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Is Agile Project Management Effective For Financial Services?

Working in the Financial Services industry for the past 13 years as a project manager has had its challenges.  My organization is a weak-matrixed structure, so project managers really have little to no power from resourcing to managing costs.  (I’ve never had to manage a budget in my entire career as a project manager – how is that possible?)  Throughout my career I’ve learned that PMP is only valued if you work in IT performing Waterfall projects.  As the company gravitated from Waterfall to Agile projects, the thought process shifted from PMP concepts to our own handpicked, homegrown ways of tracking projects.  I only learned about Agile by being a part of a program where I resided in IT as a project manager, 13 years ago. Since I returned to the business side, IT has become extremely Agile and reinforces use of PMP concepts around the appropriate PMBOK knowledge areas.  For the past 5 years, I am managing business projects and challenges exist around the adoption of Agile and its primary concepts.  PMOs are relatively new to my organization (less than 5 years) and based on our weak-matrixed structure, not much direction exists around the best practices that our IT partners utilize to show the value of ‘their’ projects.  I’ve seen many projects never reach the completion stage and if they do; there is no value provided to senior leadership around ROI, IRR, etc. as it was never tracked properly (if at all) or they wanted to determine ROI after the project closed.For the past 5 years, I have worked on a program in the business to assist with implementing new Marketing Technology throughout my global organization.  The constant question I would be asked from my business partners is, ‘What value are you providing to us in this effort?’  First, let me provide some context.  The group I work in is considered shared services, so we never charge our business partners for our ‘services’.  My group also relies on the business to provide the budget and resources for implementing these new technologies.  I believe this is another reason why it has taken 5 years to implement just 1 technology and we have about 4-5 more in the pipeline waiting for funding.Here lies my challenge – how do I answer the question about how my group is providing value with the work we are supporting and leading?  I’ll use an analogy.  The approach my group has found to be most viable is as simple as teaching a child how to ride a bike.  Until they are comfortable with the training wheels, the parent needs to keep their hand on the back of the bike seat.  Once the parent feels the child has the confidence; they let go and the child doesn’t even know the parent wasn’t supporting them.  Step 1 complete!  Next step, the wheels come off and the process is repeated.  Once the child has mastered balance, the parent let’s go and the child knows how to ride a bike for the rest of their life.  Step 2 complete!Same is the case with a project manager and his team in the initial days and after a certain period of time. This is depicted in the figure below.Since I don’t have a budget and resources to manage, my group goes back to the basics.  Step 1: Riding with training wheels.  We ask our business partners if they are using the new technology and what they are using it for.  In other words, are they using the data they are getting the right way?  For example, In order to assist our business partners with this, my team partners with an analytics insights group within my department to consult with our business partners to help them see the value they may obtain by successfully running a marketing campaign to drive a conversion – such as purchasing or investing in a specified product.  Step 2: Remove the training wheels.  Once the business recognizes they can see the value out of using the data properly, they are off and running with a few touch points for consulting in case they want continue to obtain more value from the data.  It’s that easy, right?  Well, not really.  In my organization, most of our business partners do not know how to take the next step to gain more value; such as tying in all channels – web, mobile, advertising, print, email, etc.  That is where hiring the right resources with the right skillset for roles and possibly bringing in external resources to grow the business in that knowledge area is critical.I feel, in my organization, applying PMBOK knowledge and running projects using many of its recommended standards would be helpful in this endeavor.  First and foremost, with being able to utilize the right resources in-house or external resources who have the skillset you need to be successful is one simple step in the right direction. Secondly, implementing ways to capture value by performing initial analysis through project selection to determine ROI, IRR, NPV, FV and cost-benefit analysis.  Third, during the project life cycle, utilize Earned Value Management and other budgeting techniques to hold the project team accountable for their progress and quality of work.  To me these are basic concepts that my organization isn’t performing well at all levels.  By becoming a balanced or strong-matrixed organization we would be able to leverage the PMO to start recommending standards to head in the right direction.
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Is Agile Project Management Effective For Financial Services?

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Is Agile Project Management Effective For Financial Services?

Working in the Financial Services industry for the past 13 years as a project manager has had its challenges.  My organization is a weak-matrixed structure, so project managers really have little to no power from resourcing to managing costs.  (I’ve never had to manage a budget in my entire career as a project manager – how is that possible?)  Throughout my career I’ve learned that PMP is only valued if you work in IT performing Waterfall projects.  As the company gravitated from Waterfall to Agile projects, the thought process shifted from PMP concepts to our own handpicked, homegrown ways of tracking projects.  I only learned about Agile by being a part of a program where I resided in IT as a project manager, 13 years ago. Since I returned to the business side, IT has become extremely Agile and reinforces use of PMP concepts around the appropriate PMBOK knowledge areas.  

