By Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson

 

There are many aspects involved in successful project and program management: hard work, experience, good teamwork, solid processes and work practices, having good tools with which to work, adopting and displaying the right behaviours…the list could go on. This article focuses on two aspects of project/program management – the processes and the tools we use as program and project managers – and asks: what comes first – the process or the tool?

We do not seek to discuss the merits of different project management tools and techniques, nor will we examine the differences between program and project management; rather, we put forward what we hope are thought-provoking points for you to consider.

The case for processes first, tools second

Processes for project and program management are well documented and readily available today – from professional institutes and organisations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA), to chartered institutes of various project-orientated professions, books and research papers, training organisations, and internal groups (for example, staff working in Program and Project Management Offices) in commercial and non-commercial organisations.

Ensuring a thorough understanding of processes to follow and how to “embody them” in your program or project is crucial to setting your program or project up for success. One key to success is to ensure processes are represented in ‘the way you do things…’, which in this article we will call behaviours and actions. Simply put:

  • ‘Behaviours’ can be thought of as the way people in a project team conduct themselves during the course of program/project. 
  • ‘Actions’ can be thought of as the physical activities and interactions the project team undertakes and manages during the course of the program/project. 

For example, having a solid understanding of the processes required to create a Project Management Plan (PMP) is fundamental to ensuring the PMP accurately portrays how the team will deliver the project. You must then display the behaviours and take the actions to make it happen. The same could be said of the project estimating and cost control process, the scheduling process, the procurement process, the quality process, the process of controlling risks and all other aspects of program and project management.

But even if you are aware of the processes you should follow and the behaviours and actions required, is this enough to guarantee success, or is there too much room to “manoeuvre”? Are you hindered if you know the processes to follow but cannot follow them because you do not have the right tools? Do you need a level of “control” that an appropriate tool can provide?

Consider this scenario: you are a Project Manager and have just hired a group of professionals from outside your organisation to run sections of your project. Neither you nor other members of the team have the time to show them “the way things are done around here,” and the specific processes you expect them to follow. In this case, is it enough to ask them to adopt the processes outlined in your procedures guides without providing specific tools that will provide direction?

Whilst a tool can embody good processes, one can argue that it is the behaviours and actions of individuals that make the real difference – regardless of the tool or tools they use. Such behaviours are a result of understanding how to perform certain activities; this cannot be taught by a tool.

 

The case for tools first, processes second

We all need and expect good tools to help us do our jobs. Whether you are an office-based professional Project Manager who uses a multitude of computer-based tools, or a professional that works in a different environment, you can’t do your best without the right tools…or can you?

Years ago, project management was carried out with tools that were more manually-intensive than those used today – but they were tools nonetheless. In the same way, carpenters relied on manual saws and now use a variety of powered devices to help them get the job done more quickly and with less physical effort, and designers used hand-built models in the absence of specialist computer simulation software.

Project management tools of varying levels of complexity abound today. Some have evolved into entire systems for managing the project itself, whilst others are specific to particular disciplines. Many project management tools have been developed by the organisations that have refined them over the years through the use of feedback and wisdom from user groups. Whether they are scheduling tools, resource management tools, estimating tools, scope management tools or a composition of all these facets and more, they can provide a solid platform (“railway tracks”, if you like) to control projects.

As an example, consider scheduling. Today’s computer-based scheduling tools are very powerful, and allow real-time consolidated views ranging from a single project to a portfolio view of a global scale.

Tools can undoubtedly provide structure to our work. As long as they are task-appropriate and designed to support the process, they help us to become more efficient. And that is one of the keys to using tools – we need to use the right one for the job at hand: it should be a platform to achieve efficiency, and should be used appropriately and properly as a result of training.

Let’s revisit our project scenario: in this situation, you are taking on a group of professionals from outside your organisation to run sections of the project, but you do not have the time to show them “the way things are done around here” and the specific processes you expect them to follow. Are you still confident that if you give them the tools they need with no attention given to the processes to follow, they will adhere to the processes in the manner that you anticipate?

Conclusion

We believe that processes and tools need to work in harmony with each other, and that the process should determine how the tool needs to be used. Tools vary in their level of sophistication, and they can definitely help your efficiency and level of consistency and control if (1) they are appropriate for the task at hand, and (2) they are used properly. You cannot use a tool effectively unless you know the processes it guides or instructs you to follow. The need to know “why” and “how” to use a tool is the reason that you first need an understanding of processes (and behaviours). Without the “why” and the “how,” we will not understand the real meaning behind the task at hand.

Program and project managers need to combine process familiarity, embodied through behaviours and actions, with the tools to carry out their work. Understand your processes first, and then use the most appropriate tool available to you to undertake the process.

