PPM: Everyone Gets To Play (Part 1)

I remember my first PMI meeting.  It was in the early 1980’s and I had just been appointed to manage a fairly large project for the Data Processing Division of a large bank. The meeting had been recommended to me by a colleague who was not a project manager herself but was married to a project manager at a large civil engineering company. I was the only person at the meeting who was not a civil engineer or construction manager and the keynote address was about building a large oil refinery in the middle-east. I should also mention that I was the only woman at the meeting and a good twenty years younger than anyone else in the room. During a break I was chatting with a couple of the other attendees and when I told them where I worked one of them observed that he believed that “real project management” wasn’t really relevant to Data Processing. Needless to say, I didn’t go back.

Fortunately while at that meeting, I joined the PMI and got my first copy of the Project Management Body of Knowledge – which came in a 3-ring binder. I read it and realized that it contained a lot of information that was obviously influenced by engineering and construction but also seemed to be very relevant to the projects we were trying to manage in Data Processing. Indeed, there were a number of others in DP, which eventually became information systems, then Information Technology, who also saw the relevance of methodically applying a set of principles and processes for managing technology projects.

People started writing about and consulting practices were built around introducing these methods into organizations as a way of improving the predictability and performance of projects, not only in Information Technology but in other industries and disciplines as well. In 1975, Thomas Wheelright and Kim Clark of Harvard first published The Product Development Challenge: Competing Through Speed Quality and Creativity which included a number of case studies and arguments for applying what are now considered standard project management processes to managing the development and introduction of new technology products. Wheelright and Clark also expanded the focus from the execution of an individual project to what they called the “aggregate project plan”, which “helps managers focus on a set of projects” and “improve resource allocation, project sequencing, and critical development capabilities” – a recognition that project management and project portfolio management (PPM) are not different disciplines but common views from different perspectives.

Organizations have also changed to recognize the role of project and portfolio management. Project Management Offices (PMO’s) began springing up as an internal mechanism for introducing best-practices and processes into enterprises, providing oversight of the processes, and maintaining and providing specialized practitioners (project managers) who understood and could effectively apply these processes and principles. And while PMO’s have tended to focused on one segment or discipline within the enterprise (most notably IT),  enterprise PMO’s (ePMO’s) are becoming more common as enterprises realize the value of providing oversight and managing the portfolio of projects from the enterprise level.

There are a number of reasons for the proliferation of defined PPM processes and specialized organizations supporting those in different disciplines and businesses. The need for transparency, common language, oversight, and strategic alignment are not industry or discipline-specific; they are the common challenges that PPM is designed to address. What is different is how these processes are applied and executed to support the unique needs of the organization, both at the enterprise and functional level. What is appropriate and effective for the IT division of a multi-national conglomerate may not be appropriate for the product development division of the same company or the IT department of a small start-up. In my next post I will walk you through what makes a successful PMO’s and ePMO’s. Stay tuned.

Top Five PPM Trends to Watch Out For in 2014

The business world is forever changing and for organizations to thrive they must be able to adopt or, even better, be an early adopter of the noted trends and predictions. All neatly wrapped up as the top strategic PPM trends for the coming year, Daptiv predictions focus on increasing the benefits of Agile, greater applicability for PPM solutions across the board, and enterprises spearheading the creation of strategic PMOs, influenced by the reliability of benefits forecasting.

Here are Daptiv’s top 2014 predictions for the Project Portfolio Management industry:

  1.  Increased adoption of PPM for integrated portfolio management: The evolution and rapid uptake of SaaS PPM has increased coordination with ancillary IT management applications). ALM (Application Lifecycle Management), Agile and ITSM vendors have been leveraging PPM through alliances, integration, and/or acquisitions. This trend began to have an impact in 2011 and Daptiv sees this to continue to play a key role in PPM’s market growth through 2014.
  2.  More PMO heads will measure effectiveness on business results: While introducing tools, using methodologies, mapping project management practices, sending project managers to training, and increasing the number of professional PMs in the organization are important metrics for a PMO head to collect and report on, they do not speak to the effectiveness of the PMO from a business perspective. To judge business effectiveness, PMO heads will determine if their work has had a positive, quantifiable effect on the business in terms of troubled project reduction, positive business results, lower project manager attrition, and faster time to market. In 2014 the practice of measuring the outputs, not the inputs, of project management will gain traction.
  3. Portfolio Management gets the attention and  funding and encourages project entrepreneurship: Daptiv sees more companies directing tight budgets toward IT and process improvement via portfolio management to get a handle on enterprise project investments. Project entrepreneurship means project managers must develop an “entrepreneurial” mindset. In 2014, this mindset will enable project and portfolio leaders to take on risks, foster innovation and focus on business value rather just looking at the traditional triple constraints.
  4. Rolling-Wave Planning (Agile): Rolling-Wave Planning is the process of planning a project in phases as it proceeds rather than completing a detailed plan for the entire project before it begins. Planning is dependent on speculation and the further out the plan the more quickly the strategy will become obsolete as conditions change. In Rolling-Wave Planning, one will plan over time as the details in the project become clearer. Daptiv forecasts rolling-wave planning to become the default approach in 2014 and expects it is here to stay in the project management world.
  5. Getting Started with PPM Benefits Realization: 2014 will see a much-needed shift of PMOs from being tactical to strategic. More formalized strategies will strategically align organization goals with the business objective of the organization, consequently delivering end-to-end benefit. Gartner estimates that less than 15% of enterprises systematically measure the business outcomes of their initiatives. Most IT and PMO organizations focus their measures on price and performance, not value. This year will move the needle by shifting the language and the focus from on time and on budget to speaking about the resulting benefits.

