Spirit in Projects berät Ihr Team dabei, welche agilen Frameworks für Sie geeignet sind!

Scaling Frameworks in an Agile Environment: What you as an IT Manager need to know

Without a doubt, the agile methodology has made its mark on the software development landscape. However, whenever you’re faced with the task of scaling agility in your department or even your entire company, you can ask yourself: “Which framework is right for us?”

Experience varies by organization, culture, type of project and chosen implementation. Following are a few general experiences companies have had with various scaling frameworks, along with what they’re learned.

SCALED AGILE FRAMEWORK (SAFe)

This framework provides a structured approach which is often highly valued by large organizations. But beware – although SAFe provides clear roles and rituals, some teams find it to be bureaucratic to a fault. As a result, it could turn out that you need to make some adaptations before you integrate it into your own corporate culture.

LARGE SCALE SCRUM (LeSS)

LeSS might be the right framework for you if you want to keep the charm and simplicity of scrum, even on a large scale. Nevertheless, note that its minimalist approach might not appeal to everyone in your company, especially those who are looking for detailed structure.

DISCIPLINED AGILE DELIVERY (DAD)

This flexible approach takes the entire software lifecycle into consideration. Its adaptability can be a blessing, but make sure you’ve defined clear guidelines for your team so you don’t wind up drowning in ambiguities.

Finally, here are a few key findings we’ve learned from our work as consultants:

  1. Adaptability is your best friend: No framework will be a perfect match for your team. Be ready to make adaptations which correspond to your team and their culture.
  2. Culture matters: You need to foster a true agile mindset. If you don’t do that, even the best frameworks won’t deliver the results you desire.
  3. Your role as a manager is crucial: Your commitment and your support are essential for a successful agile transformation.

Agile approaches can be (and should often be) used in large software projects, but this requires careful planning, adaptation, selection of the right scaling framework and strong organizational support.

Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Usability Engineering für Requirements Engineers

Usability Engineering – a useful addon for requirements engineers

Requirements analysts will find it worth their while to make a quick detour in the direction of UX/UI, since user interfaces are what essentially determine a solution’s acceptance.

No, usability engineering is not concerned with making graphical interfaces pretty. Yes, requirements engineers, especially those involved with applications for end customers or applications with a large number of internal users, should always be concerned with usability engineering.

UX Challenges in Requirements Management

An increasingly growing challenge for requirements engineers is to functionally describe applications which not only claim to be correct and efficient, but also easy to learn (ideally no initial training at all is required), clear and understandable to users, fault-tolerant, not just for bad input but also for incorrect use, and finally attractive and helpful to users as a whole.

A pretty user interface is just one aspect involved in the understandability, operability, clarity, learnability and attractiveness of a system. Although the design of this aspect is the responsibility of the user interface designer, the process is actually carried out using traceable methods, and also requires taste and a touch of artistic design throughout.

The Solution: Usability Engineering

However, usability engineering is concerned with deriving and optimizing a system’s functional and non-functional characteristics by examining the user’s overall environment. Another aspect is to model the entire user journey and include it in system design. For example, a web shop user’s experience with that system doesn’t end when he places an order, but continues until he receives the package or support for his complaints.

In requirements engineering, we set ourselves apart (completely intentionally) from the environment not directly associated with the system, which we already learned already over the course of creating context diagrams. This allows us, but sometimes only with difficulty, to understand the user’s motives behind individual activities. In addition, requirements engineering does not examine user satisfaction over the entire use life cycle (nor beyond system limits).

Methods of requirements engineering and usability engineering complement each other perfectly in this area, and create real added value for many tasks. Spirit in Projects’ training portfolio offers basic and advanced courses for both directions, so you can selectively expand your own skill set.


Learn more about our trainings on UX/UI:

Trainings für Usability und User Experience bei Spirit in Projects

Different Levels of Business Analysis

Business analysis is not the same as business analysis. In reality, different variants exist which need to be applied according to the given examination aspect and goals.

These different applications result from the various tasks uncovered over the course of digitalizing business processes and supporting processes. As a starting point, these variants can be divided into:

  • Sub-business process analysis/IT system analysis
  • Business process analysis
  • Enterprise analysis

We take a closer look at these areas below.