For the past 5 years, I am managing business projects and challenges exist around the adoption of Agile and its primary concepts.  PMOs are relatively new to my organization (less than 5 years) and based on our weak-matrixed structure, not much direction exists around the best practices that our IT partners utilize to show the value of ‘their’ projects.  I’ve seen many projects never reach the completion stage and if they do; there is no value provided to senior leadership around ROI, IRR, etc. as it was never tracked properly (if at all) or they wanted to determine ROI after the project closed.

For the past 5 years, I have worked on a program in the business to assist with implementing new Marketing Technology throughout my global organization.  The constant question I would be asked from my business partners is, ‘What value are you providing to us in this effort?’  First, let me provide some context.  The group I work in is considered shared services, so we never charge our business partners for our ‘services’.  My group also relies on the business to provide the budget and resources for implementing these new technologies.  I believe this is another reason why it has taken 5 years to implement just 1 technology and we have about 4-5 more in the pipeline waiting for funding.

Here lies my challenge – how do I answer the question about how my group is providing value with the work we are supporting and leading?  I’ll use an analogy.  The approach my group has found to be most viable is as simple as teaching a child how to ride a bike.  Until they are comfortable with the training wheels, the parent needs to keep their hand on the back of the bike seat.  Once the parent feels the child has the confidence; they let go and the child doesn’t even know the parent wasn’t supporting them.  Step 1 complete!  Next step, the wheels come off and the process is repeated.  Once the child has mastered balance, the parent let’s go and the child knows how to ride a bike for the rest of their life.  Step 2 complete!

Same is the case with a project manager and his team in the initial days and after a certain period of time. This is depicted in the figure below.

Project Manager Team Road Map
Since I don’t have a budget and resources to manage, my group goes back to the basics.  Step 1: Riding with training wheels.  We ask our business partners if they are using the new technology and what they are using it for.  In other words, are they using the data they are getting the right way?  For example, In order to assist our business partners with this, my team partners with an analytics insights group within my department to consult with our business partners to help them see the value they may obtain by successfully running a marketing campaign to drive a conversion – such as purchasing or investing in a specified product.  Step 2: Remove the training wheels.  Once the business recognizes they can see the value out of using the data properly, they are off and running with a few touch points for consulting in case they want continue to obtain more value from the data.  It’s that easy, right?  Well, not really.  

In my organization, most of our business partners do not know how to take the next step to gain more value; such as tying in all channels – web, mobile, advertising, print, email, etc.  That is where hiring the right resources with the right skillset for roles and possibly bringing in external resources to grow the business in that knowledge area is critical.

I feel, in my organization, applying PMBOK knowledge and running projects using many of its recommended standards would be helpful in this endeavor.  First and foremost, with being able to utilize the right resources in-house or external resources who have the skillset you need to be successful is one simple step in the right direction. Secondly, implementing ways to capture value by performing initial analysis through project selection to determine ROI, IRR, NPV, FV and cost-benefit analysis.  Third, during the project life cycle, utilize Earned Value Management and other budgeting techniques to hold the project team accountable for their progress and quality of work.  To me these are basic concepts that my organization isn’t performing well at all levels.  By becoming a balanced or strong-matrixed organization we would be able to leverage the PMO to start recommending standards to head in the right direction.

Denise

Denise Aronson

Blog author

Denise Aronson has worked in the financial services industry for 18 years, gaining experience in digital marketing, data analytics, and project management. As a seasoned digital project manager, she has a proven track record of implementing $5M+ enterprise level marketing technologies.  Most recently, she managed a Leadership Symposium event bringing 2,600 global leaders to the U.S. for a 2 day conference.  She is passionate about advancing the use of data and analytics to drive business decisions and successfully managing projects. In addition to project management, she is also involved in the Digital Analytics Association Women in Analytics group and her PMI local chapter group. Outside of the office, Denise enjoys attending concerts, sailing, and making artisan breads.
 

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SAFe® Agilist Certification Vs PMI-ACP®: Which Certification Should You Choose?

