Daptiv UK Hosts Customer Day in London to Discuss Best Project Management Practices

This month, we hosted an exclusive daylong roundtable for our customers in London. This meeting was designed to bring together project managers and senior executives to discuss their changing roles, challenges and how they were using Daptiv solutions to enable them to achieve optimized efficiency within their organisations to compete, grow and facilitate change inside their businesses.

The roundtable focused on the topic, ” Evolution & Innovation”. Issues raised at the meeting included implementing corporate strategy with limited resources, optimizing strategy delivery, using Portfolio Management to achieve the correct balance of projects, and why Project Portfolio Management matters. Attendees discussed a range of topics including change, transformation, strategy, prioritization and share some useful hints & tips to use Daptiv solutions more efficiently. Additionally, our guest speaker Richard Trett, IT Portfolio Manager and Process subject expert shed light into utilising process and process methodologies through an interactive presentation with our gathered audience.

Various studies conducted by firms such as Forrester Research, Gartner and Software Engineering Institute (SEI) state that 60 to 80% of project failures can be attributed to poorly defined requirements. Organizations have long acknowledged that requirements management best practices are critical to project success. However, many have been slow to change due to misconceptions or ingrained beliefs about the role of requirements in the project management life cycle. This roundtable introduced the requirements for management process and provided a practical implementation approach to ensure successful project delivery. In the current economic environment, there is tremendous pressure to drive down operating costs, increase profits and to become more effective in driving the strategy needs of organizations, while managing constant global change and increases in regulatory and compliance requirements. Having used Daptiv solutions, all our attendee were of the opinion that without PPM processes and a common approach to the management of projects, there will be multiple views on the right methodology, only leading to money, time and resource leakages.

Because portfolio management is a holistic system that requires involvement by project managers, project teams, executives, managers, supervisors and front-line employees, this session highlighted the importance of tools in implementing PPM and attendees demonstrated how to best utilize PPM processes to meet executive demand.  It was interesting to witness the different ways in which our customers are implementing Daptiv.

Some of the key takeaways from the roundtable were:

  • Speed to innovation is accelerating
  • Executive sponsorship of PPM programs heightens success
  • Process methodology narrows the gap between ideation and innovation
  • Daptiv allows our customers to make good decisions
  • Allowing our customer to do the right projects right

The Role of the Resource Manager

When we think about resource management, we tend to think about how it impacts projects and the project portfolio.  After all, if we don’t have the resources to execute work, our projects don’t get done.  What we sometimes forget is that resource management and the role of the resource manager goes far beyond assigning people to projects.

So what is a resource manager and what do they do?  Anyone who manages people is a resource manager.  It is the resource manager who  is responsible for ensuring that their organization has the right people with the right skills available at the right time to accomplish the work that needs to be done.  In addition to managing people, a resource manager frequently has functional responsibilities in the enterprise; he or she is responsible for running a group that may provide resources to projects, but may have day-to-day operational responsibilities as well.

The successful resource manager is someone with the ability to do a number of things well.  Obviously, they need to have top-notch people skills and be able to effectively set and articulate performance goals and standards.  They need to be able to evaluate individual performance against those goals and provide meaningful and constructive feedback to the people that they manage.  They also need to be mindful of team dynamics (the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals in the team and how they interact with one another), resolving issues or conflicts and supporting team morale.

The effective resource manager is also adept at managing a limited supply of resources against constantly changing demand.  This requires a good view of what is coming up and creating short-, mid- and long-term resource plans:

Long-Term Planning is taking a longer view of resource demand that is anticipated for six, eight, ten months out, or beyond.  In the long-term plan, the resource manager is not planning an individual’s time against specific tasks, but rather looking at general roles, skills and/or the locations of resources needed against general categories of demand (ongoing operational work vs. strategic projects, etc) using forecasts based on historical data or trends.   The long-term plan gives the resource manager the ability to anticipate resource needs and proactively plan for staff acquisition, training or other activities that typically have longer lead times or may represent their own drain on resource capacity.

Mid-term planning focuses on the next one month to six months and identifies commitments for a specific type of resource or even an individual.  But typically the mid-term plan represents these commitments as a level of effort as opposed to a specific date or time.  For example we may identify that we need an engineer for about 30 hours over 2 months for a specific project – not that the engineer will work for 10 hours on a specific task in a specific week.  The benefit of the mid-term plan is that it can be more accurate and provide more detail than the long-term plan, but is not subject to constant adjustment.

In the Short-term plan, the resource manager can look out a limited amount of time at specific task assignments – either for projects or ongoing work.  The short term plan then provides the information needed to make last minute adjustments due to emerging priorities, schedule changes, scope changes, or changes in the available resource pool due to illness, resignations or reassignments.  Because the short-term plan focuses on a limited timeframe it can be more precise than the long- or mid-term plans since we have a higher level of confidence in what is going to happen.

As a part of planning, the resource manager needs to be aware of the changing needs and priorities of the enterprise to ensure that the resources available to do the work have the requisite time and skills to do the work.  This means that the resource manager needs to understand the skills and interests of the team, and make sure that those skills are being developed to meet both current and future needs of the organization.  Changing business strategies, technologies, regulations and a plethora of other factors can all require significant changes in job responsibilities and the skills needed.  The best resource managers will follow developments across the enterprise, their discipline and in their industries to anticipate and prepare for these changes.

