During our professional business interactions, we are under constant attack: from complex business problems, from changing requirements, from tight milestone timelines and budget, and…from…ACRONYMS! Some professionals use acronyms with the genuine motives of being concise and not repeating the same lengthy verbiage many times. However, we must remain vigilant for those who use acronyms in an attempt to prove their intellectual superiority. Placing priority on proving intellectual superiority above having clarity of communication is the wrong priority. Project engagements are partnerships toward a common goal, not competitions to determine who is more clever.
This is the second in my series of posts to explore the meaning of some commonly used acronyms in the enterprise. If we can enter the meeting room with the same knowledge of acronyms as our peers, we can start to take away the perceived power that comes with proving oneself more clever than his peers. Let’s end these shenanigans once and for all.
The acronym we will discuss today is PM. I think this one is especially important to review because I’ve seen it used to describe three different things in the enterprise. Let’s get to it and review the three definitions:
Project Management – This is probably the most commonly used definition for PM. Project Management includes creating and updating project plans, tracking project progress against established milestones and objectives, project status communication, identifying and mitigating risks, facilitating the escalation path of contentious requirements, and managing the contributions of project team members. Project Management includes gathering estimates of effort from project members in different roles and calculating how all those efforts fit together to accomplish the overall objectives in the agreed upon timeline.
Product Management – This is the series of activities that helps a product evolve in a positive direction over time. It is strategic rather than tactical. Whereas project managers customize an established product to suit specific client needs, product managers focus on the actual baseline product. They incorporate client feedback, suggestions form project teams within their own organization, emerging technologies in their market segment, and internal innovations they think will be valuable to their clients’ specific needs based on past experiences. For example, during my client projects, we might configure a dashboard to include client-specific metrics. That is a project management and business analysis exercise. The fact that dashboards are available as a configurable object in the first place is the work of product management. Product Management creates the “things” that everyone else customizes.
Performance Management – Performance Management in a business sense is typically divided into two main categories: Sales and Service. Sales performance management focuses on business rules used for compensating people based on their ability to meet predetermined sales targets. Since sales people could be selling a matrix of different products or working in diverse geographic territories, sales performance management usually includes very complex calculations to determine the commission to be paid. Service performance management focuses on driving improvement for tasks that happen after the sale. These include activities like fielding calls about products or services that are not working as expected. Effective service performance management is structured using the following root cause analysis workflow, starting with the broadest and moving toward the finest:
- Strategic Business Objectives
- KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
- Component Metrics
- Impacting (or “Related”) Metrics – This one is a parallel flow, not necessarily broader than behaviors and finer than component metrics.
- Front Line Behaviors
- Targeted coaching sessions that focus on the identified front line behaviors and explore behavior changing tools
- Analysis of performance improvement based on this targeted coaching
Performance Management can have a more technical definition as well. When describing technical systems, it refers to efforts to make database processes run faster, complex reports load faster on a web page, etc.
Let’s add “PM” to our arsenal so we are prepared to combat attempts to muddy the waters of engaging partnerships during our projects. So next time someone starts discussing “PM” during a meeting, rather than wondering what he means, you can now interject with, “to which PM are you referring?”since you now know three of them. Little by little, we will build an acronym dictionary that will help us avoid the game of figuring out who is more clever and move onto the real objective – creating massive value for our clients.