Demystifying Project Management | AUA Blog
Esther Bray MAUA
College Projects Officer
Brunel University London
Every company I’ve worked for has had something in common, wanting to get things done. The context and challenges have varied, but delivery has always been key. After all, an organisation’s visions, strategies and plans mean little if they are not actually delivered. For me, that’s where project management comes in; simply put, it’s about getting things done. The Higher Education sector has been no exception to this. Since joining Brunel University London in 2015 I’ve noticed a growing interest in project management. Perhaps the current climate of change and uncertainty has made the structured framework offered by project management seem more appealing (or more necessary) than ever.
Of course there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, there are lots of methodologies available in today’s project management world. Gone are the days when the traditional waterfall approach of PRINCE2 was seen as the only way to successfully manage a project. Newer Agile methodologies such as Scrum are growing in popularity, even outside the IT sector where they first took hold. Indeed, new flavours of Agile seem to be emerging all the time, challenging their more traditional counterparts. With so many methodologies available, not to mention all the associated terminology, how is the Higher Education professional supposed to know which one to choose? Which will get the best results for their project? And which will they actually like using?
At this year’s AUA conference I will be delivering a session which explores these project management approaches, bringing some clarity to the differences between them and discussing when it might be most appropriate to use each. The structured framework of more traditional approaches can, for example, be very helpful in highly regulated environments, where you need more formal governance and control and are often working to a fixed deadline. Agile techniques, by comparison, can be particularly useful in more fluid, rapidly changing environments, and are focused on giving the customer what they really want (even if they don’t know what that is yet).
Projects, however, don’t usually fit neatly into one of these categories, and in reality you don’t actually have to choose. There is no need to feel restricted to one approach, it is entirely possible to select the most helpful aspects of different methodologies and create a blend. Some more recent methodologies attempt to do just. PRINCE2 Agile, for example, strives to combine the discipline and framework of the more traditional approaches with newer agile techniques which are arguably more productive.
Whatever your personal blend, project management methodologies can help professional services staff not only deliver results, but deliver them in ways which challenge old fashioned ways of working. The focus on empowering teams to work together cuts across traditional hierarchies, while the toolkits and techniques for organising and managing work can help to overcome inefficient historical processes, and prepare the Higher Education sector for the future.