Sub-Business Process Analysis

Sub-business process analysis focuses on a section of a business process. As a result, in practice it is best applied when individual process steps need to be digitalized. In this way, it is very similar to conventional requirements engineering, since it focuses on the requirements placed on an IT system. Although this focus makes it possible to come up with an optimal design of a system’s functionality, the process as a whole is not optimized.

In reality, this variant is the one which comes up the most frequently in practice, since it is generally intended to further optimize existing processes without shaking up the basic process framework. The advantage of this variant lies in its clear, manageable scope. However, the local optimization of a process leads to the potential of process optimization not being fully exploited in the long run.

Business Process Analysis

By contrast, business process analysis focuses on an end-to-end examination of an entire process. This variant is most often used when creating entire processes from scratch. Examples include:

  • A process is being completely digitalized for the very first time.
  • The IT system for a process is being replaced or significantly changed, e.g. multiple systems are being merged together or the technology of individual process steps is being changed.
  • The performance data for a process is no longer adequate, and needs to undergo a fundamental redesign involving the use of IT systems.

Unfortunately, in practical implementation, many companies find this variant is still associated with barriers which need to be overcome, those between responsibility for process design/optimization and responsibility for designing and developing IT systems. Still, this does not seem to be advisable in terms of the fact that business processes are being extensively digitalized wherever possible. At least a close collaboration, or even an integration is desirable so as to be able to take on future challenges.

Enterprise Analysis

Enterprise analysis in turn has an even larger scope. This variant examines entire process groups, suborganizations, or in extreme cases even the entire organization itself, then works out optimizations. To put it roughly, company objectives are associated with processes, services, systems and technologies and examined as a whole. This approach cannot be implemented with normal process analysis; instead, enterprise analysis methods (TOGAF, ArchiMate) must be applied. Furthermore, preparations for the analysis must be more than just technical. First, objectives must be clearly defined by corporate management. In addition, successful implementation also requires close collaboration with internal stakeholders and/or external consultants from the areas of finance and costs, marketing and sales, production, research and development, etc.

In the opinion of business analysts, this approach will lead to creation of an IT service and system landscape which is based on and is tailored to optimized processes. The advantage of this method lies in its holistic examination of the organization and the focusing on process digitalization which is integrated in the method. Its disadvantage is clearly its high complexity. In practice, we have also frequently noted the lack of clear company objectives and also the problem that designing processes is an operation which cannot always be handled in a purely rational manner, especially when changes are being made to the organizational structure.

The challenge: Getting the right level of detail

The experts at Spirit in Projects are here to advise you on how you can apply business analysis for your company’s success. In addition, we provide training which can help you build up your company’s know-how in the area of business analysis.

Trainings in Business Analysis by Spirit in Projects
Trainings in Business Analysis by Spirit in Projects
Trainings in Business Analysis by Spirit in Projects
Trainings in Business Analysis by Spirit in Projects
Trainings in Business Analysis by Spirit in Projects
Agile Methoden - profitieren Sie von einem Einsatz mit Maß und Ziel

Agile Methods With Purpose

The agile approach in all of its manifestations has become the most-used development method in the world. There is rarely a new development project that isn’t implemented without the use of agile, kanban, DevOps methods, or a mixture of these. However, is agile being applied with restraint, and only for good reason?

By now, modern development tools are geared almost completely to the use of agile methods. We hear from many of our clients that developers often insist on the use of such methods in their job applications.

However, in spite of the use of these modern methods suitable for modern projects, in practice they still show problems with project delays and exceeded costs, although quality-related problems have dropped significantly in our opinion.

The Downside: Agility Without Purpose

Unfortunately, it has been observed that many projects are started without appropriate preparation, although this is proper from a purely agile view of the world. Nevertheless, the internal or external client’s product owner bears responsibility for this, at least for the timely clarification of requirements.

However, in practice exercising this responsibility often requires that the product owner be supported by at least a business analyst or requirements engineer. In the case of complex systems, fundamental decisions on system architecture must be made before starting a project, something which can hardly be asked of the product owner.

It must also be kept in mind that since projects must be budgeted and scheduled, many decisions must be made prior to the agile implementation.

The Answer Lies in the Combination

The answer is to use proven methods of planning and analysis, so that, for example, a requirements specification can be created for an agile project and used to prepare for its implementation. This preparation is well worth it, and helps the agile implementation team to respond adaptively to changes within the specified budget and schedule.

