Projects are the new business as usual

30 June, 2020

When we hear the term 'BAU', we think of the standard functional activities that keep a business operating. We think of the day to day tasks that don't change. We think business as usual. If you are a project management professional, the phrase BAU might evoke a slightly different meaning. To you, BAU signals the end of a project, the final transition of deliverables and outcomes back to the business unit so that it becomes the new BAU.

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What if projects are the new BAU?

We know that projects by their very definition are temporary. Introduced to drive change, they contrast with our idea of BAU as outlined above. Our expectation has been for things to return to 'normal', reverting back to a state of BAU, but what if constant change is the new 'normal' and projects are becoming an integral part of our BAU operating system?

The requirement to make projects the new BAU is driven by the market's demand for faster, better, cheaper outcomes. The growth of Internet-based businesses has created a shift in the market where customers expect results now, not when you plan to deliver them in two years time. Industry leaders are continuously innovating and introducing new changes that are shaping the market and the way in which customers respond. In this environment of digital disruption and change, businesses must adapt to survive. In what people are calling the fourth industrial revolution, the businesses that cannot sustain projects and programmes as part of their normal operating rhythm will not survive, as they cannot adapt to internal and external forces fast enough through a traditional operationally led evolution. Today's successful companies must regularly and consistently transform their service to changing customer demands, meaning projects are becoming woven into the fabric of day to day operations. Projects have become business as usual.

Within this digital landscape, we're also beginning to see increased automation of the standard BAU functions that used to keep a business operating. If a company's operations were to become more automated, increasing the standardisation of their processes, then the best value and growth potential would lie in the projects undertaken by that company. Projects would become the value-add and the differentiation point for many businesses. This is why projects are becoming critical to your business's ecosystem and why you need to ensure you're managing your portfolio of programmes and projects as best you can.

What should you do now?

If you're ready to embrace change as the new normal, here are some useful tips to remember before jumping in.

1. Don't bite off more than you can chew and regularly reassess

With all of these emerging trends and changing customer demands, it can be very easy to take on too much all at once. You must be careful when selecting which projects to invest in and try to avoid jumping on every new trend that emerges. Make sure you do plenty of research and analysis first. Like any good project, you should have a solid business case before undertaking it. You must be able to justify your reasons for initiating the project and explore all associated costs, risks and alternative options open to you.

From a portfolio management perspective, you will also need to regularly reassess the value of each on-stream project as the environment in which you mobilised the project may now be significantly different. This is why it's important that you continually assess and review your existing projects and business case to ensure you are getting the best return on investment across your portfolio. You want to ensure that you continue to prioritise your resources across worthwhile projects that align with your overall vision and strategy.

2. Motivate your team

Your people are your strongest agents for change. You must ensure you effectively communicate your vision to your project teams and stakeholders. Your team should be clear on what the end goal is and feel motivated to achieve it. Change requires buy in from everyone and if your team is highly motivated, they are more likely to be high-performing too.

3. Change is constant

"The only constant in life is change." — Heraclitus

Change is a continual process. Change is not a once off thing. Though projects are temporary, with a defined end-date, dealing with change is ongoing. Instead of "handing back to BAU" at a project's closure, you should already be searching for the next opportunity, exploring areas of growth and researching potential new projects.

Business decisions on project selection, resource allocation and prioritisation across the various projects within your portfolio should be continuous. In order to identify new opportunities to embrace constant change, you need to also assess your current projects and the value they are bringing to your portfolio.

Projects are the new business as usual, whether we like it or not. Those who embrace the challenge of meeting market demands and tackling emerging trends risk failure. Those who don't will eventually fail by default. Change is inevitable and out of your control, but how you decide to react to it is wholly within your control.

We are here to help you

There's no doubt that the months ahead are going to be challenging as you look to re-establish business as usual in your organisation. We are ready to help you as you face the future and look to succeed through uncertainty as you plan your next projects and programmes. Contact us today.

Contact us

Féilim Harvey

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8631

Eoin Mulhall

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 5057

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