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Influencing Successful Outcomes - Human     Side: Pragmatic approach to plan for right     soft skillsDeepali Goyal– Group...
Contents 1. Abstract ........................................................................................................
1. AbstractPeople, process and technology are at the core of any entrepreneurial undertaking. With maturity inprocesses an...
about project, product or service. This points to the need of meticulous planning of the skills and theways enable to get ...
5. Framework for Soft Skill RecommendationFramework suggests consideration of 3 dimensions – project environment, project ...
All these factors have an impact on project environment. It is in project‟s benefit to understand theproject environment a...
Sr#       Environment                Variation              Remarks on Critical Success factors            Factor4       V...
Project    Project Type                                        Details  ID                            ultimate responsibil...
Project Role                                Complementary/Soft Skills Project Director             H                 H    ...
turning around the things. Ravi focuses his energy in understanding different perspective fromdifferent stakeholders – pro...
fixed work                                                                      attentionUnderstanding        big   Projec...
8. ConclusionIt is true that addressing core skills gap is easier as these are trainable skills. However, it is notimpossi...
10. Author’s Profile                       Deepali is Group Project Manager with Infosys                       Limited. Sh...
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  1. 1. 1 Page
  2. 2. Influencing Successful Outcomes - Human Side: Pragmatic approach to plan for right soft skillsDeepali Goyal– Group Project Manager, Infosys Limited
  3. 3. Contents 1. Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 4 2. Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 4 3. Challenge in planning for complementary skill set .......................................................................... 5 4. Feasibility of Planning Complementary Skills ................................................................................. 5 5. Framework for Soft Skill Recommendation ..................................................................................... 6 6. Effectiveness of Framework .......................................................................................................... 10 7. Case to compare the output .......................................................................................................... 10 8. Conclusion..................................................................................................................................... 13 9. References .................................................................................................................................... 13 10. Author‟s Profile ............................................................................................................................ 143 Page
  4. 4. 1. AbstractPeople, process and technology are at the core of any entrepreneurial undertaking. With maturity inprocesses and advancement in technologies, we have achieved tremendous sophistication inexecution. However, people dimension is the ultimate key for the success as this brings the core andcomplementary skills for effective utilization of process and technology. Core skills are mostly relatedto technical know-how and enjoy the key focus while teams are put together to achieve projectobjectives. Complementary/soft skills are like „Catalyst‟, which help execution to take desired rate anddirection. Close examination of successful endeavors reveal that right set of soft skills helped theteams to achieve the desired outcomes. But, challenge is to proactively identify the right soft skills asper the project environment and project goals. Having a framework to establish the set of soft skills fordifferent project roles will be an effective tool to increase the chances of project success. In thisarticle, we would discuss few of the project cases which were turned around to be BIG SUCCESSdue to the right level of soft skills. We would also propose a framework to guide the soft skillsrequirement based on a given set of project parameters. This soft skill assessment framework comeshandy for project managers to proactively plan for comprehensive skill requirements and set theproject on success path.2. IntroductionIn pursuit of increasing project success rate, project management fraternity has been analyzing theprojects of varying sizes and nature with different business complexity. Key idea has been to find outthe factors influencing project success. Based on this, project management and execution practiceshave significantly evolved. Improved processes have played a pivotal role in bringing number ofthings to science side from art side of project management. Increased fine tuning of processesresulted into positive outcomes. However, we continued to see projects falling off the track. Therewere gaps needed to be plugged. People, process and technology are at the core of anyentrepreneurial undertaking. People dimension needs a closer scrutiny to identify the pattern ofsuccess and failure. This