VOICES In the Trenches
ALTHOUGH AN OPERATION is completely different from a project, many project managers find themselves in roles involving operations. The good news is
the jobs involve a considerable overlap in skills.
Consider a business operation such as production support, design maintenance or remediation.
Here, operations managers focus on executing,
monitoring and controlling the business operations
so that business goals are achieved. This will sound
familiar to project managers, who execute, monitor
and control a project’s process groups.
Here are three of the most important project
management skills needed if you find yourself in
As a liaison to multiple stakeholders, an operations
manager needs to plan communications by identifying all the required stakeholders, then working
out the mode and frequency of communication
for each of them. For example, an operations manager handling a production support team needs to
communicate the list of prioritized activities to the
operations team, relate the progress of tickets or
requests to customers, and keep senior management
informed of operational activities.
Operations managers also need to proactively
NEGOTIATION AND INFLUENCING
identify and communicate any potential overdue
tasks to the required stakeholders, as well as escalate
any non-compliance to service level agreements
according to the organization’s escalation policies
and procedures. Once, while managing a production
support team, I handled a highly escalated customer
ticket as a small-scale project. Since the ticket had
a huge impact on the production environment, the
customer insisted on getting an immediate fix or
patch. I arranged a quick meeting of the operations
team to make sure we understood the issue, its root
cause and the impact. When we were unable to
identify a temporary fix, we knew we would have to
develop a permanent one and release a patch. Con-
sidering the customer’s business impact, I met with
the senior management stakeholders immediately,
summarized the issue and explained that it should
be handled as a mini project. My communications
skills, honed while managing projects, were a great
asset at this point.
When an operations manager handles a high-severity customer request or a production ticket,
he or she might have to use negotiation and
influencing skills to acquire highly skilled technical resources from a project team. Negotiation
may also be required to explain to the customer
about the complexity of tickets being handled by
the operations team and buy additional time, if
required. At times, the operations manager might
even have to negotiate with and influence his or
her team members to get tasks done.
In my operations mini-project, the next step
after communicating was to devise a plan and
negotiate with senior executives to create a “tiger
team” of different resources, such as an architect
who could propose a permanent fix, a designer
who could implement, a configuration manager
who could build the code and develop a patch,
and a lead tester who could deploy the patch and
test all possible scenarios, with the architect’s
assistance. But because those people were already
assigned to projects, I had to negotiate with project
managers. To create a win-win situation, I had
earlier negotiated with senior executives that this
escalation would be the highest priority, and any
other program or project would have to be depri-oritized. This meant project managers willingly lent
the resources required for the tiger team.
An operations manager must direct, facilitate,
coach and lead teams to handle daily operations.
How to use your project management skills in operations.
By Deepa Gandhavalli Ramaniah, PMP