Weeknote 05/2013

This week

  • Had a meal out in Durham to celebrate another friend’s 30th. Cracking day for it too! If you’re ever out in Durham City and the sun is shining try the Half Moon‘s beer garden for a spin.
  • Finally got around to preparing a patch of the garden for some vegetables. Got a few more plants in too. Thinking about putting a couple of cherry trees in.
  • Ran a couple of workshops for a college. They were labelled ‘strategic visioning’ workshops but they were more about exploring the way in which technology can support the working life of the college. The first day focused on a broad view of the college whilst the second day focused on learning and teaching. It brought together a whole range of staff from across the college together in one room for the first time and, if nothing else, was a success in just getting discussions out in the open. A number of themes emerged from discussions, which I’d imagine are very similar to other institutions. The idea is that these themes might help to inform the college’s learning and teaching strategy and their IT strategy. I thoroughly enjoyed the two days and definitely hope to keep conversations going – really great bunch of people. The next step for me is to write up our findings from the two days having used a number of participatory approaches to capture information.
  • I had my appraisal this week. Pretty straight forward in all honesty as it maps closely to our service’s and the BCE Team’s high level plans. I carried out a survey as part of my appraisal. You can see the results relating to my competencies below (click to enlarge). I got some amazing comments from everyone and I’m truly grateful to them for taking the time to fill in my survey. The area I was most interested in was my weaknesses. In summary I need to: be more confident in myself; be wary of taking too much on; get out and about a bit more; improve my negotiating/influencing skills; and try not to get too frustrated. I’m certainly going to try and improve in these areas – especially my confidence and presenting/networking.

Competency results

  • With help from my colleague, we’ve finalised details for an end of programme meeting. If ever you need to organise an event I’d thoroughly recommend Eventbrite!
  • Met with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) to see how our Business and Community Engagement (BCE) Team might work more closely together in the future. We didn’t have long but I came away feeling quite excited about doing more with the NCCPE and ensuring a greater join-up.
  • Had a catch-up meeting with Jisc’s BCE programme manager. Finalising some upcoming outputs (desk research, synthesis of the Open Innovation and Access to Resources programme) and thinking through future plans.

Lessons learned

  • Electric handbrakes are no good for man nor beast – rubbish.
  • If someone approaches you and shakes your hand go with it, otherwise you will make yourself look like a fool!

Of interest

  • I mentioned a video interview on leadership last week. I can’t stop thinking about it. One of the biggest issues I think exists across various organisations (albeit my experience is more in education) is that people are unsure about what they can/can’t do without the permission of senior managers. Some constraints are needed to guide those actions i.e. principles. My colleague mentioned a talk he heard on constraints and the way in which they can force us to be more creative. Gonna have to investigate this more…

Weeknote 04/2013

This week

  • I attended the 30th birthday party of one of my best friends, themed “Thriftieth”. All in the name of a good cause as charity shops around Durham raked it in and I looked a little something like this… charity-night
  • I suffered for it on Sunday :-(
  • Finished off my presentation for the strategic visioning workshop we’re running, created all of the templates and ran through the day with colleagues. We’ll see how it all goes next week.
  • Did some work with dashboards on Google Analytics for our service. We wanted a snapshot of activity at international; UK .ac.uk domain; and UK non-.ac.uk domain levels. For each view you get an overview of top organisations viewing the site; top content; information on page views with a regional split where relevant; and top search terms. I also helped pull together some statistics regarding our provision to organisations from Wales. I’ll try to write a post on this in case it’s useful to others.
  • Reviewed two publications for my MSc as recommended by the APM’s LinkedIn Group. I’m carrying out my literature review in a similar way to my weeknotes – see 01/2013 and 02/2013 if you’re interested in project management.
  • Took part in a planning meeting – my year is looking very busy already.
  • Answered various queries on and read through some interesting case studies emerging from the Jisc’s Transformations programme which I’m supporting.
  • Had a meeting as a follow-up to the UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice (EACP) start-up meeting. We should start to get invites out in the next week or so. We trialled collaborate as they’re interested in running a series of webinars.