dimension brings core and complementary skill set for project execution.Identification of core skills for project execution is one of the primary activities in resource acquisition.However, complementary skills are softer aspect of personality. These soft skills are collection ofpersonal positive attributes which impact the performance on any given task. Naturally, if the teammembers are in possession of these right positive traits, we would have predicable success in anyendeavor. But, we have seen that while teams are trained to acquire project specific core skills, mostof the time complementary skills are left to the chance. These complementary skills, in the rightproportion per role, will enable to take project in right direction.As per the analysis of failed projects examples submitted in „Catalogue of Catastrophe‟, 3 of the top 5common mistakes are related to complementary skills for project team. This clearly emphasizes theneed for proactive planning of skills. We need to look at who needs what kind of soft skills and in whatsituation. Being able to assess the impact of these skills on an ongoing basis will be helpful for theproject.Also, success stories are often studded with the contribution not directly related with projectdeliverables. Ability to do simple things differently and more effectively helped in these projects toincrease stakeholder satisfaction, improved confidence of the team and also more buy-in from users4 Page
  5. 5. about project, product or service. This points to the need of meticulous planning of the skills and theways enable to get the things done differently in order to improve the outcome.3. Challenge in planning for complementary skill setNumber of times it has been noticed that project failed or perceived to be failed in spite of having agood team with right skills. Majority of these projects had an imbalance of soft skills leading theproject to undesired outcome. Then, can we recommend a vanilla set of soft skills for one and all topotentially increase the probability of success. No! that would be a recipe to failure.At onset of a project, good amount of manager‟s bandwidth is consumed in project initiation activitiesand limited time is available for resource acquisition. More often, somebody in the team is entrustedwith preparation of skill set requirement for the project. Evaluation and assessment of the skill setagainst core skill requirement is accomplished. Verification of complementary skill set is quite adhocin absence of any reference to come up with the requirement.Having framework and guidelines readily available for managers, would help them to plan and acquirethe complementary skills for their projects.4. Feasibility of Planning Complementary SkillsPositive attitude, adherence to process and ethical behavior are some of the underlying hygienefactors, which need to be followed by the team. Here we want to focus on what can help projectteams to perform to their fullest potential and also the skills which can help establish desired rapportwith other stakeholders. Project goals, awareness of execution methods, project environment, projecttype and the team structure play significant role in determining overall complexity. Probability ofcomplementary skills‟ impact on outcome increases with increase in complexity. Therefore, it isessential that skills are planned holistically when we embark on a complex assignment.5 Page
  6. 6. 5. Framework for Soft Skill RecommendationFramework suggests consideration of 3 dimensions – project environment, project type and projectrole for coming up with project specific complementary skill set. It is important to note that all thepeople in the project do not need to have all required complementary skills. We need to look at theproject environment and understand the critical factors for specific environment. Based on the projecttype and role of the team members a set of complementary skill set can be arrived at. Dimesion1 – Understanding Project environment and varying needs6 Page
  7. 7. All these factors have an impact on project environment. It is in project‟s benefit to understand theproject environment and align the efforts to get maximum output. However, understanding the criticalsuccess factors for different variations of environment parameters, will aid in identifying requiredcomplementary skills.Sr# Environment Variation Remarks on Critical Success factors Factor1 Organization Process Oriented Conducive to ensure project success. Project team Culture Culture should see ultimate project objective, pick up suitable processes for execution and must keep an eye on risks/issues. Informal no specific It is critical to have a process oriented manager who process culture can proactively work and set the project processes. Manager should have excellent communication and articulation skills and should be able to stay focused on project objectives with an eye on risks/issues.2 Team Collocated Reliance on face to face communication will be high. Integration issues across various tracks can be minimized by bringing teams together and encouraging white board sessions. Virtual (Global) It is important for the team to be aware of cultural sensitivity. Communication protocol should be well defined and entire team should not bear the communication responsibility. Focus on written communication will be high. Managers should have good analytical and conflict resolution skills.3 Project Goals Regular functional/ It is generally easier to understand the project technical initiative objective and set the execution method. Team should have good process orientation for favorable outcome. Strategic Business This type of initiative would have larger/deeper Initiative goals compared to what is visible to individual projects. Having an overall understanding on initiative and ability to see project‟s contribution to overall goals will help take the right decisions during the course of execution. Advocacy, multi tasking, sound management and communication are the key factors.7 Page
