Gartner Report Underscores the Value in Strengthening Service Line and Portfolio Management Processes

A report, ‘The Gartner Scenario for IT Services Providers: The Future of IT Services’, published earlier this month, really struck a note with us at Changepoint. According to its authors, IT services leaders are slowly losing market share, largely due to their inability to respond to market forces quickly enough. This report highlights the shifting landscape for IT service providers including how buying patterns are changing as IT procurement spreads out across the enterprise, new technologies and delivery mechanisms are shifting, and user expectations are evolving as the empowered consumer starts to make waves in the workplace. Professional service providers need to keep pace with these changes or they will slowly become irrelevant.

For professional service providers, it is no longer enough to solely conduct annual reviews to decide which direction the company should move, what geographies to target, or what products and services to sell. These factors are ever changing and to stay ahead of the curve companies must be able to make improvements and streamline operations on a continual basis to allow them to offer cheaper, faster, and higher quality solutions to customers. In his accompanying webinar, Eric Rocco, Managing VP for Gartner explained it this way: “To capture future growth and be positioned on the right side of the fast-shifting IT services marketplace, IT service providers of every type need to bridge their legacy offerings and new delivery paradigms.” Professional service organizations must become increasingly agile and have the right data in place to support business decisions if they plan to respond to opportunities in real-time.

Rocco highlights that to do so providers must strengthen their service line and portfolio management processes in order to be successful. Professional Services Automation (PSA) and Product Portfolio Management (PPM) are two critical tools enabling them to do just that–respond to changing markets quickly and with greater accuracy. By providing easy access to actionable data about where demand is being generated and what requests customers are making, organizations using these solutions can make timely changes in their delivery of IT and business process services.

It is not only that; PSA and PPM also allow organizations to keep track of all the moving parts within their services businesses. As providers start to introduce new services and territories, it is easy to over-extend – having this control and visibility thus becomes invaluable. By understanding the cost of delivery, while managing resources and human capital in a more effective way, providers can build business models that deliver a streamlined service for the customer in a more cost-effective way; everyone’s a winner!

We would like to hear more about how your organization is using PSA and PPM solutions to stay ahead of the curve in your industry. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to us on Twitter at @Daptiv.

Project Fatigue: Taking Its Toll on Your Employees?

If your business runs slowly no matter how many changes and projects you throw at it, perhaps your employees are suffering from project fatigue. David Blumhorst, the Vice President of Solutions and Services at Daptiv, recently sat down with Cornelius Fichtner on the PM Podcast to chat about how to spot project fatigue and ways to prevent it.

Understanding what project fatigue is and where it stems from is the first step to prevention. At a basic level, project fatigue occurs when a company implements too many projects at once. However, it typically refers to projects that directly impact an employee’s usual workflow. A background interface project to speed up internet connection isn’t likely to meet resistance, but changing the way someone goes about their daily job will almost always illicit some level of opposition unless handled correctly. Companies suffering from project fatigue generally experience one or more of the following:

  • Employees are unmotivated and choose to complete tasks with dated techniques.
  • Business processes are slow and do not show improvement after project implementation.
  • Even with new projects the business is not meeting its target goals.

The best way to combat project fatigue is to avoid it all together. Blumhorst recommends the following tips for implementing projects to evade the negative effects of project fatigue:

  • Determine the amount of change your business can handle at once – Some companies and departments are able to handle multiple changes at once while others need to have projects broken down and implemented one at a time.
  • Understand how your organization will approach change– Startups and smaller companies are better at picking up new processes without resistance, while larger more established companies with dated workflow techniques will need to coach and prepare employees more extensively before project implementation.
  • Align projects with specific business targets that are backed by employees – Employees are more likely to accept and learn new processes if they understand how the changes further a business goal. Knowing why their workflow is being altered and how their adoption of the new system will ultimately meet a previously discussed business objective will create a project friendly environment.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – Employees are emotional beings, therefore it’s important to give them the opportunity to voice concerns before and after project implementation to increase acceptance. Knowing how a project will change day-to-day activities before they are actually changed and then providing a forum to ask questions afterward creates a more comfortable and seamless transition.
  • Use a PPM Tool for better planning – Having the ability to see how projects line up with each other is crucial to determining where issues will occur. If there are too many workflow altering projects back to back, spread them out and give employees time to adjust before throwing them another curveball. Just because the technology is ready doesn’t mean the people dealing with the changes will be.
  • Understand that project implementation is only the beginning –The day a project goes live is only the beginning of ensuring smooth project implementation. Although project teams could have worked behind the scenes for months before a project goes live, this is the first time many of the end-users may have interacted with it.

