What’s the one skill
every project manager
If you have that, you
can understand how
people think and
What’s the best pro-
fessional advice you
“Do the right thing. The
rest will follow.” That’s
why we need project
managers who can
understand that what’s
right in one context
may not be in another.
What book has special
meaning for you?
Good Enough for the
‘Bastards’ by Anita
Krohn Traaseth, the
CEO of the Norwegian
government’s innovation agency. Her
book inspires female
corporate leaders to be
How do you develop client engagement from
We always start engagements with a series of
workshops. All our projects are different: Some
are highly technical, some are highly research-based and some are very transactional. So we
have to find the suitable project execution process for each scenario. My delivery managers
work closely with the customer to determine the
best way to execute.
With PocketMobile’s mobile platform development, for instance, we first conducted a workshop
to collaboratively think about their business goals
for the next six months and then one year. We
then mapped out the product deliveries they’ll
release over that time period. Then we started
prioritizing those projects—we can’t do them all at
once. Working alongside the customer, we came
up with the best practice to deliver value based on
How do you ensure your customers stay
engaged throughout the project?
We show them deliveries in very short time intervals. Typically, every month we have a release to
the testing environment. We get all the stakeholders involved, and they see what we’re delivering
before we deliver the final product to the market.
It’s very transparent. After that, we keep adding
new features to the product and continuously
deliver value to it. To keep on adding value, we
have to be agile.
Did you introduce that agility to Exilesoft?
When I joined the organization, I found the proj-
How do you ensure your team’s skills stay up-
ect delivery team reported to operational man-
agement. But I thought we needed to restructure
this and make value delivery the main engine of
the organization. So I created an agile PMO with
small teams that are more productive and com-
municate better than large teams. I was fortunate
because our CEO, Finn Worm-Petersen, was
really positive about businesses becoming more
agile. I report directly to him and align with his
and the rest of the board’s vision. The PMO is
now the heart of the organization because it’s
about delivering value.
to-date with changing technology?
My biggest challenge now is the versatility of
our engineers’ technology skills. To avoid having to constantly recruit new developers for new
projects, we started an initiative called Exilesoft
Academy last year. It’s made by and for our own
developers. It enables them to try a new technology and get hands-on training. We use different
techniques, such as gamification, to keep the sessions fun and motivating.
How do you measure the success of your
teams—and your projects?
Too often, software companies have old-school
measurements, like the volume of code a developer
develops or time reporting, that just kill innovation. As a result, teams give you just what you ask
for. So we use value-driven measurements based
on how successful the product we deliver is in the
marketplace. Let’s say it’s a web-based or cloud-based application: How many are using it today?
What else can we do to broaden the user base?
You’re based in Sri Lanka but constantly travel
to other Exilesoft locations. How do you navi-
gate cultural differences?
I learned earlier in my career that cultural differences are overrated. When I worked as a project
officer for the New Zealand software company
Kandysoft, I traveled to Pakistan to implement a
secondary sales application for Pakistan Tobacco
Co. It was tough for me as a woman because
there are so few women in Pakistani corporations.
Still, I cooperated well with all the stakeholders,
and we implemented the system successfully. If
you have respect for differences and you’re willing
to listen and adapt, then culture is never a problem. You just have to focus on your work—and
nothing else. PM