The experts at Spirit in Projects are ready to support you in a successful, lasting implementation of agile methods and in their appropriate use. You can also take advantage of our training portfolio on agile methods to give your employees the right qualifications in that area.

Trainings für Qualitätsmanagement bei Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Large Agile Projects - Scaled Agile

Large Agile Projects – Scaled Agile

These days, agile methods are widely prevalent, and are also being used more and more for large projects. Originally, agile software development focused on small and mid-sized projects, so scaling agile processes up to accommodate large projects can represent a challenge.

A number of agile frameworks which address this issue have arisen over the last few years, such as LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum), DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), Nexus and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework®). They all provide processes which (more or less) solve the essential challenges which arise in scaled agility:

  • Significantly longer planning horizons
  • Responsibility and decision-making authority doesn’t lie with just one product owner
  • Tasks must be divided meaningfully over multiple teams, and results must be synchronized and integrated.
  • Increased effort involved in communication and coordination

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

You’ll need to ask yourself the following questions to determine the right scaled agile method to use:

  • What actually needs to be scaled (e.g. more teams, specialization of tasks, handling different customer projects in parallel on one common basis)?
  • Is your actual priority to become faster through scaling, to carve out a larger project scope or to be able to make more resources available for key activities?
  • Can your individual teams work separately from one another or do you need to coordinate and align them with respect to time and content?
  • What other analysis, planning, software design and quality management methods would you like to use, and how can they be woven into the implementation of your agile project?

Scaled agile frameworks are an absolute necessity when you want to employ agile methods in large projects, and it is recommended that the fittest method be selected (in terms of the method which is most suitable), based on products, processes, resources and development culture.

The two courses below will give you the necessary tools for doing just that.

Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Digitalization, Digitization and Digital Transformation – Are you ready?

Digitalization, Digitization and Digital Transformation – It’s Now or Never!

Digitalization – digitization – digital transformation – what exactly are the differences between those terms, and why do you need to know how they’re defined? It’s obvious that information technology has radically changed not only work life, but also day-to-day living in general, and a number of terms which use the word “digital” are being used to describe that phenomena. In this blog, we clarify how IT professionals use those different terms, and what that means as a result.

Up to just a short time ago, digitalization was still the accepted way in any modern corporate strategy to make an organization fit for the future. However, it has become an absolute necessity over these past few months, and in these special times is providing companies with the flexibility they need to continue to work productively and in an orderly fashion in spite of all challenges.

A company’s digital fitness has now become a key factor in its resilience to crises, and now might be the last good chance for many businesses to take the right steps to ensure they don’t fall behind and the competition becomes uncatchable. As a result, it’s crucial you know the three levels of digital change, and are able to define, based on your own business, an honest self-assessment as well as the next steps to take.

What is Digitization?

Digitization describes a change at the beginning of the process. Digitization describes the receiving of data represented in digital form so they can be read and processed by computers. The term therefore describes a technology which has existed since the very earliest days of information technology. It’s only through digitization that the information which exists in the world can be made usable for IT systems.

Here, it’s definitely possible to make the sweeping statement that as the availability of quality data from the greatest possible number of sources increases, the better these data can be then be evaluated, tied together and cultivated for decision-making purposes. The concept of data wealth is applicable in this regard. The challenge lies in obtaining data of good quality. Digitization techniques are constantly improving.

Currently, the use of AI (artificial intelligence) is essential for progress in this field. Artificial intelligence has been used for a number of years for text recognition in printed documents, with natural language recognition being another important application of AI. And recognizing objects in images and correctly interpreting scenes taken by cameras is possible in digitization only through AI.

In addition, digitization will also remain an essential task in the future so computers can record reality outside of their own digital worlds. Even today, sophisticated sensors make it possible for computers to see, hear and even smell better than a human ever could. Areas of application such as autonomous driving, medicine and agriculture are key examples of this field of application.

What is Digitalization?

Digitalization refers to a change to an overall process. The term describes the comprehensive use of information technology in the implementation of business, production and service processes, comprehensive meaning that computers are used in a process from start to end. The necessary data are passed digitally from one step to the next, or are already available digitally, and there are no media discontinuities in processing.

Digitalization requires that companies convert their technical ecosystems to information technology, and it’s essential that all functionality and relevant data can be used anywhere they’re required, without technical barriers.