  8. 8. Sr# Environment Variation Remarks on Critical Success factors Factor4 Vendor Spread Sole Vendor Though it is good to be a sole vendor, it is prone to induce a complacency feeling. It is essential to have a continuous focus on establishing oneself as a trusted partner and not just a vendor. Articulation and partnering skills are important. Multi Vendor Innovation, dependability and promptness are some of the traits which help to stand out in multi vendor environment.5 Stakeholders Supportive Articulation of project progress as per stakeholders‟ needs non-supportive Advocacy, negotiation, risk and issue management, articulation are necessary to establish a positive rapport.Apart from environmental factors, another important point to be examined is project type. While thereare multiple ways to determine project types, I specifically referred to Martin Bell‟s classification ofprojects. This is based on important parameters of project goal and execution methods. Absoluteclarity on goals and methods would result in relatively simple project type called „Paint by numbers‟.However, complete ambiguity on goals and methods leads to a complex situation. Typically businesstransformation initiative will be of this type. Please refer table x.x for details on these type. Project Project Type Details ID 1 Paint by Absolute clarity on goals and methods. Problems and risks are Numbers predictable, which can be managed with sound management practices. Examples from IT: Staff augmentation, operations and maintenance projects 2 Go on a quest Goals are known, but methods are not clear. Work can happen on multiple tracks and there may be a need of effective integration. This type of project is common in Research and Development. Examples from IT: Offer HR platform to customers on cloud by year 2014; 3 Make a Movie Clarity on methods but end goal/result is not so clear. Person with8 Page
  9. 9. Project Project Type Details ID ultimate responsibility should be aware of the fact that end result may or may not be well accepted in spite of following process. Examples from IT : Developing a product, Creation of marketing material4 Walking in the This is the most difficult type of project. The main stakeholders are not Fog only unclear about how things need to be done, but are also not totally sure about what the end result should be. This type of project needs a strong leader, and he must ensure that the project has the complete commitment and support of the senior stakeholders. Examples from IT: Business Transformation Programs**Project types taken from Martin Bell’s article on http://suite101.com/article/project-management-a98155 Project Type Complementary/Soft Skills Communication Mutual Advocacy Initiative Big Picture Trust & Understanding RespectPaint by numbers M H L L LGo on a quest C H M H HMake a movie H H M H HWalking in the fog C H H H HL – Low Importance; M – Medium Importance; H – High Importance; C – Critical (must have)Guidelines for complementary skills per project role Project Role Complementary/Soft Skills Communication Mutual Trust Advocacy Initiative Big Picture & Respect Understanding Project Sponsor M H M M C9 Page
  10. 10. Project Role Complementary/Soft Skills Project Director H H M M C Project Manager C H H M H Implementation H H L L M Manager Project Assistant H H L L L Team Leads M H H H M Team Members M H M M L6. Effectiveness of FrameworkFor a new project, it is recommended that the framework is used as a guidelines and an effort ismade to acquire at least critical and high importance complementary skills apart from core skills.However, the assessment can also be done for in flight projects and recommendation may beincorporated to improve the chances of success.7. Case to compare the outputCompany SupraCards has been leading the global market in financial cards products. They havebeen able to maintain the lead position in the market due to innovative products and laser sharp focuson cost control. QuickPay is one of their payment computation platform. Development and support ofthis platform has been outsourced to vendor Ultra. QuickPay is a multi technology platform and is partof a complex landscape receiving data from multiple upstream systems. Complex business logics areapplied on the data to arrive at payment. Payment reports are used by Finance team to disbursepayments to partners.Though Ultra has been involved in QuickPay right from initial implementation phase, off late client hasbeen very upset and Ultra delivery management team is flooded with client escalations. Team isperplexed not knowing why everything, they do, seems to go wrong. Team members are de-motivated and most of them have got some reason or the other to ask for a release. There is aconstant threat from client to have other vendor inducted in the portfolio. Reputation and business forUltra is at stake.Ultra delivery management decides to make portfolio leadership change. A new manager, Ravi, isasked to take over the portfolio. Ravi is a seasoned manager and has an excellent experience of10 Page