 

10 Ways to Absolutely Ruin your Projects

Instead of providing a list on how to successfully run a project management office, I chose a different route and set out to assemble a list of valuable information that guarantees project failure under any given circumstance. If you are a project manager or run a PMO, the recommendations you will read below are full of promise and will definitely get you into trouble.  With that in mind, here are…

10 Ways to Absolutely Ruin your Projects

  1. Start a project without a defined goal or objective:  Like a ship without a destination or a race without a finish line, starting a project without a goal is an exercise in running in circles.  No matter how much time, effort or money you through behind it, you’ll never accomplish what you set out to do because it was never clearly defined.  Then again, it’s also a great way to stay out of trouble because you’ll never know when your project is ‘moving sideways’.
  2. Run a project that is not aligned with the company’s objectives:  I know ‘mobile tech’ is really cool.  So is ‘social media’.  So let’s kick off a project to do that.  Wait a minute.  Did we ever check with our customers – both internal and external – if this is what they are asking for?   Do we know if this project help move the company’s goals forward?  I don’t know, but let’s call it “Rogue Project” because it sounds so cool.
  3. Manage a project that does not have a sponsor’s support:  Like a football quarterback without his offensive line, running a project without a sponsor to provide direction, remove obstacles, and ensure support to move the project forward is a great idea.  Please let us know how that works out for you, OK?
  4. Make a project more complex just for complexity’s sake:  If two levels down into the work breakdown structure is good, six levels is great.  It’ll show people how much more smart and experienced you are than them.  If you can do this effectively, it leads to…
  5. Micromanage your team, especially the senior level people:  Which studies show is a great way to lose supporters. Really fast.
  6. Don’t consider the benefits or ROI before you kick off the project:  Project benefits are so hard to define.  And who knows if we’re ever going to achieve them anyway.  So let’s not worry about it.  Just give me that bag of money so I can start my project already.  It’s not about value after all – it’s about working with cool technology.
  7. Recreate the wheel when starting a project:  I know my organization has done something like this before, but I’m really, really smart and don’t need the help.  I’m happy to start all the deliverables from scratch.  Or maybe this time I’ll just make up a new methodology.  Why recycle and reuse when I can just recreate?
  8. Allow your project’s scope to change on a whim:  if we don’t have a good change control process it makes the project easier.  If we learn new things, let’s quickly move in that direction.  We can call it ‘iterative execution’.  Just like a new puppy deciding if he wants to chase a ball, bark at the other dogs or have a snack.
  9. Don’t check in with the stakeholders or customer through the lifecycle of the project:  we already understand what they want, so bringing in them back in as we move through the project will only give them a chance to get more engaged and supportive.  Nah…let’s just surprise them at the end.
  10. Spend, spend, spend:  Don’t worry about budgets – they’re just rough estimates, anyway.  If we need to get more developers and fly the team out to Las Vegas for a workshop, so be it.  By the time the financial team finds out it will be too late anyway.

Hopefully the list above is taken as a cautionary tale – maybe even a checklist of what not to do.  How do you stack up against it?

Insights and Trends: Current Project Portfolio Management Adoption Practices

In order to stay competitive, today’s top management is confronted with the critical task of analyzing and improving the ability of an organization to change, survive, and grow in this complex and changing global economy.

Organizations have thus been moving from operations and business as usual, to implementing change through project management as part of their competitive strategy. The ability to successfully execute projects is what drives the realization of intended benefits and the achievement of business objectives.

Organizations that execute projects successfully employ effective Project Portfolio Management (PPM) practices as a tool to manage and drive change. Given the strategic impact that projects have on business, organizations must follow effective PPM processes that capitalize on innovation; measure progress, value, and risks; and confirm that the right projects can be delivered in alignment with organizational strategy

We at Daptiv conducted a survey to examine the challenges faced by today’s businesses now that increased scrutiny over budgets (aka “doing more with less”), efficiency and effectiveness are key factors of successful organizations. The survey’s main objective was to identify current trends in PPM, and pinpoint the characteristics of PPM that are applied in higher-performing organizations. This survey was conducted among 300 project managers and senior executives attending the PMXPO Conference. Some of the key inferences from the survey were:

Why do product managers and senior executives take on PPM and implement software to support it? According to our survey, their top reasons (in order) are prioritizing projects, gaining visibility into live projects, planning and preparing for future projects, and managing cost and resources. A whopping 62% answered “all of the above”. This makes obvious that PPM is providing a lot more value than simply improving project execution.