Lessons learned

  • I need to starting writing a summary of what I’ve done after I’ve done it. I find it quite difficult remembering what I’ve done during the week – a lot going on at the minute.
  • I can no longer handle large quantities of alcohol, who am I kidding – been like that for a while.

Of interest

MSc Literature Review 02/2013

In this post I’m focusing on PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ – The High Cost of Low Performance.


The report is based upon the findings of a survey carried out by PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ however there is very little detail about the survey and the respondents i.e. who are they and how many actually responded? Data visualisations are available via their website but I haven’t had a really good chance to explore this yet. At the time of writing it seems very much a replication of the figures represented in the report and summaries of each question. It would be great if they could just release the data, even if it was anonymised.

The report links to the findings of other reports which might be worth following up, in particular PWC’s third global survey on the current state of project management which states:

For this year’s survey, we asked participants if project management is critical to business performance and organisational success. As many as 97% of respondents agreed that project management is critical to business performance and organisational success and 94% agreed that project management enables business growth. (PCW, 2012)

Anyway, enough about complementary resources, what did this report have to say:

  • Percentage of every dollar at risk = 13.5%. They demonstrate this as US$135m for every US$1bn invested in a project. I’m assuming this is to grab the reader’s attention?!
    • High performers risk 2% whilst low performers risk 28%. Only 8% or respondents were considered higher performers i.e. 80% or more of their projects were delivered: on time; on budget; and met their goals. 22% of organisations were considered low performers i.e. 60% or fewer of their projects were delivered: on time; on budget; and met their goals.
  • Portfolio, programme and project management (P3M) practices are not yet mature across the range of respondents. There’s no real explanation as to how they define mature P3M.
    • There is a graph towards the end (p.11) that I think relates to P3M maturity. It mentions: ongoing PM training; process to mature PM; process to develop project managers; use of standardised practices; defined career path for project managers; PM maturity; C-Level Title; % of projects with active project sponsor; organisational agility; portfolio management maturity; benefits realisation maturity.
  • On p.10 the report states “standardisation (sic) is also critical, as more organisations (sic) seek to innovate through partnerships with other entities that have historically been competitors”, however it does not state why. It then goes on to talk about open innovation but to me this seems a very tenuous link or at least it is from the way it is written. I’m not sure this can be taken into consideration.
  • It does provide data highlighting projects are more likely to have better outcomes if they have an active project sponsor.

The report summarises by listing three key steps to minimise risk, aspects that set high performers apart from low performers i.e. they:

  1. focus on talent development;
  2. support standardisation; and
  3. ensure alignment with organisation strategy.

My thoughts

Despite my reservations about some of the claims on p.10 of the report linking standardised approaches to partnerships and open innovation I really enjoyed this report and felt it related more strongly to my research than  KPMG New Zealand Project Management Survey 2010. I’m still unsure as to how they’re defining mature project management practices but it might be a case of getting in touch with them. I think it would be useful to help inform the kind of survey I might develop for UK higher education. Next steps are probably to follow up some of the reports referenced in this one.

The other slight nag I do have is that I’m reading reports written by project management professionals. It’s very much one-sided at the moment and it’s bound to bring out lots of positives relating to project management. It’s also got me thinking about who I aim my survey at. If I focus on those that are bought into project management practices are the results going to be biased? How do I define high performers across UK higher education? This reports focuses on organisations whose project success rates are high, I’m more interested in relating maturity to organisational performance. Lots to think about.

MSc Literature Review 01/2013

Following in the same vein as my weeknotes I thought it might be useful to collate my literature review notes. My proposal hasn’t been formally accepted but I want to make sure I can hit the ground running or at least have enough knowledge to adapt my proposal. With that in mind I asked the APM’s LinkedIn Group whether they felt there were any relevant resources worth looking at. The following is a summary of the KPMG New Zealand Project Management Survey 2010 and my thoughts reading it. I’ll review other resources mentioned in subsequent posts.