  11. 11. turning around the things. Ravi focuses his energy in understanding different perspective fromdifferent stakeholders – project managers, team leads, team members, client facing manager, clientcontacts etc. Symptoms indicate that team‟s morale and client satisfaction are extremely low.Ravi decides to first understand the project environment and finds out that – Project organization is a process oriented organization. Goals of the projects executed in this platform are linked to strategic initiatives. It is distributed team with stakeholders spread across the geography. Ultra is a sole vendor but lot of other vendors are keenly eyeing an opportunity to enter.He then picks up the key ongoing projects in various life cycle phases to do the project type analysis - There are a bunch of projects which lie in „paint by numbers‟ One key project, having lot of escalation, is in „Walking in the fog‟ category. Two of the projects are „Make a movie‟ type and others are mostly in „Go on a quest‟ type.Based on the analysis of project environment and project types, Ravi does an assessment on skillsavailability –Core Skills : Though there are complex core skills requirements for the platform, good part isprojects are adequately staffed with right core skills. There are some minor problems with few teammembers‟ competency levels but those are addressable per platform training plans.Complementary/Soft Skills : Team‟s inputs show lot of gaps from client governance side. However,after scratching the surface, it becomes evident that problems are multifold.Based on project environment and type analysis – Platform should have strong process framework which should allow the projects to adapt to the parent project processes effectively. There should be set guidelines and process to execute „paint by numbers‟ type of work. As numbers of projects are linked to strategic initiatives, there is a deep need to understand the objectives of overall initiative. It is also important to see how specific project contributes to overall objective. Team and other stakeholders are distributed across geographies; this indicates a need of good communication and articulations skills. Being sole vendor and to maintain that position, innovation has to be a culture of the team.Assessment of these skills reveals the true picture –Skill Required Preferred Role Current level of skill RemarksProcess Orientation Project Manager Low Needs immediate attentionProcess framework for Project Manager Low Needs immediate11 Page
  12. 12. fixed work attentionUnderstanding big Project Manager & Low to Medium Need to work with keypicture Leads leads and managers to help them understand the specific projects‟ big pictureCommunication Project Manager Low High priority – has aProcess critical impact on outcomeCommunication Team High – Unstructured High priority – has a critical impact on outcomeMutual Trust & Respect Team Low Need to work with team to help them slowly work towards building trust and respect. It should be done top down.Advocacy Project Manager & Low Encourage them to Leads develop this skill. To start with, it may need context specific detailed support.Initiative Project Manager & Low Identify few key areas Leads and help them identify the initiative. Help them to work on it and succeed. Based on above assessment, Ravi identifies the key folks within the team with right complementaryskill of positive attitude and leads efforts to get an action plan prepared. This plan focuses of settingup the right processes to ensure communication is monitored and controlled, internal discussions aresetup to improve people‟s advocacy skills, folks with right set of communication and advocacy skillsare positioned in direct client facing roles and that there are effective risk-reward mechanism withinthe given project constraints. Additional intense focus on complementary skills, which was a primegap area, helped project to improve on overall mutual trust and respect. This led the team to be moreeffective in what they work on and at the same time take bottom line ownership of what they deliver.After 6 months, positive results started to reflect in client satisfaction.12 Page
  13. 13. 8. ConclusionIt is true that addressing core skills gap is easier as these are trainable skills. However, it is notimpossible to have the complementary skills gap filled provided we sincerely spend energy and effortsto identify those gaps. Addressing complementary skill gaps is a relatively slow process. But, thepositive impact on outcome is encouraging enough for us to take this up seriously.9. References 1. “Why technology projects fail – Classic Mistakes” - http://calleam.com/WTPF/?page_id=799 2. “Project Management – The Four Types of Project” by Martin Bell - http://suite101.com/article/project-management-a9815513 Page
  14. 14. 10. Author’s Profile Deepali is Group Project Manager with Infosys Limited. She has 18 years of experience in Project and Program Management of IT solutions & services and process consulting. Email: Deepaligoyal205@gmail.com14 Page

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