Assessing the current adoption of Project Portfolio Management across sectors, the survey revealed that 64 percent of the respondents use PPM tools to manage their general IT projects while the remaining respondents deployed PPM solutions for compliance, product development, training and mobile related projects.

While establishing and communicating projects goals to the project management team can assist in the identification of project risks and constraints that may impede the achievement of those departmental goals, limiting the scope of project portfolio management tools within an organization can have rippling side-effects in the overall achievement of organizational goals.  According to PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: Portfolio Management Report, the majority of portfolio managers in highly effective organizations spend 75 percent or more of their time on portfolio management. The report further indicates that in organizations where managers focus on strategic as well as departmental goals, 70 percent of projects meet or exceed their forecasted ROI, compared to 50 percent at organizations where managers rarely focus on strategic goals.

Another interesting fact that came from the survey was that 76 percent of the respondents still use homegrown spreadsheets internally to manage projects in some capacity. Since 55 percent of respondents have more than 1,000 employees, this can easily lead to PPM data integrity issues and ponderously slow feedback loops. Definitely not a path that enables firms to pivot with rapidly changing business conditions. Moreover, from our experience this manual approach significantly impacts project performance. Today’s organizations need to see and trust information as it develops to make decisions that will help them outpace their competition.

While the BYOD movement is taking corporations by storm, our survey found that nearly 75 percent of respondents are not applying PPM techniques or software to their rollouts of smartphones and tablets.  IDC  recently forecasted that by 2017, total PCs are expected to drop to 13 percent, while tablets and smartphones will contribute 16.5 percent and 70.5 percent respectively. Considering the BYOD trend is only going to gain momentum in the near future, IT needs to get on the bandwagon and start actively managing this effort. Such forward-thinking strategic project planning transforms organizations from defensive and reactive to proactive and dynamic.

One of the key qualifications of a project is that it has a definite start and a definite end, though “ending” a project with a proper close-out process would appear to be an after-thought. Our survey revealed that 24 percent of the respondents do not conduct project reviews at all. That is a big number considering that of those who do, only 15 percent find they are meeting their project targets. The very last part of the project life-cycle it is often ignored even by large organizations, especially when they operate in multi-project environments. When the project is delivered, the closeout phase must be executed as planned. It plays a crucial role in sponsor satisfaction since it can create a lasting impression.

These findings are consistent with what we’ve experienced in our PPM consulting engagements. For many businesses, elements of PPM may already exist, but in non-linear and disjointed fragments. The most important factor in the success of PPM is aligning the portfolio with organizational strategy. The positive effects of strategic alignment lead to higher levels of project and portfolio performance, and increases stakeholder satisfaction with their organization’s project portfolio management practices at all levels of portfolio scale and complexity.

To know about the survey results, click here.

Project Management Process and Tools Can’t Be Too “Big” for Small Projects

While browsing through the latest edition of PM Insider*, a newsletter from ProjectManagement.com, the following question and correspondence caught my eye.

Question:

I have a short project coming up that seems too simple to need to go through all the usual processes. Is there a quick way to ensure that the project plans are baselined and tracked in my automated software? My boss will still want(s) effort, schedule and cost captured and reported and the usual PMI processes honored?

 Provided Answer:

A. Collect cost receipts in a manila folder and ask team members to write down the time they spend on each task. You can figure out a report at the end.
B. Go through all of the steps, including your automated software files, just as you usually do. Short projects should be planned, documented and archived exactly as longer ones.
C. Use a quick plan with lighter documentation, but involve your team in close communication on a daily basis.
D. Pull a similar electronic project file from your archives and change its name to the name of this project. Submit this disguised project at the end.

This is a great question and evidence of an endemic issue for many project management professionals, which is really – my project management process and “automated software,” be it PPM or something lighter, is clunky or actually “not automated enough” so it’s a hassle and feels like a waste of time to go through and use for “minor projects.”

I concur with the sentiment of the answer provided that if the project – major or minor – is worth doing, then it’s worth tracking, which means the investments you’ve made in project management processes and tools should be leveraged to do so. And if those tools and/or processes make it overly cumbersome or time-consuming to do this for minor projects, then the process and/or tool(s) should be adapted to accommodate managing smaller projects easier.

A 200 hour departmental project should be easier to manage than a 20,000 hour enterprise project. That’s intuitive enough, but not always the case when processes and tools have been designed and implemented to manage, track and measure high investment projects. If employing the same processes and tools to manage and track smaller projects makes it unnecessarily complex and time consuming, is it really worth it?

Hello rogue projects.

Hello bad habits.

Hello failed investments in project management process and tools.

Processes and tools should be flexible to accommodate this delineation without sacrificing management capabilities or tracking requirements. If it’s too much work, it probably won’t be done if the perceived value/return of using the process/tools doesn’t correlate with the scope of work or time required to manage a seemingly minor project.

 

*ProjectManagement.com Newsletter 12/4/2013