Blumhorst reiterates Project Portfolio Management (PPM) leaders must also realize strategically planning for projects before, during, and after implementation increases the chance that their employees will accept and flourish in new work environments.

For more information on avoiding project fatigue, listen to the entire PM Podcast online. We would also like to hear about your projects. Have you or your business experienced project fatigue, and if so how did you reverse the negative effects? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to us on Twitter at @Daptiv with the hashtag #TooManyProjects

Daptiv’s David Blumhorst Turns Definition of Project Success on Its Head

Project success has nothing to do with time, budget or scope according to David Blumhorst the Vice President of Solutions and Services for Daptiv. David recently sat down with Cornelius Fichtner on the PM Podcast to explain how these three constraints, traditionally thought of as solid measures for success, are actually better suited to gauge performance. Projects are investments and their primary purpose is to drive change; therefore, even if time, budget and scope are met but the desired change does not occur how can the project be considered effective? Instead, David recommends PPM professionals define the business objective they’re trying to achieve with the project and then assess its success in accomplishing this goal. 

David suggests PPM professionals determining their business objective ask themselves: What is the primary reason for investing in this project? Does it align with the purpose of the business or is it an unnecessary expense? With this business target in place, instead of measuring tasks which allocate valuable technical skills to monitoring, PPM professionals can optimize those same resources and lead their team to a project bulls-eye.

Once PPM Professionals have redefined project success, David recommends avoiding these top four common pitfalls:

  • A lack of business goals – Without a goal scope creep can become endless, pulling a project away from its target and towards a pricy budget and lengthy timeline.
  • Starting a project not aligned with business objectives – Determining upfront if a project is a good investment or a waste of limited resources is crucial.
  • Failing to plan ahead for ROI – Measuring a project’s return on investment requires forethought. Once a project is finished, it is difficult to determine this measurement if there was never an initial baseline established for comparison.
  • Excessive spending – Breaking the bank can be a product of the scope creep which can occur when the project is not aligned with a specific business objective.

David also encourages project managers to think outside the box to avoid locking themselves into rigid structures that don’t serve the project. To stay on track, here are his top four tips:

  • Have an elevator speech – Every project should be accompanied by a 30-second elevator speech that describes its purpose and reasoning in just a few sentences. This makes it simple to regularly revisit the business objective to quickly determine if the project truly aligns with the overall goals of the organization.
  • Consider other measurements in addition to ROI– Factors such as employee and customer satisfaction should be taken into consideration, as ROI is often not the only indicator of success.
  • View projects like you do investments – Look at multiple projects as investments in a portfolio, create rating systems, and determine the return on the portfolio as a whole.
  • Complete a success survey after each project – Survey stakeholders and shareholders to determine if the desired outcomes from the project were achieved from their diverse perspectives.

For more information on defining project success, you can listen to the entire PM Podcast online. Daptiv would like hear how you determine if your project has been a success. What types of metrics have you used to determine ROI? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to us on Twitter at @Daptiv.

What’s So Bad About Spreadsheets?

Daptiv’s Dave Blumhorst Divulges their Hidden Downsides on Wired.com 

One of the most widely used tools for project management in software teams today is the spreadsheet. They are ubiquitous and heavily relied on by many organizations to manage data and make critical business decisions. Because spreadsheets are easy to use they may appear, at first glance, to be an excellent tool for independent analysis. However, the perception of the ease-of-use of spreadsheets is to some extent an illusion. As any project manager will tell you, they are often stretched far beyond the boundaries of their functionality. With limited scalability and reliability, they are also constrained by an organization’s ability to invest in additional technology capabilities to improve their trustworthiness.