One significant consequence of digitalization is an explosive increase in data, which can be explained by the fact that data are not only processed automatically, but the vast majority of data today are also being created automatically. Big data methods and technologies are addressing this challenge. Data needs to be made usable, since more and more political and business decisions are being made quickly and reliably on the basis of information which is detailed, dependable and up-to-date.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation goes even further – the term refers to a change in business models, customer relationships and even social structures. This is accompanied by changes in market and business structures which are based on the use of information technology. These extremely rapid changes are having so sweeping an effect on existing processes and systems that the term disruptive is often used instead.

Digital transformation is changing society, business and the world of work, and innovations and disruptive changes must be considered the main factors responsible for this. Technology and its use are integral in determining whether an organization or company will be successful over the medium term.

Examples of digital transformation are by no means new, since the process got underway in the mid-90s and is gaining momentum more and more. Examples of the phenomenon of digital transformation include the online mail-order industry, Internet banks and insurance companies, arranging personal transportation via app, streaming providers in the field of media, the use of social media for targeting advertising, and much more. In our opinion, the fact that many activities which previously involved at least some travel are also being carried out via web conference is likewise leading to permanent changes in the travel industry, in particular when it comes to business trips.

In light of established examples of digital transformation, it becomes apparent that speed is more important that company size and technical competence is more important than capital. A important point here is the improved possibility of obtaining cost-effective, highly scalable and globally available IT infrastructures, made possible through public cloud services.

Bottom line: Digitization isn’t enough – go for transformation

Even our quick glimpse of the differences between digital concepts shows that digitization alone does not go far enough, and it’s clear that reliable data are an essential condition for all processes further down the line. Digitalizing processes can often boost potentials for savings as well as customer satisfaction. However, to survive over the medium term, companies need to review their business models and adapt them with an eye to digital transformation. In order to remain OR become a leader in the digital transformation race, you need to keep an eye on the following items and build up a corresponding skill set in your organization:

  • Agile management and design thinking
  • Cloud technologies
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Big data

And as experts in digital innovation and technology, we can help you do exactly that.


UNSERE TRAININGSANGEBOTE ZU INNOVATIONSTECHNOLOGIEN:

Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Online Meetings and Workshops – that's how they work

Getting the Most of Online Meetings and Workshops

In this age of the home office, it can be a challenge to deal with new ways of holding meetings. Every once in a while, online meetings turn into a delightful form of chaos, and the best thing to do is just shake your head and laugh. But just a few simple tips will turn your online meetings, and even your online workshops, into real opportunities for productive collaboration.

You find them in every company – those workers who can never get their video conferencing or telecommunications to work right. There’s John, who can never find his way into the online meeting room, or Alice, whose camera and microphone take turns acting up. And of course there’s always that colleague whose cat and kids are constantly scampering past the screen.

In principle, online meetings are supposed to be more efficient, but in many respects they’re also more stressful, especially when you can’t see the other participants, don’t know them too well and need to maintain full concentration to understand what they’re saying.

Tips for Online Meetings

As with offline meetings, an online meeting should have one person responsible for facilitating the meeting. An important component in facilitating an online meeting isn’t just being a good moderator, but knowing how to share content to the screen such as the meeting agenda, presenting content and issues, meeting minutes, etc. – all of these greatly help participants to understand and follow what’s being discussed. Video conferences will run smoothly with a just a few simple rules:

  • Create an agenda and schedule in advance.
  • Define a moderator who’ll moderate the meeting.
  • Define rules in advance, such as muting microphones when no one’s speaking. This way no one will hear the tapping on a keyboard if someone decides to answer an email during the meeting (but note that people aren’t as good at multitasking as they think). This also includes the little things like online punctuality, letting others speak and letting people ask questions at any time.
  • Also, be open about whether video is desired or not.
  • The following things are important to do at the beginning of an online meeting:
    • Make sure everybody knows everybody else – having a round of introductions online is much more important than in a meeting room.
  • At the end of the meeting, agree on a todo list of what’s next.
  • Prepare meeting minutes during the online meeting – ideally, minutes should be completed and sent out 15 minutes after the meeting, with all participants informed of their tasks and follow-up responsibilities.

Tips for Online Workshops

In comparison to online meetings, the challenge in online workshops is that sometimes participants need to collaborate to work out extremely complex matters (e.g. models, business processes, etc.) Before physical distancing became necessary, this was generally handled in a meeting room using a flip chart, moderator and business analyst, and also included the relevant stakeholders and technical experts.

