By Chris Kirschten
How does Grant Orr, VP and Project Office Manager at Glacier Bancorp, juggle more than 30 important company projects at a time?
A dedicated project management team.
“Our project managers lead projects covering everything from compliance, IT, acquisition work, a little bit of everything,” Orr said. “In our Project Management Office today, we have six project managers, and we’re hiring a seventh.”
Project management is an essential business management process that empowers a company and its employees to successfully manage critical projects from start to finish. The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a global organization dedicated to helping businesses improve their internal operations through training and implementation of project management practices.
As the Vice President of Marketing for the Montana chapter of PMI, I hear a lot of stories about how project management has helped companies take their business to the next level. For this article, I talked with project managers at Glacier Bancorp, ATG (Advanced Technology Group), and Blackfoot to see what advice they have for incorporating better project management into their business plan.
Why does my company need project management?
Employees who are assigned projects but lack formal project training often utilize project management practices to guide them through planning, executing, and following up on projects. The decades-old approach can guide any project from start to finish, including setting up a website, establishing a new office, or creating and running an event.
While every business has different needs, some rely heavily on project management to track projects or manage clients. For ATG Project Delivery Specialist Joshua Pearson, project management is essential for consulting.
“Hours are resources,” Pearson said. “Every time we engage in a project, we’re solving client challenges. Our work lives and dies on good project management and we couldn’t effectively run our business without it. The quality of deliverables suffers if we don’t have good project management talent in place.”
Orr said project management has been important to Glacier Bancorp as it continues to grow.
“We’ve seen that it has allowed us to get projects done on time, on budget, and with quality, too,” Orr said. ”Since we’re in a regulated industry, we definitely want to keep our regulators happy, and good project management organization helps us do that.”
Several years ago, Glacier Bancorp undertook a project to move their data center. After the project’s successful completion, the company’s CEO became a firm believer in project management.
“That was a turning point in our company,” Orr said. He added that, with the number of initiatives the company has in the works now, there’s “no way we could get them done on time, budget, and delivering a high level of quality without having project managers who keep things on track.”
At Blackfoot, a strong project management team empowers the growing technology solutions company to keep things moving in a professional manner.
“Good project discipline creates an ability to see into the project, where the strengths and weaknesses are,” Jen Kivela, Revenue Assurance Supervisor said. “It’s an essential skill set for every department. Similar to accounting standards for our department, every function of business should have standards to preserve the integrity of their work.”
At PMI, we believe that Project Management can be an essential tool for any company, regardless of the industry.
How do I incorporate better project management at my company?
PMI recently published its 2017 Pulse of the Profession Report, an annual survey of business leaders and project managers on the state of project management. In the report, PMI identifies two types of performance levels encountered within the surveyed 3,234 global project management practitioners and leaders from various industries: champions and underperformers.
- Champions: When companies can boast that they have been able to complete projects within scope and meet intended business goals 80% of the time, they can be categorized as champions.
- Underperformers: When companies complete projects within scope and only meet the intended business goals less than 60% of the time, they can be categorized as underperformers.
“As expected, champions have higher project success rates (92% versus 33% of underperformers) and enjoy more successful business outcomes: They waste significantly less money due to poor project performance,” the report concluded.
So how does your company become a Champion?
Orr said companies should identify what they need most and focus on that specific goal. When Glacier started its Project Management Office in 2004, it was about learning and proving the worth of the discipline over time.
“Slowly grow your project management discipline over time,” Orr said. “Looking back, we could not have accomplished everything we’re doing now back then.”
After the company successfully implemented PM and grew more mature in the process, Orr said it was time to add complex approaches and tools, making the team more valuable to the company and clients.
But it’s important to start at the beginning. There are several constraints that are balanced within project management, but three of the core constraints are: Scope, Schedule and Cost.
By managing your businesses or customer’s needs (the project scope), you can ensure that you are meeting those needs. While it is nice to exceed those needs and wants, you do not want to spend time and energy doing something that decreases your profit margin. According to PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession report, 49% of businesses globally experience “scope creep,” doing more than required of the project, likely adding cost and time to projects.
By managing the time spent on your project (the project schedule), you can ensure that you are spending only the time necessary on your project. That does not mean that you must sacrifice quality; rather, you are efficient in time usage and minimizing wasted time. By tracking your project through project management processes, you can identify who is handling what task so that you do not accidentally have two people doing the same thing and wasting time – or worse, having no one actively pursuing a critical project task.
By managing the cost factor, you can ensure that your ROI matches your expectations. This is especially helpful if you are contracting with third-party services and ensuring that you are not paying more for those services than the revenue received from the client. Without this management, your profit margin could be negatively impacted.
Where can I get project management assistance for my business?
Hiring an experienced or certified project manager is a good first step. PMI also provides certification programs if you’d like to take a current employee with potential and empower them with project management training. There are online courses at sites such as Udemy and Coursera, and countless other books and resources available online.
PMI’s Montana Chapter has active local branches in Missoula, Helena, Bozeman, and Billings. These local groups are a great way to learn more about the project management discipline and to network with both experienced and new project management employees from a variety of local industries and businesses. They can also be a great resource for recruiting new employees for growing businesses.
The Montana Chapter runs twice-yearly project certification preparation courses, leading to globally recognized Project Management Professional (PMP) and junior level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certifications.
Project management is an essential discipline for business success. While managing a project’s scope, schedule, and cost are key, ultimately great project leadership, teamwork, and discipline make a project successful. To gain those, it’s essential to have a common language and expectation of project management within an organization. PMI provides the standards and ongoing education necessary to create satisfied employees and employers, and most importantly, to deliver great business results.
About the author: Chris Kirschten is the current VP Marketing for the PMI Montana Chapter, a volunteer role, and a certified PMP. Chris is the Product Manager for Blackfoot in Missoula. He’s passionate about both product and project management, having utilized both functions variously at Myrio – A Siemens Company, AT&T Wireless Solutions, and as a Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy. Chris is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and holds an MBA from Seattle University.
About the publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an association of more than 320 high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. For more information, visit MTHighTech.org.