A Candid Conversation With Project Management Specialist Markus Kopko

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Markus Kopko is one of those inspirational professionals who from very humble beginnings achieved a larger than life success through sheer hard work and dedication.

Markus started his career as an assistant in Germany’s largest savings bank. With a keen interest in digital transformation, he ended up being the team leader in the IT department of the same bank.

From there, he got the taste for project management and that’s when he decided to make a name for himself in the world of project management.

Markus has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in management leadership, project and program management.

He has great experience of project delivery in the IT sector. He has been involved with PMO responsibilities and is currently working as a full-time Senior Project Manager at Dimension Data: an $8 billion global systems integrator and managed services provider.

During his journey through the project management landscape, he’s acquired coveted certifications that include PMP and Professional Scrum Master (PSM I). He’s also launched a few platforms for people who are enthusiastic about learning project management.

Let’s begin the conversation and understand how Markus has navigated through the project management landscape and learn from the valuable insights he’s gained in during his 20-year PM journey.

TaskQue: Your career story seems very inspirational. How did you start? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Markus: I’m actually a trained banker. I also worked as a banker, but in 1997, I moved to the IT department within the bank because I wanted to do something completely new again.

In the beginning, the plan was that I would train to become a system programmer for the then core banking system. But then things changed.

My boss at the time – whom I am very grateful for his support – probably saw a talent for management tasks in me and quickly made me his deputy team leader.

After my boss got promoted, I took over his task as a team leader. That was in 1998-99 and it was at that time that I first came into contact with project management and was immediately fascinated.

In 2005 I had the opportunity to do 100% full-time project management and I didn’t hesitate a second. Since then, I have been an enthusiastic IT project manager with every fiber.

The greatest challenge for me has always been to align the executing organization with the project, which is often not so easy in IT operations teams.

TaskQue: Being an experienced project management professional, what would you like to recommend to new project managers?

Markus: Experience plays an important role in project management. One can and must also acquire and learn a lot of knowledge, techniques and methods, but the experience is irreplaceable.

This means that you should take on different roles and try to learn as much as possible from the other, more experienced colleagues in each project you work on.

The best advice that I might be able to give at this point is to find a mentor if possible. Someone you can flash to, respect and learn a lot from.

Of course, this mentor must also have the will to act as such. If you have this possibility, it can be a real career booster.

TaskQue: What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in project delivery processes? How organizations can make project deliveries better?

Markus: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. How much time do we have? 😉 But seriously. This is a very difficult and far-reaching question to answer.

I already mentioned it briefly earlier: In my experience, the executive organizational units are often not set up or organized in a project-like manner.

It’s not enough to appoint an employee as a project manager, give him the responsibility for a topic and then hope that everything will go well.

There must be a project methodology that is tailored to the organization and its existing processes.

Then all participants must be trained in project management according to their roles and in the context of the existing project management methodology.

If these prerequisites are fulfilled, the chances of success already increase many times over.

TaskQue: How do you relate to the failure of a project with PMO? What are the factors that contribute to the failure of a project?

Markus: For me, a PMO always has a supporting function for the project manager and the project team. In this respect, a PMO can never be responsible for the failure of a project.

If the PM or the team does not get the support from the PMO he or she needs, then it is the PM’s responsibility to recognize this and obtain the necessary support.

For me there are two essential factors that lead to the failure of a project and all other reasons – apart from really blatant external factors such as forces of nature – can in my opinion always be traced back to these factors.

One factor is poor communication. Outstanding communication skills are the be-all and end-all of what makes a good PM, in terms of every aspect of communication, such as active listening or the field of non-verbal communication.

The job of a PM or rather of a PM Leader consists by far the largest part of communication and if he isn’t able to communicate effectively, then the failure of the project is already pre-programmed.

And the second big factor in my opinion – and I have to repeat myself here – is once again the missing, project-like orientation of the performing organization.

In other words, the degree of project maturity of an organization. Without the necessary project maturity of the organization, the PM is in a lost position right from the start.

TaskQue: How do you distinguish PMI based project management methodology with other types of project management methodologies in terms of implementation.

Markus: First of all, I would like to say that the standards published by the PMI like the PMBoK Guide is NOT a PM methodology and should not be! This is a mistake many people make.

For example, the often-used comparison between PRINCE2 and PMP! The two are not comparable; that would be like comparing oranges with apples.