In general, the points listed above for online meetings also apply to workshops held online. These include discussing the agenda and schedule at the beginning of the meeting, introductions, introducing the topic, bringing all participants up to speed, agreeing on rules for the workshop and the method for keeping minutes. However, since proper preparation is still much more important for a successful online workshop than for a meeting room, we also recommend the following practical tips:

Clarify Roles

You should clarify without question who’ll act as moderator – in practice, this is usually the project manager. The moderator will ensure the agenda and schedule are adhered to, keep minutes and record todos. In addition, you should clarify who’ll take on various roles, such as business analyst – in other words, the role/person who’s responsible in the workshop for facilitating discussion on development and clarification of the business process. As a result, you specify how the workshop will be facilitated in terms of both procedure and content. These duplicate facilitator roles are an essential success factor for online workshops.

The moderator and analyst should agree in advance how to divide up each of their roles, and who’ll do what during the workshop:

  • When the agenda, schedule and minutes will be shared to the screen (moderator)
  • When and how the process under development will be worked out (analyst)

Creating Templates

The business analyst and moderator should create a template in advance and use this during the workshop to record the model or process online.

From my experience, a swim lane diagram pre-filled with the most essential standard elements has proven to be extremely helpful as a template for this purpose.

Alexander Hirt

Clarifying Issues in Advance

The business analyst and moderator should clarify as many issues as possible in advance of the meeting. Ideally they can already be working together during the workshop to develop a first draft, for example of a process, instead of beginning with a completely blank template.

Live Documentation

The process or other item being worked out should be documented directly on the screen so that all participants see the result and give their feedback. This also means that the completely recorded process as well as minutes will be ready at the end of the workshop, and can immediately be sent out for review.

Bottom Line: Take Advantage of Online Meetings

Meetings in these crisis times are held almost exclusively online. Many companies are jumping on board, and will certainly be using video conferences and calls more and more in the future, whether to save on travel costs or reduce time spent on trips.

This means that employees who can already come in a proven set of methods for taking part in “offline” meetings and workshops will start off with a clear advantage here. One good option for broadening your own horizon in this area are our courses in project management and agility, which you can use to expand your own toolbox of methods out to online formats as well.


Learn more about our trainings for project management and agile methods:

Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Trainings für Qualitätsmanagement bei Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects

Consulting and Project Management from the Home Office: Opportunities and challenges

Consulting and Project Management from the Home Office

Consulting and project management thrive on working directly with people. However these crisis times, which sometimes even mean one’s social and professional life are locked down, mean work is moving increasingly into the home office, and suddenly teams are dislocated but still need to work together. Following are a few tips for working under such conditions.

Spirit in Projects’ own work as consultants and project managers as well as our collaboration with clients has not been immune from these changes over the last few weeks, and all activities with our clients are now digital. All of a sudden, many companies have had to roll out new tools for digital collaboration, while others, which previously had traditional organizations, now make extensive use of flexible models for work and working time.

In our opinion, the present changes in the work world are having a disruptive effect and will continue to exist well beyond the present crisis. Digitalization is a process that can’t be reversed, since the novel channels of communication will continue to exist beyond the crisis.

Wolfgang Hiermann, CEO

What works best for your company and your day-to-day work routine is often a matter of trial and error. However, we would like to pass on a few tips with regard to physical distancing, which we’ve gained from our experience in consulting and project management.

Making Clear Arrangements & Establishing Rules

Clear arrangements with team members regarding work assignments and expected results are especially important when managing dislocated teams. Since every now and then a home office means there are far fewer opportunities for contact and informal exchange, it’s especially important for team members to have a clear understanding of the expectations made of them.

As a result, your team should openly discuss items such as our tips for meetings and for a home office infrastructure, and should establish rules for dislocated collaboration so that all workers are clear on where they’re headed.

Working as a Team from a Home Office

The greatest danger in a widespread home office is the loss of common social structures. A few simple tips can help to create a structure which makes collaboration possible and doesn’t restrict it unnecessarily.

