The PMO Parallax
Helping Project Management pass the vibe check, one (chaotic good) retrospective at a time!
This month has seen an influx of competing information around technology and the future of the industry. Like the mass layoff's at many of the biggest names in tech, with little to no warning. Add that to the marketing around platforms, like ChatGPT and Lensa, which use deep learning models to create content and art seemingly without human input; it's a recipe for panic. But, while it may seem that we're moving in the direction of Skynet, that couldn't be further from the truth...
Yes, innovation is accelerating...
At the turn of the 20th Century, there were no airplanes, televisions or computers. It was easy to keep up with the pace of technology and stay relevant within your field. (I mean; come on, we didn't even have crayons yet!) Career shifts due to industrial innovation used to be generational, and often impacted by geographics. But, as time goes on, and technology advances, the the scale of acceleration becomes exponential.
In today's age, where quantum computing is not only possible, but essentially the next "space race", we have to consider the implications. The magnitude of this advancement will move us forward the equivalent of lightyears compared to what we've seen in the last century. But, just like our predecessors, who moved out of the agriculture fields into manufacturing roles during the industrial revolution, the need for skilled trade still exists, and always will. It just looks different over time.
How will you keep up?
January is the month for reflection on the past year, and planning toward this years roadmap. Take some small steps that will move you leaps and bounds toward your goals:
Stop using "Fast-paced Environment"...
Stop using "Fast-paced Environment" if you don't mean it. This well intentioned phrase was initially meant to describe companies who were on the leading edge of industry and go to market, who needed people to understand the importance and excitement of what they were doing.
Unfortunately, this term has been cannibalized by companies who now use it to describe situations which often include: under-staffing, lack of process, reduced budgets, and outdated technology. If you are using this in your job descriptions, consider instead, identifying opportunities for improvement and areas where the candidate can come in and add value right away. This is a much better way to align on expectations and set people up for success.
"Fast-paced" will soon mean something much different than it did 10 years ago, and we need to be prepared to communicate the nature of open roles effectively. Words matter.
Avoid the Time Trap
We often get so busy operating that we start not seeing the forest for the trees. Tunnel vision sets in and we tell ourselves that we "don't have time". There's no time to automate... there's no time to implement a new software, there's no time to be proactive...
I'm here to say definitively, if you're too busy to make strategic investments in your process, you've already lost. Sure, it may not always make sense to change certain business processes, but you should at least be able to define the cost/benefit of the decision.
When you don't have enough hours in the day to even think about strategy, there's typically a root cause issue. Your team is over-selling your services, under charging for your products, disproportionately allocating resources... etc. All of which are costing you precious time and money. Right-sizing your operation is a key step towards keeping up with the industry as a whole.
Understand your place
Once your business is stable, with solid processes, and a team ready to take on the next challenge, you are ready to get in on the conversation. The first step of keeping up in this technological landscape is identifying your current place in it.
- How are you leveraging current technologies?
- How scalable is your existing ecosystem?
- What's on your product landscape?
- How does your roadmap leverage and integrate emerging trends?
How do you get into the race?
Choose your discipline
With so many buzz words and new "tech of the week", it's easy to get pulled in too many directions trying to chase the shiny object. Find a vertical that aligns with your product vision, and is able to be executed on in the near, short and long-term. Start small. Find something you can deliver on in a matter of weeks or months and deploy. Then study, measure, and do it again. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate!
Concurrently, you should be focusing on your short term and long term features, taking direction from the results of your trial releases. The goal is to fail fast and fail early. With this process, your end product may be something that is completely different than what you initially envisioned, but it will be proven and market tested for success.
Leverage your specialty
No matter how sophisticated technology becomes, it will always be people that move it forward. You and your team have an edge, use it. Become subject matter experts in your discipline. Thought leaders drive the conversation. Get involved, stay relevant.
Companies that provide value and generate momentum around their specialty are more trusted. Your Brand is just as important as your product. Make time to focus on customer experience, and that will pay in dividends.
Identify the Gap
When there is a leap in technological advancement, there are always gaps that need filled until the rest of the industry can catch up. Find the gap you can fill, and start building. Think outside of the box! These gaps are often completely new industries that are created from a problem people don't even realize they need solved yet.
Think about how ride-share companies disrupted the taxi monopoly, or how streaming services are changing our relationship with cable providers. Leveraging inefficiencies in an industry is a great way to get ahead of the curve.
As we move into the future of burst innovation, we have to keep an open mind. What we understand about computing, security, artificial intelligence, green technology... etc, will eventually become obsolete. It's hard to conceptualize that in the present moment though. This is why it is so important to focus on people, process, technology, and most importantly - the balance between them.
Check out this month's Book Club recommendation for more insights: Radically Human