Carried out by the KPMG this survey was completed by almost 100 organisations (KPMG clients) from over 13 different sectors. The survey comprised 22 questions focusing on project governance; business case management; and benefits realisation. There are no appendices attached, it would have been useful to see all of the questions asked and the data received. Key messages include:

  • Key drivers of project activity: introduce new products and services; support organisational change; and develop IT;
  •  59% of organisations do not have a formal benefits measurement and realisation process;
  • 68% of organisations do not formally undertake strategic reviews to track benefits realised by the business;
  • 60% organisations fail to consistently align their projects with corporate strategy;
  • 32% of organisations always initiate projects with a business case. The survey does highlight concerns that critical aspects are often missing or poorly presented;
  • 29% consistently practice timely and accurate monitoring and reporting or projects; and
  • 13% always take risk management into account.

The report also indicates that high performers coordinate projects through a Project Management Office (PMO); view their projects as part of a programme or portfolio; initiate projects with a full defined business case; and apply risk management.

My thoughts

…there are still organisations who are failing to benefit from effective project governance and alignment to organisational strategy.

I think the above quote, taken from p.9 of the survey, relates quite strongly to a comment made by John Townsend on my proposal regarding an organisation’s maturity in relation to project management. How well placed is the organisation to make best use of the various methodologies available? Understanding your organisation is essential and was a key consideration of a programme of work carried out by Jisc in 2002. The work explored the concept of Managed Learning Environments in UK Further and Higher Education. A publication developed by Jisc infoNet providing guidance to those developing an MLE focused an entire chapter on “understanding your organisation“.

One of the biggest difficulties for projects across UK Higher Education (HE), from my own experience, is in articulating and evidencing the benefits derived from a project. I think there are a number of reasons for this, relating to the survey findings: projects are initiated without a business case; they don’t have a formal benefits measurement and realisation process; and I’m not convinced they formally undertake strategic reviews.

The report talks of project success but in terms of my research I’m not sure that’s necessarily important. A project can be closed early and still have achieved certain benefits, and although the full range of benefits might not have been realised the organisation still learns from it. It doesn’t mean to say the project has been poorly managed. I’m more concerned with project management maturity and organisational performance. I was interested by the four items listed by the report that relate to the “high flyers” i.e. a PMO; programme/portfolio view; risk management; and initiation with a business case.

Weeknote 03/2013

This week

  • I moderated a colleague’s webinar on Business Intelligence. Seemed to go very well with over 80 in attendance. Just a shame the full 141 that registered weren’t online. The idea of a “single source of truth”, with regards to an organisations data and its use for decision-making, has been around for some time and to some extent is being realised as evidenced from the webinar. I thought Anita Wright’s point about data definitions was extremely interesting. They (The University of Liverpool) didn’t spend a great deal of time cleansing data however they did spend a great deal of time defining what certain terms actually meant.
  • I’ve been drafting a short piece on innovation relating to a set of projects funded by Jisc. Pretty happy with the first section, not so much my summary of the projects. Comments welcome – don’t worry about styling and proofing, that’s to come.
  • Further work on the strategic visioning workshop I’m running with @MumManJac – adjustments to ensure we meet the requirements of our client (so to speak). Slight worry there is too much emphasis placed on the technology but I think we can make it work given the mix of staff. I’ve pretty much completed my slides for day 1 too. Day 2 should be pretty straight forward, then a case of collating all of the materials next week.
  • Along with @elliogem I carried out a review of how well our communications template worked for the launch of our e-Safety infoKit. I’ll publish our findings on Jisc infoNet’s team blog in due course.
  • I’m trying out Martin Hawskey’s Twitter Archiving Google Spreadsheet or TAGS for short. I think he’s a genius and would thoroughly recommend you follow his work.

Lessons learned

  • Publish early, fail fast. I recently published my research proposal online. I’ve had some fantastic comments and offers of support. I posted it on the APM’s LinkedIn Group too and had a great response there so far.
  • I didn’t realise that pressing ‘b’ or ‘w’ would black or white out the screen in PowerPoint’s presentation mode. Useful if you need to hide the screen and really grab the attention of the audience.

Of interest