Project management is dead: long live change management

Call me a little old fashioned but over the last few years, spurred on by the demands of popular project methodologies like Agile, the practice of properly gathering, analysing and prioritising requirements seems to have become a thing of the past. Why is that, and is the new way of doing things really better?

I’ve worked on projects that have used waterfall, multi-waterfall and agile methodologies. Whilst much is made about difference between them, the reality for me has always been that it is the people, not the methodology, that have defined the success or failure of the project.

One of the biggest differences is often described as a reduction in documentation required by using agile-led ways of working. This is something of a misunderstanding; it’s not about less documentation but rather breaking the process up into smaller, more manageable chunks – and that includes the documentation.

The most significant problem I have observed as a result of this is that senior stakeholders in the project forego the process of properly understanding and analysing the full scope of a project and prioritising accordingly. In the race to make everything quicker and more efficient, we often forget that we still need to specify some boundaries. Our time, cost, quality triangle has gone out of the window and has been replaced by fortnightly sprints, standing up for ten minutes each morning and project plans that…well, there are no project plans anymore!

Except that, in large organisations at least, none of that is actually true. The need to control cost hasn’t gone anywhere. Nor has the demand to satisfy senior executives’ desire to predict the future with specific project implementation dates. And so, as project professionals, we find ourselves operating in a hybrid of hybrids. The agile multi-waterfall.

What all of this means is that we now try to run huge, complex projects without trying to constrain ourselves to specifying the deliverables in the early phases, but allowing them to evolve over the course of the project. We keep to a fixed deadline and “deliver” whatever we end up with when either the time or money runs out. Or worse, we keep going back for more.

And so, born from the desire to be more efficient, to evolve our designs and segment our projects into more manageable chunks that can demonstrate progress more quickly to our stakeholders, we have created the anti-thesis of project management. It is now possible for a project to have no end date, to have no fixed cost and to have no specified outcome.

In short, by not focusing on our requirements and prioritising what we want to deliver at the outset, we’ve killed the project management ethos and created something entirely new. We’ve created the change management industry.

Who needs a website anymore?

In the age of social media, apps and the ever increasing investment into wearable and virtual reality technology, you could be forgiven for thinking that the humble website’s days are numbered. Think again.

In 2001, I was just starting out at college on an Information and Communication Technology course. Course topics included database management, spreadsheet design and of course, website design. Smartphones didn’t exist, I was still carrying around an mp3 player the size of a small house and it was still possible to get a single result from a well-crafted google search.

Needless to say, even the thought of a website becoming obsolete would have made very little sense back then.

Fast forward over 15 years and I find people beginning to raise their eyebrows when I talk about a website centered content strategy. Why would anyone bother? Just create an app. Or a Facebook page.

The wonderful simplicity and flexibility of website still offers a vast array of benefits. Apps are fantastic – well, some are – but the absolute control over both content and experience that you get with a website, irrespective of device, makes it a much more cost-effective option in the long run.

Social media channels also offer many unique benefits, but the limitations of design and experience mean that you quickly lose control over what content you can present, or how it will be consumed. Again, they have their place but ultimately, I see these as being additional channels, rather than the core. If you accept that Google remains the primary means by which people find new information on the internet, then having a website remains extremely important as part of your content strategy.

If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist – Jimmy Wales

And so, when outlining a content strategy in 2017, I still start with the website as the central ingredient, around which I will look at which channels my target audience is using (rather than whatever seems “on trend”) and look to utilise those channels to draw traffic back to my website.

Once the traffic from my social media posts has landed back on my website, I’m then looking to provide effective calls to action to help bring them through a deeper journey, exploring further content, services and, if relevant, products. This gives me control over the user journey and, ultimately, a richness of data points to understand how people are consuming my content in order to further develop this to be more effective in the future.

I love a well crafted app. I’m a fan of social media and I am definitely all for exploring new and innovative ways to distribute content and engage an audience. But, for now, I’ll stick with a simple, brilliant website at the core of my content strategies.