The role of the bridgehead in project management

How to build bridges as an interface to connect specialist departments with service providers

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At EVOSULT we support our clients to successfully plan, execute and, if necessary, rescue their projects and to meet requirements regarding deadlines. We see ourselves in the function of a bridgehead, which represents the interface between customers and stakeholders and drives both communication and coordination in favour of the development of the project. However, it is much more than just a communication interface that links different jobs, tasks and requirements. We see ourselves not only as a bridgehead, but as the actual bridge that connects all project areas. In projects, misunderstandings are one of the biggest obstacles to achieving the desired results. We not only improve communication, but also communicate and translate the problems, so that in the end everyone pulls together. In this way, we ensure the success of the project and the sustainable implementation of the work with the stakeholders.

More flexible and comprehensive than the pure product owner

Scrum is still the leading method for agile software development. A central interface in Scrum is the Product Owner. He can, but does not necessarily have to be the client; in fact, it is usually another person who represents the client’s interests vis-à-vis all other parties involved. Thus the Product Owner carries out fundamental tasks, especially since he is responsible for the success and performance of the team as a whole. Nevertheless, the Product Owner is not a manager, as he is not the superior of the development team. Rather, he is the contact person when it comes to solving problems or inquiries. In the Scrum team there are sprints that are supposed to provide an already functional or deliverable product as an intermediate step, which is also called increment. To ensure that deadlines can be met, progress is compared with the current backlog in Daily Standup Meetings and coordinated. The Product Owner manages the work packages in the Scrum team, maintains the backlog and prioritizes the order of processing. EVOSULT, on the other hand, relies on the concept of the Bridgehead, who also represents the customer’s interests to external developers and internal project managers, but brings much more expertise and flexibility to the work. In his function as coach he should bridge the communication deficits between the teams as well as bring along profound knowledge of the systems to be developed. In order to coordinate the close contact between customers, developers and stakeholders in a goal-oriented manner, the customer’s needs and existing technologies must be understood and included. The bridgehead covers two areas, the technical and the coordinating. His technical tasks are defined by the quality and execution specifications. The adherence to time and budget specifications also falls within his area of responsibility.

Although agility is very important, there is a lack of implementation in many places

In the meantime, the buzzword „agility“ has gained acceptance not only in the development of new software but also in the management of complex organizations. The basic idea of agility is that uncertainties in the handling of complex processes can be managed better and more flexibly in an economic environment that is difficult to predict. In its study „Status Quo Agile“, the University of Applied Sciences in Koblenz found that about 35 percent of all companies now use agile methods and apply them outside of IT projects. The best known of these is the agile method Scrum, which is used by 85 percent of the companies that rely on agile development for a current product. Compared to conventional work on projects, the agile approach differs in a high degree of self-organization and autonomous decision-making powers of the team. In addition, equality is an important requirement in development, since the classic project manager no longer exists in this form. Rigid project goals and long-term project plans are usually not created, but replaced by subgoals or sprints whose backlog is reassessed at certain intervals. In many companies, however, there is a massive lack of consistent implementation of the agile approach.

External help is often the key to success

External help can be the key to the perfect product when implementing projects. Internal structures must be reorganized with great effort, especially when changing from traditional to agile. The loss of competencies, problems in communication, all these are factors that create obstacles during implementation, as companies sometimes have serious deficits when it comes to joint implementation with employees. The external bridgehead has proven to be a flexible and communicative instrument in this respect, as it helps to identify reservations and problems of stakeholders by providing new perspectives from outside. As a universal interface, it can defuse and eliminate conflicts as a coach. As meaningful as agile development with Scrum makes sense today, companies must be aware that most stakeholders in teams during their training and previous activities are usually not prepared for autonomous work in self-responsibility. Simply sticking the label „Agile“ on a project is not enough. Instead, real transformation and delegation of competence and responsibility must be learned. The necessary trust can only be built up through clear and open communication. More than that: ambiguities can often be much better removed by mediation and interpretation through external coaching.

Must you turn everything upside down?

Agile project management makes sense for many reasons. The bridgehead is an important instrument which, in contrast to the pure product owner, does not only focus on communicating the interests of the client, but also facilitates the integration of all parties involved. When it comes to switching to agile methods, the child is often thrown out with the bathwater. In particular, unreflected routine actions, as well as ignoring requirements from those who have to cope with the planned changes, contribute to this. Practical experience has shown that overly extreme changes are not necessary at all, indeed not even conducive to achieving the desired results. Modern team development is characterized above all by flexibility and openness towards the needs and requirements of all participants. EVOSULT can help to successfully follow this path.

Georgia Fuhrmann

Author: Georgia Fuhrmann Senior Key Account Manager The Senior Key Account Manager has already supported well-known and internationally active companies in marketing and sales.

Georgia Fuhrmann