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Difference Between Agile and Scrum

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Top 24 Reasons Why You Should Be a Certified Scrum Master

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Salary in different cities in the US: Popular Cities Salary New York, New York $70,685 – $1,37,957 Seattle, Washington $71,907 – $1,31,710 San Francisco, California $81,894 – $1,46,277 Washington, District of Columbia $68,885 – $1,36,149 Atlanta, Georgia $57,929 – $1,22,558 Comparing Salaries among different companies: Popular Companies Salary Amazon.com Inc $96,958 – $1,38,725 Capital One Financial Corp $73,830 – $1,20,355 Booz, Allen, Hamilton $67,117 – $119,230 Cognizant Technology Solution Corp $69,531 – $1,04,559 General Electric Co (GE) $83,763 – $1,26,111 Entry Level Salary for Scrum Master: Job Profile Salary Software Engineer $70,398 Software Developer $59,701 Mechanical Engineer $60,001 Electrical Engineer $62,209 Financial Analyst $50,950 Senior Level Salary for Scrum Master: Job Profile Salary Operation Manager $75,310 Office Manager $49,941 Executive Assistant $58,975 Director of Operations $106,933 General/ Operation Manager $75,639 Administrative Assistant $42,095 Chief Financial Officer $146,171 2. Have a strong knowledge of Scrum If you are not familiar with Scrum, knowing about the certification will educate you with the required skills to utilize it effectively. If you are in the initial stages of using Agile methodology for your project, the CSM certification will provide you with the basic knowledge. Even if you don’t know much about Scrum, the CSM certification will definitely help you build a solid base of Scrum knowledge and understand the concepts of Scrum framework. 3. Update your mindset To work with the Agile methodology with Scrum effectively, we need to develop an Agile mindset. The Agile mindset is a key factor for the teams to achieve successful Agile and self-sustaining approach. Industry-oriented certification and training will benefit this kind of mindset. As a member of the Scrum team, you will think in an Agile way, that will lead to a decrease in disagreements, more successful projects and better team collaboration. 4. Knowledge of Scrum Artifacts This certification includes concepts like the product backlog, sprint backlog, burndown charts etc. which are the pillars of a Scrum project. These Scrum concepts will be an advantage for the organizations to deliver the project in iterations. 5. Be admissible and catch your market The certifications will provide youwith an in-depth practical knowledge to improve your career. It makes you relevant and marketable in your field. CSM certifications will improve your career growth across any organization or industry that engages with Agile values. This certification proves that you have an Agile mindset and knowledge of Agile concepts. 6. Certified Scrum Masters are added advantage for organizations It is difficult for any organization to adopt a new methodology as it affects the entire structure of the organization including: Processes Management People Clients In this regard, it is quintessential for all the customers to achieve some tangible and real benefits in the early stage with self-managing teams and incremental iterations. If you are not a certified member, you might miss the opportunity to establish yourself as a Scrum master in your organization. 7. Strengthening teamwork We have a few organizations that consider Scrum master certification for different departments over different people. This certification generally has a positive result when it comes to working with your peers. As a certified Scrum Master, you will have the potential to build and strengthen the core understanding of Scrum while working together with your peers. With multiple Scrum experts along with all departments, the organization gets benefited with Scrum experts in all departments with an instance of knowledge that can lead to the successful execution of Agile and Scrum methodologies. 8. Establish your basic Scrum knowledge to peers The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification shows your efforts and knowledge of Scrum that makes you capable of working within the organization. You don’t need to waste your time to show your credibility in your workplace, your certification speaks about that. 9. Qualified employees get success in projects If your Agile project is successfully done then a team member of certified Scrum Master will benefit from a huge reward. And also, the clients would recognize the potential value of a Scrum team that work together to apply Scrum in a productive way. 10. One more feather to your career cap Certification indicates a sign of honor. If you are being a part of the management, allowing employees to get certified proves your acumen and commitment to enhancing their skills. 11. Succeed as a servant leader As a Certified ScrumMaster, you have the ability to motivate and lead your teammates. You will guide them and help the team work together smoothly. 12. A badge of honour Along with the improvement in your marketability towards potential clients, a Scrum Master Certification also comes with the added benefit of being something that can be flaunted with pride- a badge of honour. Your employees never doubt your suitability towards being a mentor, and are becoming more open towards your ideas. Scrum is not a static methodology in any sense- it is a living, changing and continuously evolving framework which has to be understood in depth, before implementation. A Scrum Master Certification helps you do just that, all the while improving your position in the organisation. 13. Be apart from the crowd The CSM credential demonstrates to your employees that you have the experience and skills to lead an agile team to success. It serves as a differentiator showing potential employers that you have an edge over your non-certified counterparts. It shows that you know your goal—The ScrumMaster knows the goals to be achieved and has a clear vision of what it will take to succeed. You know the quality that is needed to be delivered, and ensure that the team works towards it, ensuring project success and client satisfaction. 