In fact, an organization that wants to align itself with the PMBoK Guide must use it as a framework of “best” or “good” practices, similar to ITIL.

And then the performing organization defines its PM methodology based on this framework – i.e. the PMBoK Guide.

The organization takes into account and implement its existing processes, which then also fits in with this organization and above all, can also function in this organization.

The worst thing you can do as an organization here is to say, “So, from today we’ll do project management analogous to the PMBoK Guide.” This won’t work.

TaskQue: You own a website dedicated to PMP preparation guidance. Please share in detail vision behind it and how it’s helping the project management community?

Markus: Thanks for the question! Yes, this is a great passion of mine. To be exact, I have two websites/communities in the pipeline where one is not yet launched and is currently in the BETA phases.

Let me tell you about the first website. The website projectmanagement.plus is – as you already said – dedicated to the topic PMP or PMI Certification preparation guidance. So not only the PMP certification but also the other PMI certifications.

The idea behind this site came about at the time when I wanted to prepare myself for the PMP exam.

At that time, just like almost all PMP aspirants at the beginning, stood in front of a sheer unmanageable mountain of information and options and was completely unsure as to how I should proceed and what the steps one should take since you don’t want to make a mistake! Especially since it costs a lot of money.

Information such as the very popular “5 Steps Guidance” articles are intended to help all PMP enthusiasts find their way around this preparatory jungle.

My new online project – MP4PM.club – is something very special. MP4PM stands for “MindmapPing for ProjectManagement.” I started working on this because I have a huge interest in mind mapping techniques and its application in everyday project life.

For each of the PMBoK Guide processes, we provide detailed mind maps for the operative application as well as corresponding templates.

These are 100% PMBoK Guide aligned and is something that no one else offers, which makes it our USP. You can find examples from practice that can be used as a template or at least orientation.

At MP4PM.club we also pursue the goal of building an exclusive community of like-minded professionals who support and promote each other like great guys as Rami Kaibni, who you just have interviewed earlier.

Therefore MP4PM.club is set up as a membership model. Currently, we are still in the BETA phase and have plans for launching it in September. If you are interested, go to MP4PM.club and register there for the Waiting List.

TaskQue: How can a project manager increase the productivity of his team members. What’s your secret formula for being productive at the workplace?

Markus: Well, there’s no such secret formula, and no one else has it. It is usually the banal things that should be taken into account.

Here I am again on the subject of communication. This must be organized and managed by the PM.

Good collaboration tools are also a must and you have to be careful not to overtax or confuse the project team. That is to say; less is sometimes more.

This means one or two good tools should suffice here. You have to channel communication. This may sound simple and ordinary, but when you talk about old or large organizations, there is often a heterogeneous tool landscape.

If a project team has to juggle an assortment of tools, the productivity automatically suffers.

TaskQue: How do you manage remote teams, what is the secret sauce behind a highly productive and motivated remote team?

Markus: Well, in my organization, we only have remote teams because the project team members are always spread across multiple locations, both nationally and internationally or globally. But there is no secret here either. Everything I just said applies here as well.

Of course, especially with remote teams, due to the often-missing personal presence, constructive and binding communication with the team members is an advantage.

TaskQue:  TaskQue is a cloud-based productivity management tool created for making team collaboration, communication and task management more efficient, how do you see such applications in helping teams being more successful?

Markus: Now, if you look at my previous answers, it becomes clear that such a tool is indispensable to promote and ensure the success of a project, especially for remote teams – but suitable for any team.

Any successful tool should be intuitive and easy to navigate without overwhelming the user. If using the tool becomes an additional burden apart from the tasks that teams have to work on, then users will find the tools less useful and will not be interested in using it or recommending it to others.

The implementation of tools like TaskQue is also a project or at least should be. You should try to find out what are your specific requirements, what benefits and value that you want to gain. Is the tool flexible enough that one can customize it to support and adapt to my existing processes?

Once you find a tool that offers value consistently and successfully, then I am convinced that a tool like TaskQue can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of project teams and contribute significantly to the success of a project.

I have tried TaskQue myself and it meets all the criteria that such a tool should meet with flying colors. It is intuitive to use, has a clear, traceable structure and looks good. Its unique Queue feature is outstanding, which automatically assigns tasks to the available resources.

So, if you are thinking about introducing such a collaboration tool or are already in the product evaluation phase, you should definitely take a closer look at TaskQue. A real recommendation!

This might sound funny, but no, I’m not getting any commission for it.

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