Leadership in Project Management Across Tech Verticals

In her 17 years long career, Ankita has been associated with companies such as vCustomer, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Mastek and Nationwide Building Society, prior to joining Fiserv in 2021.

What are your best and worst experiences in 17+ years journey in the operations and information technology industry? Tell us about your strategies.
People/Resource, Processes, and Technology are the three pillars of the IT sector. All three are equally crucial for any organization. A long-standing legacy organisation will often be observed to be bias towards a `key man dependency' culture, focussing more on resources/people that are protecting their legacy systems, rather than be bold, forward looking and technology focussed. On the other hand, many new start-ups and challenger organisation will naturally incline towards having techno savvy outlook and lesser focus on harbouring in-house talent. In both scenarios, the balance of people vs technology often suffers, in turn causing the market relevance of that organisation. This is one of the downsides I have observed in my couple of decades in the IT world. The 3rd key factor of `Process' is equally critical as it acts like a bridge between the resources and the technology. Good resources and Technology need a set of solid processes to back them up and make them sustainable.

Well, this encapsulates my experience in the industry: In older and established organization, the leaders are very averse to any kind of `change'; whilst in a newer organisation the circle of change is on at an unsustainable level, losing good in-house talents. It is an absolute must to create an environment of equal balance of people, process, and technology.

My Best Experience: When organisations keep themselves honest and constructively challenge their operating model to keep it relevant to changing market! This kind of attitude makes the companies more efficient to grab the latest opportunities in this new world. I have fond memories of making impactful changes, whether it was the digitalization of the organization, strategizing the people capabilities or overhauling the organisation roadmap. This ever-evolving and self-evaluating mindset has given me opportunities to help my organisations to become more efficient, trustworthy and market leaders. Hence, I would easily class these golden opportunities as my best experiences.

My Strategies: Couple of key strategies - firstly, balanced people, process, and technology approach.
Secondly, a clear and transparent stakeholder management, that is inspiring to trust the leadership in both upward and downward in the organization. Thus, 360-degree honest feedback is the key to success in my opinion.

What are the steps you follow for successful project management? How do you lead a team during tough times?
The first and most important step in ensuring the project's success is to create a solid foundation. It's the same as baking a cake! All of the important elements should be in the proper proportions. The cake will not have a proper base if any of the essential ingredients are added incorrectly. Similarly, if the foundation is weak, the project would fail and we will not be able to complete it.

To obtain a good feel of project management, you should first comprehend the project's framework. Knowing how to deliver a project can rescue the day in a pinch. Although, it is no secret that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to project management, there are a few key elements that, when incorporated into a management style, can yield impressive outcomes. Along with the fundamentals, you need have a thorough understanding of the business case/market you'll be delivering, as the market is constantly changing. Keeping a careful eye on the business case/market and the changes it's going through can help you keep on top of not only the needs, but also the end result.

So, keeping a close check on the business rationale for what you're changing, as well as maintaining a close contact with your business stakeholder, can help you manage the project effectively and stay relevant throughout the collaboration. Another element that requires your attention is your team, which is the project's heart. The initiative is best described as a collection of people delivering a change. This is my ultimate policy; I make every effort to maintain close contact with my team, whether through frequent project management forums, governance procedures or one-on-one meetings. It's a never-ending process of learning. Every project teaches me something new, which keeps both me and by extension, my team motivated.

Maintaining transparency and improving enterprise architecture can assist you in developing a plan that clearly specifies the roadmap for your products & services

What are the qualities that a leader in technology should have for maintaining the quality of product/service?
Many leadership skills are particularly beneficial to CIOs and CTOs as they direct their teams (while not intrinsically limited to the technological sphere). Vision, in my opinion, is the most critical trait that a technological leader should possess. A leader should keep up with everything that is going on in and around the world in order to know when to adjust their strategy and what might work for the situation at hand. This year has been the most dramatic illustration of change; it has acted as a wake-up call; everything that had been planned for the following five years has been thrown up in the air. If people continue to follow their previous strategy, they will be lost since the pandemic has thrown everything into disarray. Zooming out, seeing the broad picture, becoming a strategic thinker, and anticipating future demands can all help you see things more clearly. As a result, the vision is crucial. Another crucial quality of a leader is the ability to lead by example, since if you do not acquire the trust of the people you work with, you may find yourself falling short if they are unwilling to put out an effort for you. As a result, always try to lead by example!

How should any organization plan its pathway for not getting in troubles with product/service deadline?
Management systems are used by both small and large enterprises all over the world to successfully deliver their products and services. These technologies, whether for team workflow management or timing, help to guarantee that operations run smoothly while attaining the required outcomes. There should always be an organization-wide strategy that guides the development of any product or service timeframe. So, if you have a clear picture of what might happen, what the consequences will be, and at what level of the organization it can be diffused, you'll be less likely to run into difficulties when delivering the product or service. Maintaining transparency and improving enterprise architecture can assist you in developing a plan that clearly specifies the roadmap for your products and services.

Tell us something motivating from your vast industry experience which would encourage the readers.
Mentorship is the best currency that we can pass to each other in the world that runs on knowledge. Many people believe that mentoring entails you giving advice to your mentee. It's a two-way street in my perspective! It's equally effective for you because it's now a confirmed fact that the knowledge and experience we accumulate are no longer unidirectional. It's no longer coming from seniors to juniors; it's coming from all directions. In my experience, you should always keep an eye out for folks around you in professional and personal setup. People who can motivate you, instill trust in you, and convince you that you can achieve new heights. As a result, it's vital to identify somebody you can trust to guide you.

What are your thoughts on future leaders? Give a few tips as a guiding path for future leaders.
There are three crucial factors to consider when evaluating a person's leadership abilities: first, their education and experience; second, their personality; and third, how empathic they are toward the people and situations around them. Sympathy and empathy are not the same thing. Empathy is when you don't have to say anything nice, but you do something that matters. A lot of it has to do with the personality of the leader. A good personality is a critical strength to have while you're developing as a leader. Without empathy and personality, you can only go so far.

To succeed, we must evolve, and as a result, we must adopt a learning attitude. Knowing what's going on in the worlds of technology, business, and politics, both locally and globally. Leaders who are well-spoken, personable, and friendly are the best. They demonstrate genuine concern for others. Always remember that as a leader, you are the finest role model to follow, therefore assess your approach from time to time to ensure you are leading by example. So, putting it all together, this is how I envision future leaders.