.
Depending on the client and the project, they need to adjust the project delivery methodology.
Why? Because applying full agile delivery, which we generally prefer, is not always possible.
Let’s face it – being a Project Owner is not for everyone.
Before anything else, it is not a position in our organization chart but a role into which Predica’s technical experts, such as Digital Advisors, may step.
In other words, you don’t apply to it as a candidate, but you may act as one when you meet the necessary requirements.
One of the most important traits of a successful PO is what we call ‘the buck stops here’ attitude.
The phrase was popularized by the US President Harry Truman, and the message still holds true. In short, we take direct responsibility for everything that happens in the project.
This kind of approach elevates all team members to deliver the best of their abilities.
Of course, there are a few other skills a professional PO needs, including:
What I love about this role is the number of challenges it entails. Being a PO is a constant learning experience.
I have worked in this role in locations like Morocco, Sweden, Kuwait, and the US and cooperated with people from over 20 countries.
Every project taught me something new. Be it technical information, industry knowledge, or culture-related issues.
And the adventure never ends because no two projects are the same.
A PO typically has 3-5 projects running simultaneously, so you need a good toolset and methodology to juggle multiple tasks.
At Predica, we have the complete know-how to do the work in a more organized and easy way.
Let me now give you a ‘virtual tour’ of a Project Owner’s typical day.
And remember that this is only an example. The tasks and your engagement will depend on many factors such as project scope, client demands and your other professional activities.
As Predica’s employee, you work in a global company with colleagues from 3 different continents, operating in 8 cities.
You work remotely or from the office. Flexible hours apply.
If there are any issues, impediments, or tasks assigned to you (e.g., architecture design or QA), you set aside a 2-hour block of do-not-disturb DEEP WORK time to get these tasks done.
You will likely use one of the development and test environments in Azure or other online Microsoft services to validate what has been built before showing it to the client.
Sometimes you jump on a call with a client to discuss some parts of the solution and ensure you are on the same page.
Once you have dealt with all your ongoing projects, you go to lunch with colleagues, a client, or an associate, if they happen to be in town.
Afterward, you move on to activities outside your current project assignments. For a person who acts as a PO and is a Digital Advisor at Predica, this typically means the sales part. In Dynamics 365 CRM, you can see the pipeline and leads.
You make Teams calls and read through emails to get in touch with your current or potential clients and see how Predica can help them achieve their goals.
POs always need to reserve at least 20% of the day for ad-hoc activities. These may include responding to a new lead or handling a project emergency.
However, if there are no burning issues, you can spend that time honing your soft skills.
Alternatively, you start drafting a case study of a successful project you have recently completed.
The end of the day is usually dedicated to less brain-intensive work. Therefore, it’s a good time for planning appointments with clients for the next three weeks.
Occasionally, you fly abroad to see one of them. And you check if, by any chance, you could meet with other customers located nearby.
It is also a good moment to review the task list and calendar for the week and make some adjustments when needed.
Then you may also send a weekly status report to the project sponsors and managers on the client’s side. Friday is the perfect day for these activities because you can reassure them that Predica is on top of things even when they are not in the office for the weekend.
If there are any issues, you never wait for a weekly status report but act immediately to try to resolve them on the spot.
And finally, you check the internal social site on Yammer to see what’s happening with others at Predica. Maybe there are some interesting new leads or projects you would like to engage with, or an after-work event you could join.
Although this article focuses mainly on the PO’s responsibilities and how to become one, the post would not be complete without pointing out what it means to YOU, DEAR CLIENT.
And believe me, there’s a lot more to tell!
Companies often boast about providing you with a single point of contact (SPoC).
They sometimes call them an Account Manager or Key Account Manager. And, if it’s a larger initiative, you will have a dedicated Project Manager just for the project duration.
Why did Predica reject the Account Management approach and how did we replace it?
And that makes all the difference.
But let us get back to our future Project Owners.
The job seems so hard – and yes, it is! Why bother to become one, then?
Well, there are considerable benefits:
What is most important is that we share a GROWTH mindset. If you are open-minded and ready to learn from others – you can be on the right path to assume our ‘Jedi’ role.
At Predica, we will help you on this journey. Starting from onboarding (we will never stop improving that critical process!) to our mentoring program and the ongoing support of your leader.
And there are more learning opportunities every day as you work alongside seasoned POs, participate in knowledge-sharing meetings to discuss the most challenging project situations, and brainstorm the best ideas.
Our Project Owner team keeps expanding, and its members are some of the most interesting, driven, and passionate people I have ever met in my professional career.
When you join the team, you will also attend training programs to further support you in the new role.
To top it off, as Predica’s employee, you will receive a yearly educational budget. That will allow you to keep learning and achieving your professional development objectives.
If you’d like to join us, go here to apply.
Written in collaboration with Wiesław Szydło.
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