George Freeman is a PMP certified professional with four decades of working experience in domestic as well as international projects.
He has experience across ERP, EAI, CPQ, CRM, Customer Care, Mobile, Intranet, Financial, Mapping, and other enterprise level systems.
He works as an IT project manager for Canon USA and is focused on giving back to the industry by sharing his transformative challenge-base musings, in hopes of inculcating technical, business and interpersonal skills in the next generation to prepare them to tackle today’s environments.
TaskQue: In today’s dynamically changing environments, how can a project manager brace himself for the changing trends?
George Freeman: The one thing we are guaranteed to have in our practice is change; it’s something we can’t avoid, so we plan for it by choosing the best methods, approaches, techniques, and processes to manage it during our projects.
However, even when we dot every “i” and cross every “t,” we still get presented with change-events that put objectives and goals at risk.
In these situations, executive stakeholders will often change project variables and objectives to secure the appearance of a fully successful project, believing that it’s better to shape-shift then risk objective failure.
When project managers find themselves in environments such as this, they need to take a step back and look at the engagement patterns of their projects and then create new tactics that will provide tools to deal with uncontrolled change-events.
In my practice, stakeholder risk tolerance and corporate politics are example areas where I have found the need to create new tactics and approaches.
For instance, when it comes to taking risks; I have often found it necessary to seek out the most desired and highest risk objective (one that is considered unobtainable) and spend the necessary time to reshape it into a form that the business and proposed project team can digest.
Although a difficult task, requiring the right mix of talent, it pays off and creates results that promote full adoption of your product or service.
To state it another way; don’t shy away from high opportunity risks, instead, embrace and reshape them and always be wary of the “easy path.”
On the subject of Corporate Politics, I could write a book, but the most important element to recognize is that we should embrace this beast as it will never go away, and may I add, that we do not want it to go away as it is the driver that keeps us employed.
More importantly, we should accept and then leverage corporate politics as a means to protect our projects and enable their success. One of the creative approaches I have used in this area is called “project plumbing.”
This technique requires the project manager to visually map the control pipelines of their project and identify where the cut-off valves reside.
When this has been done, the project manager will know exactly where to go to cut off the flow of political waste when a political event occurs.
I’ve written an article on ProjectManagement.com that addresses this subject called “Project Management – Alternative Lensing,” which your audience can lookup if they wish.
TaskQue: You have managed many projects, including mobile apps. How do you see the future of mobile app development?
George Freeman: As stand-alone client-based applications for personal computers have taken a backseat to robust web-based applications, I also see native app development taking a backseat to the next generation of hybrid apps, enabled by html6, 5G+ speeds, and other standards.
The current hybrid negatives of speed, interactiveness, API enablement, and offline functions will get resolved no differently than full browser web-enabled apps concerns got addressed over time. The main difference is that hybrid app development maturity will move at a much greater pace.
TaskQue: You have tremendous experience working remotely; how do you see the future of remote teams with productivity management tools?
George Freeman: It is extremely difficult to manage remote teams without adequate tooling in the areas of Communication, Visibility, and Knowledge.
The issue for me is the number of tools that are required to support these three categories and their compatibility, practicality, and ease of use when they are needed at the same time.
Since virtual work environments are our destiny, I hope that standards (specific to remote team software development) will be created which will enable seamless interactions across a wide variety of products and services.
TaskQue: What’s the difference between project management life cycle phases in IT project management as compared to the life cycle in general?
George Freeman: Life cycles in IT project management normally refer to the SDLC (i.e., Software Development Life-Cycle), which is essentially a framework that enables controlled development of products and services using phased processes.
However, life-cycles exist in every domain that a project manager interacts with and are often critical for a project manager to understand.
For instance, if you are managing the development or deployment of an “order management system,” you should acquaint yourself with the end-to-end processes associated with the order that will be placed in the new system.
In many enterprises, this would narrow down to 1) lead-to-offer, 2) offer-to-order, and 3) order to cash process areas.
These process areas represent the high-level life-cycle of an order, and within each of these process segments, you would find another set of life-cycles that may also need to be understood.
Bottom Line: A project manager needs to understand processes in the context of time, as without this context, decisions made could compromise the product or project.
TaskQue: What do you think are the core challenges being faced by IT project managers these days?
George Freeman: In my observation, I believe the core challenges are 1) a lack of domain knowledge skills, that is, domain knowledge outside of technical project management and 2) the ability to quickly adapt to unmanaged change events and corporate politics.
These areas are not part of the normal training for a project manager, but they are extremely important in today’s environments.
For the domain knowledge element, I preach a concept known as “Architectural Awareness.” This concept requires one to have the ability to Understand, Interpret and Communicate (what I call U-I-C) within a domain; it does not require one to be a subject matter expert or have personal delivery skills.
I’ve created an article on this subject, which should be published soon on projectmanagement.com.
On the corporate politics front, I recommend the “project plumbing” approach that I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation.
TaskQue: In your industry, which certifications do you think are invaluable for IT project managers?
George Freeman: For project managers, I’m partial to PMI based certifications with the PMP being the gold standard. I would also recommend the PMI-ACP.
TaskQue: What do you think about stakeholder management? How should a responsible project manager act?
George Freeman: That’s an interesting question and one that you will get countless different answers on, as it depends on a multitude of variables, such as culture, PMO maturity, project type, and many other factors. However, as a general rule, I would say that you should engage as a professional peer.
Stakeholders want to trust the project manager, and that requires “cognitive trust.” Wherein the stakeholder has a belief that the project manager is dependable, reliable and competent. This also ties into my previous statement regarding Architectural Awareness.
TaskQue: It has been observed that most business analysts end up in project management at some point in their careers. Why is that so?
George Freeman: Business Analyst, by virtue of their position, work in departments such as Competency Centers or BPR (Business Process Reengineering) groups and are usually assigned one primary SME role and then quite a few secondary ones.
They often have mundane support duties and greatly enjoy the opportunities afforded them when there is a new IT project that they can engage in and “be part of something new.”
Eventually, they recognize that “they know more than the project manager” when it comes to domain knowledge, and leverage that to step into project management.
They sometimes have difficulties working with IT groups as they assume that “IT makes everything harder than it needs to be,” so they often burn bridges in their early years as a PM.
However, they eventually recognize the value of all the domains and become great project managers.
TaskQue: How do you measure productivity, being an IT project manager? TaskQue is a productivity management tool which can help you in being productive during your project assignments. How do you see this tool?
George Freeman: I need to measure productivity in 1) Projects, 2) Business Support and Prioritization, 3) Internal Tasks and many other areas.
I have reviewed the features and functions of TaskQue and I am quite impressed. The price points for Basic and Business are also quite competitive.
When an opportunity opens, I will be putting TaskQue on the evaluation list!