Why PMs, IT and Enterprise Transformations Suck: Ok Not Really But Why do we think they do?: Introspection on Gartner Conference – National Harbor, Washington, DC 2014

Just recently, I had the unique opportunity to attend this year’s Gartner Conference – PPM Symposium 2014 at National Harbor in Washington, DC.  The central focus of the session was around how Project Platform Management can transform the way business does business no matter what business it is.  My reaction to the event was WOW…can I say WOW again? Twice maybe three times without being weird?  For a PM attending this type of symposium was similar to the candy store or FAO Swartz effect on children, it was mind-blowing, truly transforming (a high not easily described effectively without sounding weird – “totsweirdo” as my 13yr old would say). 

 For many professionals, the attendance to an industry specific conference or symposium is something I believe we often take for granted, especially if we are conference “pros” or road-warriors looking for the latest conference to meet, greet, network (i.e. wine and dine) with those we choose to rub elbows with in our respective discipline.  Check out this all-encompassing Do’s and Don’ts article on the right way (and wrong way) to attend a conference.

 Yet for me, it was dreamy, like the name we used to give to celebrities like Patrick Dempsey (even though the McDermott guy is dreamy too) after we re-discovered his glory on the show Grey’s Anatomy.  Like Patrick, it’s not that I never learned true PMO value centric applications or that I had somehow forgotten how to work the PM magic we PMs all profess we have, it was more of a epiphany based revelation so to speak.  I realized when I first saw the pamphlet last year in December, that I must attend and true to form once I did it was extremely revealing in ways that are hard to explain.  Let’s just say, for me, the conference provided that secret special sauce missing from our pursuit of true program management excellence.

From topics on “Governance being a leadership discipline” by French Caldwell, VP and Gartner Fellow who discussed his involvement with the Rover to Mars Program for NASA to advice on how Project and Program Managers, IT Professionals and CIOs alike can better manage the fastly emerging “Globalization Force Multipliers” and Mega Trend Contradictions spoken from the sage wisdom of Madeleine Albright, our former US Secretary of State under the Clinton administration – it was obvious there were some serious brains in the room and knowledge was abound and present for all to consume.  One of the speakers had me at hello so to speak, with a specific interest and focus on business + personal personality matching (and yes amongst all of cool PPM strategies and BI based analytic advancements).  Tina Nunno, VP and Gartner Fellow in Gartner’s Research Group spoke about her book “Machiavelli’s Guide to IT”, where in her book she describes how extreme political tactics and warfare disciplines within enterprise corporate structures can often cause what she calls “political land minds of … power politics”.  

So why do PMs Suck?  Well, they don’t really if used properly in the strategic vision of the enterprise roadmap.  The conference speakers as well as Tina focused on the fact that either 1) the enterprise does not recognize the PM, their skillset or the need for a certain type of enterprise centric PM OR leadership (middle or otherwise) did not recognize the type of Enterprise needs of the organization transformation in direct correlation to the PM skill set required for desired end results.  Ultimately there is a mismatch in stated goals of the organization between what they are attempting to do and their expected results are plus mismatches in resources (well beyond a PM) to effectively carry out said goals therefore being in position to execute in a timely manner to drive certain expected results.

In today’s market no matter what the LOB or strategic vertical, there seems to be company after company stating “we are transforming IT”, “we are transitioning from or what we used to do to what customers want us to do” and the ever present “we are no more what we once were”.  Don’t get me wrong, transformation is a very good thing indeed.  Yet the political fallout from most transformation processes can leave as Tina describes “a lot of blood in the water”.  In her keynote speech, “The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing” Tina speaks on personality management beyond the typical C-Level Exec, more than the dynamic individual VP or any high or low position within the enterprise org chart (from top to bottom) but more on how culture shapes us as business leaders, professionals, etc.. This shaping redefines our roles indefinitely and recalibrates our outlook for the future ever so subtly on who we are as people and our relation to the enterprise change we seek.

 Key takeaways from the Wolf in CIO Clothing:

  •  Men (and women alike) decide upon a middle course which is most hazardous for they know neither how to be entirely good or entirely bad
  •  Understand the Extreme Animal Ecosystem via the power discipline. 
  •  What Animal are you – Machiavelli said to think like an animal: Are you lunch or liability, light or dark? Prey or Predator, Leader or follower? Do you seek power, manipulation, warfare or peace?  Hint: Manage Agreement…peacefully without becoming prey J
  •  Machiavellians know there is no safe middle ground in leadership.
  •  A Wolf learns the difference between calculated risk taking and recklessness.

  • Master the three extreme Machiavellian disciplines of power, manipulation, and warfare.

  • Recognize that by going to extremes, your Wolf can help bring a dark enterprise to the light side.

I specifically would like to see if we can ask Mark Langley, President and CEO of the Project Management Institute and Richard Hunter, Gartner VP and by far the most interesting man on this planet (ok besides the Pope and others of course) to come and speak not only with our senior leadership but our company as a whole if I can be so bold.  Richard’s view on delivering change in the digital era was by far the most succinct and enriching presentation sets focusing squarely on the wave of new digital technologies and how one day we will not create, sell or market one single product without understanding the digital discipline deep to the core.  Richard cannot be described adequately – there’s simply too much there, all I can say – life is good and I mean really good when this man speaks.  Check out his profile on Gartner and take a look or read shall I say of his work online, he won’t disappoint – if you are paying attention to what he has to say (no denial allowed).

 Key takeaways from Richard’s Presentation:

  •  Your Enterprise Will Spend More on IT, Whether or Not It’s Spent in the IT Budget … And Whether That Spending Systematically Advances Strategy Is Anybody’s Guess
  •  Demand Governance is Today

  • Governance Is Really About Executing Business Model Change That Is Inevitable With Digitalization
  • Success (for the Enterprise) Is an IT Portfolio That Equals Coherent Execution of Enterprise Strategy

  • Take every measure within your power to support increased clarity for enterprise strategy, and to ensure that the portfolio of initiatives involving IT support directly addresses strategic goals.

  • Support experimentation aimed at testable hypotheses whenever and wherever possible.

  • Address the key leverage points within the virtuous cycle of IT value to maximize yields and increase the visibility of value delivered by IT.

  • Above all, remember: IT is the engine for coherent execution of enterprise strategy.

 Over the next few months, I will share more insights from the conference because really one blog won’t do it justice.  Yet instead of chiming on and on about one conference (which was pretty awesome by the way – do you think?? Hah J), I will parse data on specific subjects from the conference that could be very and I mean very relevant to things we are doing today, tomorrow and beyond tomorrow. 


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