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.


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, the following question and correspondence caught my eye.


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.


* Newsletter 12/4/2013

The Forrester WaveTM: Project/Program Portfolio Management, Q4 2012

Forrester Inc. came out with its much-awaited Forrester Wave report on Project/Program Portfolio Management in December 2012.  As expected, the report highlighted some key industry trends that are redefining the scope of PPM and shed light on what to expect going forward.  As per the report PPM now has two distinct segments: Planning and Execution. Here are some excerpts from the report:

Demand for Business Agility Drives Change to BT Governance Processes: Accelerating demand for business agility forces firms to adapt. Manual data entry and ponderously slow feedback loops from planning-as-usual don’t enable firms to pivot as business conditions change. Today’s organizations need to see and trust information as it develops to make decisions that will help them outpace their competition.

The PPM Tools Market has a New Dividing Line — With Key Features on Both sides: The need to support Lean and Agile processes makes today’s PPM tool choice more difficult. Above-the-line tools support strategic planning focused on value, risks, and benefits. Below-the-line tools focus on managing demand and day-to-day work. Several vendors have functionality that straddles the line, but few vendors are strong across the board.

One-size-Fits-all is No Longer Relevant — It’s Time To Take a Layered Approach: As firms turn to Agile and Lean practices, a single PPM tool may not make sense. Think more in terms of constructing a “layered approach” to PPM. Seek flexible solutions that handle the day-to-day work for both waterfall and Agile projects (below the line) that also convey aggregated information to more strategic (above-the-line) planning.

The report further deep dives into the changing face of the industry and highlights that demand for business agility will continue to fuel adoption of Agile development techniques that can deliver differentiating business technology (BT) solutions within accelerated time frames. Organizations that fail to adopt governance processes that span traditional waterfall and Agile will struggle. Also, while PPM has historically been seen as a tool for either top-down forecasting and planning or for project management, organizations rarely use a single tool for both purposes.

In this report, Forrester Research, Inc., evaluated 10 of the most significant PPM vendors against 68 criteria in two segments: above-the-line strategic planning and below-the-line work execution.

To access the complete report, click here.

Reports from The PMI Global Congress North America

The PMI Global Congress offers a great opportunity to interact with practitioners of project portfolio management (PPM).  This year’s event was held in Dallas, Texas from Oct 22 – Oct 25.  My time was mostly spent in group interactions and attending presentations.  It provided a rich and diverse perspective on what people were experiencing in the project management space.

If I were to distill my group discussions based on key challenges people are facing, they would include:

  1. Resource management challenges– Many project management systems being used by PMs do not provide enterprise-wide visibility into resource availability
  2. Implementation challenges– Companies are too often not able to get their current PPM system to work the way they want it to.  In most discussions, I heard the phrase “organizational impasse” over and over.
  3. Challenges with enterprise level visibility– PMOs are spending a lot of time generating reports to use in executive meetings and are looking for a system that provides a single source of truth for reporting

The PMI sessions as always are rich in content.  The question is what is relevant to your area of interest.  I mostly attended sessions that talked about new project management trends.  Here are my key takeaways:

  1. Agile project management is here to stay and it continues to grow in popularity.  However, organizations are struggling to reconcile agile and waterfall projects.  Nancy Yee from ESI International’s presentation titled “Agile: Still the Magic Bullet or Do You Need a Blended Solution” explained this problem articulately and offered a clear path that would help Agile and Waterfall projects co-exist and complement each other.
  2. In order for PMs to be successful, they have to move beyond commonly understood project management activities and take on business analysis functions.  Today’s PMs should be able to assess, quantify, and communicate a project’s impact in business terms èthe PM needs to have a clear grasp of Earned Value, Project Finance, Business Case Analysis, and Balanced Scorecard concepts.  The presentation on Powerful Project Financials by Sean Wilson and Claire Schwartz, provided practical insights on how this can be achieved.  Roberto Toledo’s presentation titled “From Balanced Scored to Project Portfolio” showed how strategic initiatives can be achieved through execution of projects.
  3. The majority (about 52%) of PMOs are not perceived as being successful.  In order to survive they need to re-evaluate their purpose and value to the organization they serve.  Jack Duggal’s presentation on “Reinventing the PMO” highlighted this problem in great depth and talked about PMOs evolving into an adaptive and ambient organization.  Duggal proposed an integrated PMO framework that focused on the following categories:
      • Execution and performance,
      • Strategic decision support,
      • Governance, and
      • Performance management & reporting

All in all, it was a great event for practitioners of project and project portfolio management.  There was something for everyone and I for one came away with nuggets of information that would be very useful to me as a PPM professional.

PPM and Agile Mythbusting Part 3: Debunking Common Fallacies About Agile Projects

Many project portfolios now includes a mix of project types and methodologies, such as traditional waterfall projects, agile-based projects, six-sigma projects and ‘stage-gate’ projects for new product development. I’m continuing my agile PPM myth busting series today addressing the third most common fallacy: Agile and Traditional Practices Aren’t Compatible.

Project management leaders have, for the most part, embraced agile practices and have attempted to redefine their roles to focus less on planning and controlling agile projects, and more on providing an environment to allow agile projects to succeed.

However, even with this willingness to adopt agile, integrating agile projects into a PPM framework has proved challenging for many organizations. Project managers are being faced with different (and often conflicting) methodologies, metrics, and controls. In addition, some teams are adopting ‘hybrid’ processes that include elements of waterfall and agile methodologies and are confused about how to rationalize seemingly incompatible methods. To solve these challenges, PMOs require an updated framework that incorporates agile practices, provides clarity to project teams on how to communicate project health, and provides predictability and accountability to executive stakeholders.

Integrating an agile project methodology into a PPM framework is no different than integrating a more traditional project methodology, with four exceptions:

(1) Agile teams work best when executives and project managers don’t stifle the agile process. Imposing unnecessary stakeholder reviews, checkpoints and data capture requirements on an agile project will reduce the effectiveness of the team. Of course, if major decisions need to be made with executive input or the agile project has dependencies on other projects, stakeholder meetings will be necessary, but these should be the exception, not the rule.

(2) Agile projects measure progress ‘story points’ complete or business value delivered. This is a fundamentally different way of tracking progress than using a task plan and measuring task hour completion. In addition, a project manager assigns tasks to owners in a traditional project, whereas agile teams are often self-organizing, so tasks may be reassigned at any time by the team to ensure project delivery is on track. This difference requires that metrics for ‘project health’ and ‘percent complete’ are tracked differently from projects based on task hours.

(3) Given the task assignments within an agile team are dynamic, it’s unwise to assign a resource part-time to an agile team as this breaks the self-organizing model. Instead it’s better to treat agile teams as a unit and assign resources to them full-time (with the exception of resources such as technical architects and DBAs, which are typically spread over multiple projects).

(4) Finally, regular reviews of agile projects are more focused on ‘working software’ than reaching pre-determined milestones or delivering project documentation. Reviews should be tailored to the type of project to ensure they are valuable to the team.

It’s true that some agile practices have fundamental differences with some traditional project management practices, for example the planning and executing process groups in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). However, it’s untrue the two types of practices can’t be combined to create a powerful project management framework.

For instance, agile practices are usually silent on project intake or project initiation processes, and traditional practices for project cost, communications and risk management are often more mature than the corresponding practices in agile. An experienced project manager can add practices from the PMBOK or similar methodologies to support agile projects without disrupting the culture and work practices of an agile team.

Have you brought together agile and traditional practices successfully? Let me know!