By Ankit Patel – HighPoint UK Director of Services
What comes to mind when you hear someone say: “I work in IT”?
Perhaps you picture someone working behind a screen on their own, buried in numbers or code, and not interacting much with anyone?
If you did, then I hate to disappoint you but that couldn’t be further away from the reality of our HighPoint team members who work together alongside our customers to make the magic happen!
Of course, core capability and technical know-how are always essential factors for success, but as we move towards a more consultative relationship with our customers based on mutual success, the ability to make powerful human connections becomes more relevant across every single client touchpoint. This increasingly includes the role of the Project Manager within each of our engagements as they are the go-to person that fully understands how to deliver the solution that the customer needs.
Elevating the role and capability of the PM means putting them front and center within a project and client team. And we’re making some fundamental changes to how we structure these teams to enable this. Our UK Sales Leader, Rhys Ellis-Jones, described these changes in his recent blog where he described how we’re establishing multidisciplinary teams to support the needs of our strategic customers. In addition to the ‘Accountability’ Manager (aka Account Manager) who is ultimately accountable for the HighPoint relationship with the client, each multidisciplinary team also includes individuals focused on Technology, Solution and Service Delivery to ensure that the widest range of input and accountability is shared for the benefit of the customer.
Fusing and blending sales, business development and post-implementation roles with those that are more technical and delivery-oriented may at first appear to be an odd thing to do, but as Rhys’ blog explains this is being done to ensure that HighPoint remains strongly aligned with the customer’s outcomes and make sure that all contributors to a project are focused on and accountable to a set of commonly-held objectives throughout.
So, what does being part of a team like this mean for a Project Manager? Well apart from representing all aspects of the progress of ongoing projects within the team, it offers them exceptional visibility of all touch points across a client engagement. In turn, this empowers the PM by giving them information that enriches their client stakeholder conversations and challenges them to become much more consultative and exploratory.
By truly understanding the business outcomes and intended impacts that are driving a project, the PM is enriched with insights and knowledge which can help them raise the bar in their engagements. These insights help them to connect the dots and spot challenges and opportunities, beyond the technology that the team is designing or installing. With the confidence to connect personally and explore opportunities with their customers, our PMs are already uncovering new ways to add value and ensure that current and future projects they manage, positively impact our clients’ business.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not about turning PMs into salespeople – far from it. This is about recognizing that there is a tangible benefit to the customer in having a group of highly engaged team members supporting them, with the confidence and ability to add value on many different levels. It also develops the PM’s understanding of the make-up of a deal much better than they would by only touching the implementation. For example, our PMs now have much better visibility of the intricacies of a project as they are closely involved in scoping its requirements against the customer’s desired business outcomes. This allows them better management of the project delivery against the key drivers of the customer’s business case – a major step forward in overcoming the interpretation issues commonly found when translating sales into delivery. And of course, an additional positive outcome is an elevation in our customers’ experience of working with us, a topic my colleague Tom Coulbeck explored in a previous blog. When that happens, everyone’s a winner!
There is an elephant in the room with this which relates back to the stereotype of your typical technologist. You may be wondering whether our Project Managers are capable of flexing their consultative muscles in the way that I’ve described. Perhaps your typical PM is more comfortable inhabiting the constraints of their project plan than they are initiating open-ended consultative customer conversations?
For sure, not all PMs are ready to push the boundaries of their comfort zone. This may not come naturally to a PM that hasn’t spent their career building rapport with customers outside of a project; it may simply have never been a core requirement of their role. But as one of my old bosses said to me a long time ago, “If your goals don’t stretch you and put you outside of your comfort zone, then you’re doing yourself an injustice. You must push the boundaries to see what you can achieve.” Keeping this in mind and walking in the shoes of my customers has been one of the key things that contributed most to the development of my professional career, leading me to my current role heading up a successful delivery team for HighPoint UK.
So how do we go about helping a PM to hone their skills so they’re ready to play a role in a multidisciplinary team?
We start these types of discussions during our typical 121 development conversations. If we identify that a PM might have an innate inclination and the right attitude to “flip the script”, we suggest they consider this type of a role and look for opportunities for them to develop the skills they will need to be successful in it.
Most of the ‘training’ and support needed to help them prepare happens on the job. Of course, there are more formal training that we can offer to help PMs with some of the specifics of soft skills development, such as presentation skills, conflict resolution, active listening, and interviewing, but we have found so far that a combination of encouragement, guided support and mentoring is enough to get someone started. After all, there is no such thing as ‘failure’ in a consultative conversation – a customer may not want or need any more from us than they’re getting but hearing this feedback during a conversation delivers value in itself. Over time and with experience, the PM develops more confidence and will feel empowered to expand their consultative conversations and increase the exposure they’re able to achieve on a project.
And all of this is having an impact. Last year our move to multidisciplinary teams was just a concept. But it’s already delivering benefits to our customers, who are giving us fantastic feedback on the alignment and connectedness right across our teams. We are confident that over time this will be key to developing and retaining our people with richer experiences and opportunities, as well as continuing to deliver exceptional outcomes for our customers.
To find out more about our approach to project delivery, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.