 

If you have an opinion on this article, we would really like to hear from you.. Please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

     Article Author Bios as of April 2011

 

 

 

About

The

Article

Authors,

Their Roles

Their Plans,

And Their Goals

 

 

 

 

Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson are experienced PMO, program, and project managers who developed a mutual friendship by realising they shared a common passion to help others and share knowledge about PMO, portfolio, program and project management (collectively termed PM below). In February 2010 they decided to collaborate on a five (5) year goal to write 100 PM subject articles (pro bono) for publication in any/all PM subject websites, newsletters, and professional magazines / journals. They have been translated into Arabic, Czechoslovakian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian and published on websites in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong KongItaly, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Turkey, UK, and the USA.  Their mission is to help expand good program and project management practices by promoting the PM profession, to be a positive influence to the PM Community, be known as eminent influencers of PM practices, and in earnest hope readers can gain benefit from the advice of their 60+ years of combined experience and expertise and include the expertise of co-authors who write with them on certain articles and subjects. Gary and Jeff have all five (5) of the PMI ‘Family of Credentials’.  Along with writing articles, each also champions a role in the overall writing program collaboration process:

      Gareth manages all requests for additional guest author collaborations

      Gary manages the article development tracking and readership metrics

      Jeff manages the article distribution and new readership demographics

Each can be contacted for advice, coaching, collaboration, and speaking individually as noted in their bios or as a team at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is Head of the Group IT Portfolio Management Office for Lend Lease Corporation. Gareth has worked in several countries and lives in Sydney, Australia. Gareth has 14+ years of project, program, and portfolio management experience in IT and construction. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Gareth holds numerous degrees, certifications, and credentials in program and project management as follows: an MBA from one of the world’s leading education establishments, a 1st-class undergraduate management degree, and the PMP®, PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, & PRINCE2 professional certifications. Gareth is also the APAC Region Director for the PMI’s PMO Community of Practice and chairs several peer networking groups. He is a Director of the PMI Sydney Chapter for 2011.

He has presented on PMOs and program and project management at international conferences in the UK, Australia, & Asia including PMI APAC in 2010. Email Gareth: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Gary Hamilton  is a Sr. Change Manager, within HR with Bank of America’s Learning and Leadership Development organization. Gary lives in Bristol, Tennessee, USA and works out of Charlotte, North Carolina.  He has 15+ years of project and program management experience in IT, finance, and human resources.  Gary volunteers as the VP of Professional Development for the PMI East Tennessee chapter.  

Gary is a 2009 & 2010 Presidents’ Volunteer Award recipient for his charitable work with local fire services and professional groups. He has won several internal awards for results achieved from projects and programs he managed as well as being named one of the Business Journal’s Top 40 Professionals  in 2007.                                                                                                                Gary holds numerous degrees and certifications in IT, management, and project management and they include: an advanced MBA degree in finance, and has the PgMP®, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP® , CAPM®, Project+,  PRINCE2, ITIL-F, MCTS, MCITP, and SSGB professional certifications.    Email Gary: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   or contact him through LinkedIn .

 

Jeff Hodgkinson is a 31 year veteran of Intel Corporation, where he continues on a progressive career as a program/project manager.  Jeff is an IT@Intel Expert and blogs on Intel’s Community for IT Professionals for Program/Project Management subjects and interests.  He is also the Intel IT PMO PMI Credential Mentor supporting colleagues in pursuit of a new credential. He is the most experienced Intel MAPP (Make A Project Plan) Day Facilitator at Intel with over 150 facilitation events to his credit.  Jeff received the 2010 PMI (Project Management Institute) Distinguished Contribution Award for his support of the Project Management profession from the Project Management Institute. Jeff was also the 2nd place finalist for the 2009 Kerzner International Project Manager of the Year Award TM.   He lives in Mesa, Arizona, USA and volunteers as the Associate Vice President for Credentials & Certifications and the Agile CER (Chapter Engagement Representative) for the Phoenix PMI Chapter.  Because of his contributions to helping people achieve their goals, he is the third (3rd) most recommended person on LinkedIn with 535+ recommendations, and is ranked in the Top 60 (currently 51st) most networked LinkedIn person. He gladly accepts all connection invite requests from PM practitioners at: www.linkedin.com/in/jeffhodgkinson. Jeff holds numerous certifications and credentials in program and project management, which are as follows: CCS, CDT, CPC™, CIPM™, CPPM–Level 10, CDRP, CSQE, IPMA-B®, ITIL-F, MPM™, PME™, PMOC, PMP®, PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®, CAPM®, PMW, and SSGB (Six Sigma Green Belt).   Jeff is an expert at program and project management principles and best practices.  He enjoys sharing his experiences with audiences around the globe as a keynote speaker at various PM events.  As an ‘eminent influencer’ of good PM practices, he is collaborating with two others on a five (5) year goal to write 100 PM subject articles for publication in any/all PM subject websites, newsletters, and professional magazines / journals. Email Jeff: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.