When you’re leading projects managed completely online, it’s more important than ever for your team not only to plan on the fixed structure of meetings which becomes necessary, but also to allow for enough room to work and for one-on-one meetings between team members (and not completely fill up the team’s calendar). Key tips include:

Standup meetings

As social beings, we seek to have exchange with others. The normal chitchat around the coffee machine is impossible in a home office environment, but still should not be underestimated as a hub of information. Make sure you establish a number of fixed meetings throughout the week, both “coffee chats” in which colleagues can talk socially as well as “standup video meetings” in which colleagues can discuss tasks. Of course, both elements can also be combined into one meeting, but these must then be time-boxed.

Keeping One-On-One Meetings

When your day-to-day working routine is virtual, you need some kind of substitute for “just going to a colleague’s desk for a second”. So instead of an “unscheduled meeting” in the office, dedicate times for having fixed one-on-one meetings with key colleagues. Make sure these discussions have a relaxed atmosphere – something like a “virtual coffee break”.

Self-Discipline vs. Flexibility

Arrange fixed periods of time during which your team members are accessible. When you’re at home, there’re just too many distractions, and there’s always the danger of just letting yourself go. Fixed periods of time can help with this – plus you don’t always need to be accessible when you’re in your home office. However, team members will know that you’ll be at your home office at the arranged times.

Establishing Channels of Communication

It’s a good idea to establish channels and tools of communication for your team in advance (email, Slack, Skype, MS Teams, Zoom, etc.). Since our clients use different tools, we’ve already installed the most popular collaboration tools on our work devices for the most part, meaning we’re already prepared for external meetings.

Maintaining Common Task Lists / Kanban Boards

Well-managed task lists and kanban boards which are shared online, in combination with numerous meetings during the week, mean everyone has a handle on their own work and also knows what everyone else needs to do. This also applies for project plans, and this transparency helps the team.

However, watch out for ticket jumpers who work on one ticket one day and another the next, and wind up not finishing any. The trick here is to limit the number of tickets in the work flow.

Basic Infrastructure for the Home Office

The basic requirement for all of the above is a good infrastructure, which should be made clear early on and available to all team members. The infrastructure should include:

  • A workplace in which you can work in peace (either a small, separate room or a very quiet corner to which you can withdraw and is a good distance from other roommates).
  • A stable, high-performance Internet connection, ideally a cable connection which can automatically fall back to a mobile phone connection.
  • High-performance mobile work devices (notebooks, webcams, etc.)
  • Good microphone and headset (especially in “open” rooms in the home office where background noise needs to be reduced).
  • Adequate access to company applications and data (VPN gateways and authorization options).
  • Suitable systems for online meetings such as MS Teams, WebEx or Zoom, which also offer whiteboards and screensharing.
  • Wikis such as Confluence (great as online meeting protocols, and include Gliffy diagrams to quickly record processes – e.g. swimlanes and UML).

Essential tools also include productivity tools such as MS Office, which ideally provide for shared document processing.

Bottom Line: Taking Advantage of the Home Office

Our experience shows that home office collaboration doesn’t just bring challenges, but also opportunities. For example, meetings held online can often be organized so they’re more productive. In addition, a home office environment makes it possible to reinforce key skills which can also be put to good use later in collaborations with other dispersed teams. As consultants, we believe that these changes in the working environment will disrupt and shape future collaboration on a permanent basis.

It definitely helps to already have a sound knowledge of methods in the field of project management and agility – this will make the defined framework (e.g. standup meeting or kanban board) clearer to all participants. Here, we in the team also use the time to build up additional competence through training – a recommendation we also give to all our clients.


Learn more about our trainings for project management and agile methods:

Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Trainings für Qualitätsmanagement bei Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Agile Methods and Kanban by Spirit in Projects
The challenge: T-shaping needs broad knowledge and in-depth competences

T-Shaped Manager: Skills for Successful Projects

How do you as a project manager manage the balancing act between nerd and organizer? Unless you have the superpowers shown in the image at the top of the page, our experience shows that “t-shaping” is one answer to this. In this blog article, our senior project manager Wolfgang Rauscher passes on his practical experience and shows you how a good mix of skills can be invaluable in managing projects.

These days, demands made on project managers go well beyond having a mastery of project management methods. Projects are becoming more and more complex, and process digitalization is altering company business models. It’s no longer enough for IT project managers to fall back on broad knowledge in the area of project management – instead, specialized skills are becoming increasingly important. The concept of T-shaped project management explains this paradigm shift.

What’s a T-Shaped Person?

