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How does ContinuousNEXT apply to program and portfolio management?

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

The term ContinuousNEXT has been coined by Gartner to describe a new way of working, in a commercial and technological world that is continuously changing. As a result of the phenomenon that is ContinuousNEXT, organisations need to find ways to keep pace and indeed, make the relentless pace of unabated change required work to their advantage. This goes way beyond the need to be agile and adaptive, requiring the development of new practices, capabilities and ways to succeed, based around key focal points. This article looks at each of these in turn to explore the implications for the PMO.

The 5 dimensions of ContinuousNEXT

  • Privacy
  • Augmented Intelligence
  • Culture
  • Product Management
  • Digital Twin

More than anything, success according to the ContinuousNext approach, is a function of what Gartner calls ‘Dynamism’ – the ‘ability to embrace change and adopt technology in a new way’, which over 75 per cent of organisations find challenging.  A critical factor is in the way that technology is adopted and the governance models used, which is intrinsic to the many benefits of using PPM software in an organisation.

Users of PPM solutions will appreciate the ability to easily capture change initiatives into a central system and allow digital innovation or transformation projects to be prioritised.  To be able to review the merits of different proposals, first requires that they can be evaluated against each other for potential returns.  This ensures that whatever the investment decision finally made, it is well aligned to strategy.

In addition, PPM provides a central repository in which to track the benefits realised from different projects. A transformation programme is rather like research and development -inevitably, some projects will be more successful than others. It’s therefore important to be able to distinguish clearly between those and learn from mistakes. For ongoing projects, being able to quickly track status and health means being able to separate those that will be successful from those that won’t and the ability to quickly pull the plug on the latter, saving resources for a better opportunity.

AI augmented with PPM

Augmented intelligence in the project context involves routine and mundane tasks being supported by artificial intelligence, removing the constant need for task monitoring and project controls. For instance, simple workflow elements such as task completion checks will be automated and software systems will have machine learning capabilities, using historical data to offer relevant prompts and improvements. This will free up time to focus on performing more complex tasks, proactive stakeholder engagement and strategic planning, making recommendations and decisions rapidly, in a way that supports the pace of ContinuousNEXT change.

In practice, this could work at multiple levels. Take a construction company running multiple capital investment projects and needing to increase specialist resourcing or purchase new equipment. An AI augmented PPM system will provide historical data on what was purchased in the past and offer related reliability history, plus report on pricing discounts that were originally available. Alternatively, when setting up a new project, the system will offer suggestions about key tasks that will need completing based on former project elements, timelines and previous budgetary records.  Overall, AI will effectively empower PMs to focus more on strategy execution rather than feel constrained by the need to complete mundane tasks.

Culture

Organisations must have a dynamic and collaborative culture to facilitate ContinuousNEXT working and this too can be enhanced with PPM software. For example, PPM software supports a more collaborative way of working that is specific to the project or activities being worked on. It ensures that communications reach the most relevant people, helping to bring them together and allows information to be shared efficiently with everyone else on team.

This means the PMO can spend less time in meetings and doing email, empowering the project team to make better decisions and making project communications as a whole become more parsimonious. Trying to achieve this using email, copying absolutely everyone in on a communication just in case, is nowhere near as effective. Email wasn’t designed for collaboration.

By providing a centralised repository, PPM software also supports the creation of a more reflective and knowledge sharing culture, which in turn is better adapted to cope with the demands of ContinuousNEXT and avoiding the occurrence of ‘change fatigue’, with too much change loaded into one part of the organisation.

Digital Product Management

Making the shift from a ‘project’ to ‘product’ mindset is an essential part of ContinuousNEXT and it requires a different, very ‘customer’ or stakeholder focused way of working. PPM software supports this product centric approach to strategy execution, by allowing the PMO to create product portfolios for everything that is occurring around an initiative, showing all the interdependencies and connections.

As Mark Raskino, research vice president at Gartner comments, “Nobody asks Amazon whether it’s a retailer or a tech company anymore. It wins by being both. Tesla is a tech company in the automobile industry; Apple is a tech company that’s now in the health industry. Digital technology and product innovation are becoming indivisible in all industries.” The role of the PMO is to help facilitate these changes, by supporting the subject specialists within their organisations to deliver solutions to the problems their customers are facing using agile methodologies. Whether that is a new e-commerce website or a capital project investment such as building a new plant – these are all new products to enable the organisation to develop a more strategic outlook and become more competitive in the long term, as opposed to completing projects with a finite lifespan.

Digital Twin

This is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of PPM to complement the ContinuousNEXT way of thinking. In a programme and portfolio management context, digital twins can be used to model new capital projects, better understand how they could work and spot any limitations. It is also possible to use a digital twin to visualise exactly how people are working, the systems and processes they follow, or the workflow between departments. As Gartner says, using a digital twin is like ‘taking the roof off of the work location and looking inside.’

We anticipate extensive use of digital twins for construction and engineering capital projects in the future. This will be twofold - through the use of modelling during the project design phases, for quality control; and when nearing completion, in training phases. Armed with intelligence at this level, PMOs can accurately model different project scenarios, gain a deeper understanding of key issues and make much better, more considered decisions. For example, sitting miles away in an office, it is hard to visualise the conditions that stakeholders can face on an oil rig in Kazakhstan. Digital twins will help them obtain a much better understanding of the physical issues and in turn, stakeholders can also become more precise in their demands from the PMO.

Jim Conroy, VP of Global Sales, Project Objects