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How POC projects made me a better Project Manager


How did I get here?

Project Management is a tough job. We need to keep a track on budgets, timelines, scope, stakeholders’ expectations, our team members and even the scope of the project. Sometimes we manage big initiatives, and sometimes we manage BAU stuff. Every project has its own challenges, its own kamikaze moments and its own benefits.

Till the end of 2017, I was running a portfolio of projects that summed up to around 5 Mn. These projects were incidental and I could say I was at the right place at the right time to bag a big-ticket project as a project manager. It does sound great that as a consultant my portfolio was growing and so were my responsibilities and sleepless nights.

As I delivered these projects and the yearly budgeting cycle proceeded, these projects entered BAU or operational phase where CAPEX went down and OPEX increased and formally I had to close the projects from a delivery perspective. My next projects weren’t as big in financial numbers but were bigger in ambitions.

I entered a stage where I was being trusted with experimental projects or POC projects, where management was skeptical in committing huge money but the outcomes were significantly great and sometimes even segment defining.

Someone asked me at a candid session among friends, that isn’t my portfolio smaller than before? And that statement made me look back and evaluate what it is that was making me happier in managing these small budget projects than when I was managing big-ticket initiatives.

Trust me, this is not an exercise to justify my POC handling days of 2018, neither it is a story that I tell myself to keep myself in denial, I went back and checked my numbers thoroughly and spoke with my few team members who are enduring me since 2017 and have been working with me.

Differentiating factors

 

Here are a few key things that helped me focus on projects that people call experimental or POC projects, hope these help you to visualize things differently too:

  1. What we’re doing this POC or experiment — Often people ask why are you doing a POC for this tool or for this vendor. They don’t realize that we landed up doing a POC because there is a potential gold mine that needs to be discovered i.e. the Use Case we’re trying to solve, doesn’t have any off the shelf or pre-existing solutions in the firm.
  2. POC projects have paltry budgets — Yes, management usually varies of putting in a huge amount of resources in POC projects, as they are experiments to see if something works or not. This would help you to show how resourceful you are, by maximizing the resources provided to you and leveraging on whatever you could within the organization.
  3. What if the POC is taking longer than anticipated time — This is a very common & obvious risk. Every new Use Case has its market relevance and comes with a time to market clock that gives your company the edge. If POC or testing of candidate solutions takes too long then the value or differentiation this solution gives to your firm is diminished. To manage the risk of delayed POCs, it is imperative to keep your stakeholder engagement top class and communication about the progress transparent and very frequent.
  4. What if the POC fails — It is fine to a POC to fail, the important piece is to understand what failed & why it failed, and what we were expecting it to do. Once we know these three, our hunt for the next candidate tool or solution will commence with a clearer goal and performance parameters.
  5. Ok the POC is passed, what next — Now begins the real journey of onboarding that tool/solution and your awaited big-ticket project is around the corner. With the proven capability of completing the POC, you’re the de-facto choice for that big project.
  6. What if the POC is going well but there is no capability & capacity to scale up for the real solution — This is a chance for a project manager to shine. With the resource management and hiring skills to ramp up a team, a project manager can showcase his dynamic range to solve critical problems and deliver solutions, others thought, were too daunting or difficult to undertake. This will make you a superstar. But, be careful, before you overcommit.

Conclusion

POC Projects are risky endeavors and results are not always predictable, but they present a great opportunity to build something new for a company that hasn’t been built before or hasn’t been done in that firm before. Doing something new brings a challenge that will define your career so don’t think POC projects are waste of time. Take them as a calculated risk to advance your career and fast track your progress to become a well-rounded and experienced project manager.

 

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Shailendra Malik

Shailendra Malik

Vice President - IT Platform (Audit)

DBS Bank

Member since

25 Apr 2016

Location

Singapore

Blog posts

44

Comments

18

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