“Credibility is everything. Establishing that early and fast and ensuring that you don’t lose it is important,” says Praniti Lakhwara, SVP of IT & Apps at Zscaler. Mark Settle, author and 7x CIO, met with Lakhwara to get her take on how to manage large-scale digital transformation projects.
Here we’ve outlined the most important aspects of project management, according to Lakhwara:
Establish shared goals and vision
As you take on large-scale projects, you will need to gain buy-in across your organization. “Do you have a North Star? Does it have buy-in?,” said Lakhwara, “bring in your chief customers, bring in your CFO—you really want to get alignment to these programs.” Lakhwara shares that she conducted a pre-readiness program before implementing new technical solutions. In this program, the business issues and outcomes were addressed with all stakeholders in order to establish specific and granular goals.
Implement realistic projects
One thing that Settle and Lakwara—and probably every working IT professional—unanimously agree upon is those technical problems are inevitable. Challenges can include scope, technical architecture, the decision between buying and building, and more. “Don’t overcomplicate your solutions,” urges Lakwara. When faced with technical issues, address them early on in the process so that you can lighten the risk later down the road.
“Do not bite off more than you can do in a particular project,” offers Lakwara, “the challenge is that you have to break it down into bite-sized chunks that can be delivered all the way to product.” Portioning your digital transformation initiatives into digestible portions allows you to set and achieve quick wins without overwhelming your stakeholders.
Understand the importance of a project manager
A project manager is the “key person who can make or break a project,” according to Lakhwara. A successful project manager has more than techno functional skills, agree Settle and Lakhwara. When asked about what skills an ideal PM has, Lakwara answered that PMs need to be technical, but need to have a firm grasp on the business side: “They are the cultural glue,” explained Lakwara, “they have to have those social high EQ skills.” As the lead who engages with stakeholders of various backgrounds and technical experience, project managers have to have the ability to gain buy-in and successfully communicate with all parties involved.