Last, but not least, getting the right things done is more important than working on everything and getting nothing done.  The best resource managers understand both the strategic and tactical priorities for their organization and communicate these clearly and consistently to their teams.  Likewise, they set realistic expectations for people outside of their team regarding delivery dates and standards – and they are able to say ‘no’ when appropriate.

While the scope of responsibilities for a resource manager may vary from enterprise to enterprise there is no question that the resource manager controls a most valuable asset – people.  Applying the skills and talents of that asset to provide the most value to the organization requires understanding and setting priorities, looking to the future to develop capabilities and capacity, and proactively working with the individuals and the team to develop skills and cohesion.

Life after project completion: Is a project complete without benefits realization?

In our day-to-day project management and PMO activities, the easiest and the most important thing missed is planning ahead for what happens AFTER we cross the finish line. So technically speaking, once project managers hand over the reins of the completed project to the business owner, their job is just half done. For a project to be considered complete, project managers must focus on the other half, which is “Benefits Realization”.

Benefit realization is the confirmation that the value a project was expected to generate really does get delivered.  In our everyday project management lives it is easy to get buried in details around task management, risk mitigation, resource capacity, balancing budgets and all the other moving parts.  We often forget why we set out to do the project in the first place:  the delivery of a product or service, an enhancement or improvement, or a capability.  For example to meet some new regulation, standard or market demand.  But what if, after we deliver the goods, and did exactly what the customer asked for, we realize that all the effort and resources we used to deliver the project don’t amount to what they were supposed to?  That’s exactly what benefits realization is all about.

We’ve all heard of ROI – return on investment.  It is the concept of an investment of some combination of resources (people, money, equipment, etc.) yielding a benefit to the investor.  A high ROI means the investment gains compare favorably to investment cost. As a performance measure, it is one of the best methods to evaluate the efficiency of an investment.  ROI does not exclusively have to be in financial terms.  It can easily be an operational advantage, an improvement in position, or other positive change.  In order to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments we need to compare like measures, which is why a financial ROI is one of the most commonly used.  Unfortunately, without benefits realization, our ROI is simply a guess.  And that is why benefits realization is so important.

I’ve discussed with   many of our clients about this and have found out that there is a need for a wide degree of maturity around the realization process.  This is an indication that while the concept of realization is gaining interest, it is still far from a mature practice.  Which presents a great opportunity for those organizations that are not doing it – now is a great time to implement this practice.

How to launch a benefits realization initiative?

One of the best approaches involves setting goals, tracking against those goals and including a ‘hand-off’ step, similar to the passing of the baton in an Olympic relay race.  Tactical steps you can take include:

  • Set your sights:  using whatever calculation available, combined with experience and validated by results from similar projects, come up with a target for what the value you think the project will deliver.  Set that as the initial estimate.  Enlist the help of a financial leader or controller to help set the original estimates.
  • Continual monitoring:  Using the initial estimates or targets as a first guess, continue to refine the success factors throughout the lifecycle of the project.  These are often called forecasts or committed values and are more accurate than the original estimates.  It is best to continue revising these figures throughout the lifecycle of the project.  The objective here is to have these forecasted numbers eventually match the actuals.
  • Start tracking actuals now:  some project can actually generate benefits even before the project is complete.  What a great win for the project team to be able to report these.
  • Put a plan in place: Add a milestone or stage beyond the Complete step called Close or ‘Realization’ and set a validation step 3, 6 or 12 months after the project is complete.  It sets the expectation that the work is not over at Complete.
  • It is outside of the project manager’s responsibility:  As the project comes closer to its Complete or End date, engage the financial sponsor and the process owner (the person who is benefiting or owning the project’s or product’s outcome, improvement or change) and have them start validating and “owning” the numbers.
  • Go back to the beginning:  how accurate were your original estimates compared with your forecasts and your actuals?  Take those learning and apply them to future estimates.  This is called continual improvement – applying lessons learned and best practices to improve the entire PMO.

One last point is that it isn’t always about the money.  Sometimes projects generate other value, such as an improvement in customer satisfaction, or increase market share by launching a game changing product.  It is important to be able to quantify the value of these types of projects even if they do not generate direct revenue or cost improvements.  Many organizations call these ‘Level 2” or “Indirect Benefits”.

Finally, is a project complete without benefits realization?  To the project manager who’s already run their marathon and marked the project as complete, I expect their answer to be ‘yes’, but common sense tells us otherwise.  As a best practice, one of the most important factors in a projects success isn’t “how we did it” – coming in under schedule or under budget – but “what we did” – that the project delivered what it set out to do.

Survey Finds Resource Management is the Top Business Challenge for Senior Executives

We recently surveyed 100 senior IT executives at the Gartner PPM and IT Governance Summit from May 20-22, 2013 to gauge and analyze the key business challenges faced by organizations in today’s economy. Interestingly 67% of respondents considered resource management as their top business challenge, 28% of them found it difficult to justify the value delivered by the Project Management Office. 22% stated that keeping track of time and money leakages was a concern. Only 5% considered delivering change without overburdening their staff as their main issue, which can likely be attributed to their usage of PPM software and resulting benefits.