14. Iron out glitches in your project In case there are any impediments in the way of project progress, the CSM will negotiate, address any such challenges and build a positive work culture. 15. Ability to judge risks Scrum teams are known to release better products at lower risks, and as the CSM you can be the first to spot any red flags that could lead to potential disaster. 16. Ability to prioritize Prioritizing is the first step towards Scrum success; a CSM will be able to prioritize tasks efficiently. 17. Be a team player A CSM is, above all, a good team player. You will listen to your teammates, accept their suggestions and address any challenges they may be facing. 18. You will communicate well By keeping channels of communication and collaboration open, you will share all relevant reports, calendars and deadlines with the team so that you can work together towards project success. 19. Adopt Agile mindset Scrum being an Agile methodology, training and certifications will help people in your team embrace the Agile practices. And having a consistent Agile mindset in a team will lead to lesser disagreements, better team collaboration and ultimately delivering successful projects. 20. Stay marketable All industries adopting Agile practices will have excellent career opportunities for candidates with Scrum certification. This certification will prove that you have an Agile mindset and core knowledge of Agile practices. 21. A plus for your organisation If there are skilled and proven Agile professionals in an organisation, the management might benefit from it by adopting Agile methodology as it will effectively influence all the aspects of business like people and processes. 22. Learn a range of Skills The Scrum Master Certification helps you to focus on your actual experience and skill set because you have shown that you completely comprehend the principles important for managing a scrum team. Many companies are constantly looking for ways to become more Agile and there are not enough people out there with the required experience to compete with the high demand for scrum masters. If you have a Scrum Master certification, than you not only stand a greater chance of getting a job, but you also have an opportunity to earn higher salary and excel in your career. 23. Support system Another big benefit of getting a Scrum Master Certification is the support system — you join a select community of recognised Scrum experts. These experts have been working to improve all the areas of Scrum implementation, including its methodology, and you can avail their advice when you find yourself in a tight spot. Once you are a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) you will earn the stature to mingle with a society of authorized Scrum experts committed to ensuring continuous improvements with an Agile approach. Scrum Alliance is an official site that has Scrum Masters features across the global. This community will actively provide knowledge in a way to discover events and provide instructions. Being a certified Scrum Master, you can join a community of recognised Scrum experts, practitioners and trainers. This global network will give you exposure to deepen your Scrum knowledge, acquire guidance whenever necessary and also enable you to provide solutions to other problems. An example is Scrum.org, which actually features a global network of Scrum trainers as well as practitioners. There are few things in the Agile this community cannot help you with, and a Certification helps you gain the privilege of their guidance. 24. Influence your organization to adopt Agile If your organization has well-trained Agile professionals, the management would be more comfortable to invest in adopting the Scrum methodology. The CSM certification shows the management that you have the knowledge to work with Scrum and implement its approach. A professional study of Scrum means that you have to study its methods from all angles: this can help you gain a fresh perspective, along with a strong working knowledge of the implementation of Agile methods. You will be able to implant the Agile mindset you gain among your teammates; this increases the cohesion and cooperation of the team by leaps and bounds. The team’s unity, as we all know, is in direct proportion to the success of any project. Getting a Scrum Master certification can help you present yourself in a more attractive fashion, to any prospective employers. A Scrum professional knows how an organisation works, and since the framework is used in almost all industries, your career options expand considerably. If you’re already employed, you have a great shot at improving your organisation- with the requisite knowledge you receive, you can turn yourself into a company asset. Summary: If you have any certified Agile workers among your colleagues, a certification helps you improve your working relationship with them. Even if your peers have studied or adopted a different Agile methodology, the underlying ideas do not change. You will be able to converse and exchange ideas with them, and in the process strengthen the organisation within your company. The work environment is improved, since you can understand how your colleagues work, or even think, to some extent. Passing a Scrum Master examination is no mean feat — it requires you to study and have expertise in various aspects involved in implementing a Scrum methodology. All the things we discussed above are very compelling reasons to explore this certification further. Advance your career with the Scrum Master certification from Scrum Alliance, and sign up for a CSM training workshop led by the best minds in the business.
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