Managing your most important project – You

By Terri Jensen / Guest Column

In the world of technology, our talents are pulled in many directions. Requests from the business come quickly and often.

To deal with this, many technology departments use portfolio and project management to keep our heads above water. We’ve also adopted Agile methodology over the past several years to deliver solutions in an iterative manner so our clients can see rapid progress on their requests.

These three practices have made our work more streamlined, business-aligned and satisfying. It feels good to have a focus and purpose while getting the right things done.

We all want to focus on the important things in our lives and to make a difference in the areas that matter to us. I believe the concepts of portfolio management, project management and Agile methodology can be used to improve women’s professional and personal lives. They allow you to look at the pieces of your life at a high level, break your priorities into actionable items, and then determine how to make each priority work for you.

In technology, portfolio management is the practice of prioritizing project requests based on business goals and priorities. If you internalize this, it’s understanding at the highest level what matters most. If you rank all your professional and personal “asks,” which ones get you excited? Do you live to work or work to live?

Select your areas of passion and be willing to walk away from the rest. Prioritize those things that make you happy and keep you fulfilled, and then commit to them and do everything you can to shine in those areas.

Once you’ve prioritized the demands and passions in your life, it’s time to focus on the highest priority items and execute them to the best of your ability. Determine your goals and how to reach them. Manage them as a project, so to speak. If you want a promotion at work, don’t sit back and wait for it to happen. Instead, create a plan on how to get there. Research the job requirements, find supplemental training to build your skill gaps, talk with people who are currently in the role and actively put yourself in the middle of the action. Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate every major step you complete to achieve the goal.

Finally, Agile practices come into play. Agile methodology is a form of project management that’s based on rapid, incremental change through continuous feedback loops. It reinforces the need to keep questioning the value and direction of a project. It also acknowledges requirements will change as you learn more about a project’s details. Sometimes projects even get dropped because the value isn’t as high as originally expected. A canceled project is still considered a success because of lessons learned along the way.

So be agile in the way you approach your goals. Once you start moving toward a goal, keep questioning your commitment and passion for the result. As you learn along the way and find out a change in plans is needed, make the adjustment and keep moving forward. If at any point you lose your commitment to the goal, don’t be afraid to walk away from it. It’s not a failure if lessons are learned.

Over the years, I’ve heard that project management is a waste of time. Why plan when you can just jump in and get started? In our lives, this attitude can result in over-commitment and half-hearted participation. It can also exhaust and deflate us. We say “yes” to activities that aren’t important to us.

Instead, take the time to reflect on your passions and priorities. Once you’ve discovered your highest priorities, create a plan on how you will achieve your goals and then be ready to question and adjust along the way. When you go after what you want, a little planning can create focused and purposeful opportunities.

Terri Jensen is chief information officer at Holmes Murphy & Associates based in Des Moines.