“67% of Senior Executives Identified Prioritizing Work to Fit Available Resource Capacity as Their Biggest Business Challenge”

Project Management Offices are increasingly seen as custodians of the resource management process within organizations, and this is validated by another study conducted by pmsolutions research – “The State of the PMO 2012”.  The study looked at a broad spectrum of companies across the globe and found that the number one priority for the PMOs is to “Improve Resource Planning and Forecasting Process.” Pointing towards similar findings, both the Daptiv survey and the pmsolutions’ study reveal that overcoming resource management challenges will be vital for PMOs to justify their value in the future.

You can find the details of the survey here.

Introducing and Setting Up a Project Management Office

In my last article we delved into organizational maturity for setting up a PMO; this article will deep dive into how to introduce a PMO without disrupting the established system. The first step is good communication–clear and complete information reduces confusion and eliminates resistance based on fear and conjecture.

Communicate the mission, objectives and purpose of the PMO. Be open and transparent regarding the decisions and activities of the PMO. Inform the enterprise of the reason(s) the PMO exists, what it will do and how it will bring value to the enterprise. Also, demonstrate how the PMO will be a partner and not a hindrance in working toward the success of everyone in the enterprise.

Once the need to set up a PMO has been identified and the communication campaign is actively underway, the PMO must be designed from the beginning to meet the specific needs and environment of the business it supports. Project Management Offices take on many roles depending on their mission and objective, hence setting up a PMO is not a short-term activity. It requires significant effort to complete analysis, design, planning, review and implementation. Cooperation and involvement from the business is essential to ensure the PMO meets their needs. Involving the business early and often by keeping open communication channels and soliciting feedback will allow you to manage expectations regarding the amount of time and effort required to set up a PMO.

Setting the priorities of the PMO
In order to move ahead with the planning process, the business should first set the priorities of the deliverables and services of the PMO. Next, assemble a planning and implementation team that includes stakeholders in addition to the PMO subject matter experts. In my opinion, business stakeholders must be involved throughout this process to analyze and take ownership of business needs and progress. On the planning side, it should be phased out, using a rolling wave approach as opposed to a “big bang” approach. These phases should be scheduled out using the roadmap model with detailed planning occurring at the initiation of each phase. This makes the planning current and more relevant to the prevailing business condition.

Laying down project management processes
The next major task is to identify processes and tools required to support the services and functions the PMO will perform. Depending on business needs and budget, an organization may either develop in-house tools or purchase tools from vendors to help streamline projects. Project management processes should be designed to guide the project managers in the performance of the project. PM processes need to be adaptable to meet the needs of any project. A simple project with little risk may require a very light application of the process, whereas a complex project or a project with high levels of risk will necessarily require a more rigorous process.

Project management processes are generally based on standards or best practices such as PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), PRINCE2 and agile. In addition to general purpose standards, organizations may also require and benefit from specialized project management best practices such as process improvement (Six Sigma), new product development and Go-To-Market.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is another function often found in PMOs. Organizations turn to PPM to manage their entire portfolio of projects, much like a portfolio of investments. In fact, projects are investments and companies expect to get the maximum return and benefit from these investments. PPM is the process by which they achieve this. Through project selection, project mix evaluation, portfolio monitoring and other activities, PPM is used to maximize returns on the portfolio.

Resource management (RM) often becomes the responsibility of the PMO because it is a natural partner with project management and project portfolio management. Within every organization there is a finite supply of resource types–including people, financial, and physical assets. Resource constraints affect both project work and operational work, the normal day-to-day work of the business. Accordingly, resource management processes should track the operational work (the day-to-day activities) in addition to project-specific work being done by the business in order to paint a complete picture of the total capacity or work an organization can truly deliver.

It is evident that these PMO functions are integrated and integral to the success of an organization. While organizations can adopt some of these elements, ultimately an organization needs to implement each of these disciplines to some degree to manage its program office effectively, even if they are being managed at different degrees of maturity. The project portfolio lifecycle encompasses elements of the project management process, the resource management process and financial management.

Keeping the PMO Relevant
To complete the whole cycle of project implementation and as part of a continuous improvement program, regular feedback from teams/project managers will help maintain the efficacy of the PMO at all times. It’s helpful to develop a continuous improvement program that includes:

  • Periodic reviews of the PMO objectives against the needs of the business
  • Measurements of the processes and tools such as effectiveness, adoption and consistent use
  • Identify areas for improvement

In the end, be sure to give new processes and tools time to be used long enough to overcome learning curves and to gather enough feedback and data to be able to make well-informed decisions. By their very nature, program management office teams are change agents. They institute new processes, implement new tools and may bring about changes in the way organizations conduct business. When planning for organizational change, the PMO must create conditions for change. Be aware of the politics of the organization, and build a base of support for change within the organization.

The third and final part of this series will touch upon metrics and how to measure success of PMO.