Making the connection between your business strategy and project management isn’t easy, but it is necessary if projects are going to serve a purpose and meet inherent business needs. Here are some things you can do to make the connection.
To align business goals with project management (PM), leaders from the enterprise project management office (EMPO) or project management office (PMO) need to be involved in strategic planning sessions alongside senior-level management.
The foundation for overall business success and project initiatives starts here, making it imperative for executive sponsors to be in sync with project leadership out of the gate. By having company and project leadership in lockstep, project success ratios are more likely to increase, and in turn, stand a better chance of supporting company-wide objectives.
Think of the strategy and PM connection in construction terms, where the step of pouring footings and foundations needs to adequately support all other work that follows, and ultimately the final structure — in this analogy, the final structures are the end goals.
Suresh Srinivasan, CTO at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells us, within the NYU IT department there are two key components that link the business strategy and project management.
The first component is building the institutional IT strategy. The business strategy is translated into a pragmatic technology strategy where the sequencing of technology programs are carefully laid paying special attention to both the functional dependencies and technology dependencies.
The second component is leveraging a rigorous portfolio and project management governance process. “Major programs identified in the first step are decomposed into smaller projects and carefully reviewed during the bi-weekly Portfolio Planning Review session. The review involves, financial, technical ( UX, Workflow Design, Architecture, Data, Security, etc.) and operational elements,” says Srinivasan.
“The first step provides strategic focus ensuring business alignment across multiple stakeholders and minimizing the business process risk,” says Srinivasan. “The second step provides execution focus ensuring implementation options (reuse, build, buy, rent decisions, integration, etc. ) are done properly thus minimizing technology risk.”
Make sure everyone knows where they fit into the strategy
Often a business strategy is conceived at the top and never actually makes its way down to the rest of the company, according to Evan Harris, co-founder, and CEO at SD Equity Partners. “The only way to be successful with strategy is if the entire company is aware of it and making sure that all actions that are taken further the business along towards that strategic goal,” he says.
Harris further elaborates that if your goal is to reach a new target market by making X dollars in profit within that segment by a certain date, “be clear with your project management team as to how their work will help to achieve that goal… If team members don’t understand the role they play in contributing to company strategy, then your company is far less likely to achieve that goal,” he says.
A big win for business
Project management can be a powerful tool for enabling business strategy and creating sustainable wins. However, simply executing siloed projects can become an excessive drain on company resources, time and productivity. It’s imperative that companies draw a direct line between project activities, resources, time and effort and “how” it helps the overall company-wide business goals.
Creating a strategy that works can help give your organization a leg up on the competition or shorten time to market. Creating the right business-aligned IT strategy and roadmap during the integration of Lutheran Hospital with NYU Langone Medical Center allowed his organization’s entire implementation to be completed on target and within budget within 18 months, Srinivasan says.
My thoughts on this? When the connection between strategy and project management initiatives are clearly defined and established, EPMO is sufficiently armed with the needed support and confidence to set the right course from the start. Without this connection, project risk points increase. It also becomes difficult to accurately assess the true impact of potential issues on objectives after the fact, and even more problematic to find the best solutions.
When it comes to aligning strategy and PM, the big win for a business is the company-wide elevation in the clarity of goals, increased accountability at all levels, and more consistent buy-in. Establishing the connection is likely to result in higher success ratios, not only for projects but for cultural cohesion and overall long-term objectives as well.
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Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.