Although fairly cheap and easy to use, spreadsheets can’t often be trusted as they are extremely vulnerable to errors. Recent research found most of the spreadsheets used by organizations contain errors—and that a considerable number of those errors are serious. It may be easy to get an answer from a spreadsheet; however, it is not necessarily easy to get the right answer. Particularly if you factor in potential human data entry errors, spreadsheets can often do more harm than good. These hidden problems can hinder the success of a project and create more costs than were initially budgeted.

Daptiv’s Dave Blumhorst recently discussed the nine inherent flaws of spreadsheets, and how they’re hampering the success of PPM professionals today on Wired’s Innovation Insights. To get a better understanding of how businesses can embrace alternative technologies to avoid spreadsheet limitations, you can read Dave’s entire piece on Wired.com.

We would also like to hear about your experiences using spreadsheets. Have you run into issues using spreadsheets to manage projects in your workplace? If so, what types of problems have you faced and what solutions have you found to alleviate them? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to us on Twitter at @Daptiv with the hashtag #SpreadSheetFailure

PPM: Everyone Gets To Play (Part 2)

In continuation to my previous blog post, this one will explain how the PPM needs of organizations drive the overall implementation process. At the enterprise level, we all recognize that different types of businesses execute different types of projects. The project portfolio for an investment bank is going to look a lot different from the portfolio at a company that designs and builds computer products, or a hospital, or a university. Even when we look at similar enterprises, we find differences in strategy, culture, and approach. Since many of these differences are the fuel for competitive advantage and operational excellence they require processes and practices which support those unique attributes.

Likewise, we need to recognize significant differences between functional areas  within the same enterprise due to the nature of the work being executed and the varying ways in which that work is done. The PPM needs for the product engineering groups are not exactly the same as those in HR.

Let’s take scope management as an example. For a company that is building something under a contract for another company, control over the scope of the project may be critical to assuring company profitability and in the most extreme cases the financial viability of the supplier organization. In this case, one would expect a much more structured, formalized set of processes for reviewing and approving scope changes and making changes to supporting contracts, payment schedules, etc. By contrast, when a department in one organization needs to communicate and manage expectations around delivery dates and costs for a sponsoring department within the same company – especially when the sponsoring department has requested the change — they may adopt a less formalized, lighter weight scope change process. In both situations changes the “what” of scope management is the same – scope changes need to be recognized, communicated and approved – but the “how” may be radically different.

We must also take into account that the approaches, tools and techniques used, even within a discipline may change over time. For many years, the construction industry used the Design/Bid/Build phases in their projects where each successive phase was substantially completed prior to the commencement of the next and each phase was executed by different organizations. Unfortunately, as a consequence of this approach many projects were plagued by a fourth phase, “litigation”, with finger-pointing and lawsuits between the parties to establish whether something was a defect in design or a defect in construction. Now many construction projects are using an approach called “Design/Build” where the work is performed and managed as a single, integrated effort. Similar changes have occurred in information technology, where new development tools and approaches have facilitated iterative and agile development of applications and business systems outside of the lockstep waterfall techniques of the past. Each of these has required new techniques for how the projects using them are planned and managed without losing the visibility needed for oversight and control of the outcome.

The most successful PMO’s and ePMO’s are those that understand the underlying goals and objectives of PPM while implementing supporting processes that are adapted  to the unique, changing needs of the enterprise, and the functional groups and disciplines within that enterprise. While this requires open-mindedness and creativity the adoption of PPM across multiple disciplines in thousands of companies is proof positive of the feasibility and be benefit to be derived from the effort. In short, despite the declaration of that gentleman at my first PMI meeting – PPM is relevant to Information Technology. And  to Finance, Marketing,  Professional Services,  New Product Development, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management, Education and any other discipline or organization that invests in and executes projects. It also still applies to Construction and Engineering…

As a post-script I would add that since that first meeting I have belonged to PMI for many years and attended numerous meetings in a variety of other locations and chapters which were well attended by individuals from a wide variety of organizations and disciplines.