In T-shaped project management, the horizontal bar of the letter “T” stands for broad competence – so in the case of an IT project manager, this would mean that he or she shows sound, detailed, knowledge of project management methods. The vertical bar of the letter “T” stands for specialized competences in a specific field, such as test management or architecture.

In my experience, specialized competencies increase a project manager’s level of acceptance within a project team, as specialists will see you as an equal.

Wolfgang Rauscher

The two bars together form the letter “T” and thus describe a T-shaped project manager – one who shows both broad competence in project management as well as in-depth expertise in a given area of specialty. The example below illustrates how that works in practice.

Being T-Shaped in Practice: Meaningful Skill Sets

What I’ve already seen in many projects is that requirements engineering is an area of specialty which is almost perfectly suited to project management. As a result, my own “T-shape” has project management as a broad competence. Then my in-depth expertise includes requirements engineering and telecommunications.

Requirements Engineering as a Broad Competence: Better Understanding and Assessment

My know-how in the field of requirements engineering makes it possible for me as a project manager to have a thorough understanding of the actual content of a project. By flexibly applying a variety of elicitation methods during the analysis phase of a project, I can create the basis in my projects for working out project content in detail.

As a project manager, I can then accurately plan out work packages on the basis of that content (“proper division of tasks”) and also specify their deliverables in detail. As a result, the extremely important issue of cost and time estimation becomes much easier, as well as determination of the project budget required for implementation. My assessments become more accurate since my work packages are planned in better detail.

To sum, projects which are planned and managed by a T-shaped project manager who has requirements engineering as an area of specialty show the following advantages:

  • In general, fewer changes over the course of the project
  • The three core components of time, content and costs which are established in the project order are  analyzed in greater detail and are planned more precisely.
  • In the event of unavoidable changes, a T-shaped project manager is capable of analyzing their repercussions in detailand revising project plans accordingly.

Technology as a Broad Competence: Credibility

Another of my areas of specialty is my detailed, technical knowledge in the field of telecommunications, which has often paid off for me in terms of building trust in the project team (which is especially important when working as an external project manager). At the beginning of a project, team members are often hesitant or restrained when dealing with their project manager – it’s basically an attitude of “Let’s see what he can do!”

If you find yourself in that situation but can show the project team that you’re one of them, and not only do you have a handle on project management methods but you can also “talk the talk”, you already have the team on your side. Project team members feel like they’re included, feel that you understand them and that they’re in good hands. One member of a project once told me, “Finally we’ve got a project manager who speaks our language!” That kind of high acceptance by the project team has often made my life as a project manager much easier. Projects managed by a T-shaped project manager who shows detailed technical know-how generally have the following advantages:

  • The project manager understands the technical content of work packagesand can recognize when a project team member has incorrectly assessed the time and/or cost required for a task.
  • Work packages are planned with much greater accuracy.
  • The project manager is accepted by the project team.
  • The project team identifies with the project (“It’s OUR project!”) and work quality improves as a result.
  • Forming a project team becomes easier, since the project manager isn’t an outsider in the team, but “one of us”.

Bottom Line: T-Shaped Skills Make it Possible to Manage Projects More Successfully

My experience shows that T-shaping makes it possible to better control projects in all their complexity. This starts with soft factors related to project marketing (“credibility”) and communication between nerds and managers that’s on equal terms, and ends with more accurate assessments, better change management and more precise planning.

In general, one doesn’t acquire a skill set of that nature immediately after education, but develops it over the course of one’s professional career. It also changes every now and then, and you create even more areas of competence for yourself. A keyword now exists for this – the hashtag-shaped (#-shaped) project manager. In any case, sound training is a good basis for building up these skill sets, which is why I also enjoy imparting my experience as a trainer.


Learn more about our trainings for RE and project management:

Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Videotraining für Requirements Engineering von Spirit in Projects
Trainings for digitalization & innovation by Spirit in Projects
Trainings for Project Management by Spirit in Projects
Training for Requirements Engineering by Spirit in Projects
Training for Requirements Engineering by Spirit in Projects
Training for Requirements Engineering by Spirit in Projects
Training for Requirements Engineering by Spirit in Projects
Training for Requirements Engineering by Spirit in Projects
Trainings für Usability und User Experience bei Spirit in Projects
Consulting for Business Analysis & Business Processes by Spirit in Projects

Business Analysis & Business Processes