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Nov 15, 2022

Project Management Office at Showmax

Pavla Safronov
Pavla Safronov
project managementPMO
Project Management Office at Showmax

Almost two years ago, I was looking for a completely new adventure in terms of my career. I left my previous company after 6 years and when I was going through the job listings the Showmax project manager job description popped up. To be honest, the company description was not clear to me but something caught my eye in the job offer. Who would not be interested in a company with a South African product which is comparable with Netflix?

When I joined the Showmax PMO, it was just starting and there was just my boss and me. I was looking forward to the process journey which started from scratch with a cherry on top – a fully remote PMO office. Is it even possible to have a completely remote PMO? Will the teams accept us even though we are not present at the office? These questions were popping up in my head and transformed into motivation in terms of “Challenge accepted!”.

I had an experience with a start-up which transformed into a corporation from the previous company and I realized that Showmax is still at the beginning of this journey which attracted me as well.

How do we apply new processes?

Our motto is: Support, no “dark” force!

The motto is self-explanatory and it describes what we believe in: that the changes will help the Engineering teams and are created in a discussion with all stakeholders. The big challenge we took on at the beginning was how to plan, track, and report the team’s work?

We came up with the quarterly planning process as a long term plan was totally missing. It was not an easy task as we lacked some proper planning tools at that time and also the teams were not used to working with long term and up-to-date planning.

Therefore, we were facing two challenges: how to create and track the planning without a tool? How to communicate this process within the company in a good way to minimize the feeling of “change=resistance war”.

How to create and track planning without a tool?

When you are in a position of selling your ideas to the management and need to advocate them, you are not asking for extra money, new tools, or anything else. First, you need to prove that the process you propose is a good way to move forward. The easiest way to start was to create a simple chart in Google sheets for tracking the projects and for visualization of their impact on reaching the company goals.

How we would assess using Google sheets in this phase?

  • Pros
    Quick and easy creation
    No extra costs
    Easy to understand and work with the chart
  • Cons
    Manual input required constantly to keep it up to date
    Minimal options for automation
    Hard to keep it simple and organized
Quarterly Planning Sheet

How to communicate this process within the company in a good way to minimize the feeling of “change=resistance war”

It is human nature to push back on any changes if we do not see the benefits in them. Therefore, with a new process coming in you need to think how to communicate it in a way that will be accepted positively and how to do it without using any kind of “dark” force. At Showmax, we believe that visibility and honest communication is the KEY to creating a “good” force – like a Jedi’s :) How were we able to become Jedi Knights for engineering teams?

1. Preparation

  • Creation of online document: well structured, organized, and clear
    Visualization is the key
  • Consultation with one/two Masters (Team Leaders from the Engineering team) and ideally get their buy-in
  • Share the document with everyone

2. Process

  • Take into account all received feedback
  • Remind people to give feedback
  • Schedule online sessions with small groups to perform a showcase of the process and gather more feedback
  • Get buy-in from everyone

3. Finalization

  • Communicate it within the company
  • Share it in some company wiki space

4. Why is quarterly planning helping?

  • React in time in order to change priorities
  • Identify blockers
  • React in time in order to change scope
  • Over-planned plan
  • Work more within your actual capacity
  • Insist on better specification and more detailed scope
  • Work with buffer time
  • Ability to do retrospective

How can we assess how the process went and whether it was successful?

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback!

“Q planning is awesome! :) And I’m not joking, it’s an excellent tool for a lot of pushback. Because whenever somebody comes asking for an urgent and bigger change, we simply say: Check the Q plan, if you think it’s more urgent, ask other stakeholders to see if they can postpone theirs. And then usually we stick with the current plan :D”
Tomáš Zeman, SmartTV/Web team

“The new planning process is exactly what we were missing as a group that more than doubled in size in a very short time. Having a shared vision of what’s planned and what are the priorities really helps us to work in sync with other teams and focus on the important tasks. Suddenly everything started to buzz!”
David Viktora, CMS team

Closing note - Never stop asking for feedback → any process can develop into something better!

The Project Management Team

Where are we right now?

Quarterly planning process is now 2 years old and it has evolved a lot. We are constantly improving it as the company is growing. We have a proper tool Monday.com that is helping us to perform some charts, evaluation graphs, and more.

We have added many more processes during the past 2 years at Showmax using the same supporting way - no “dark” force : Project responsibilities, Project Life cycle, Accepting of new group projects, Business case templates and many more are to come.

I am happy to say that we hired more Jedi Knights and we grew up as a PMO team to 4 people (and more are to come aboard). The most enjoyable fact is that this decision came from the Engineering team itself. They told us we need more PMs! And that is solely the positive impact on how we work with the teams.

“MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU”

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