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

BioBridge Global Gets Competitive Edge with Daptiv’s PPM Solutions

We are excited to announce that with the help of Daptiv’s innovative PPM solutions, BioBridge Global (BBG) was successful in aligning its multiple business lines, streamlining complex processes and standardizing projects across the organization. BBG is a non-profit company that oversees and supports the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, QualTex Laboratories, GenCure, and The Blood and Tissue Center Foundation.

For an organization catering to a highly regulated industry, the road to smooth planning and execution needed a lot more than just a PMO. Operating in the heavily regulated Healthcare industry with changing government strategy, policies, and meeting multiple audit requirements, BioBridge Global was in need for a dynamic project portfolio management (PPM) tool that would help them keep up with changing requirements at the project level without adding excessive time and cost.

In collaboration with Daptiv, BioBridge Global created several custom applications using Daptiv’s Dynamic Applications, including a report-building scorecard and applications that provided visibility and cost/benefit analysis. Daptiv’s report building mechanism enabled BBG’s governance committee to take critical business decisions as it grew its business operations across the state. Additionally, Daptiv’s insight has helped BBG determine a project’s fit in supporting the overall business by identifying costs, potential risks, resource issues and more before a decision is made to green light a project.

To know more about the announcement, click here.

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.

Building and Maintaining a Lean and Effective IT Governance Board characterizes Lean as:

“Eliminating waste along entire value streams, instead of at isolated points, creates processes that need less human effort, less space, less capital, and less time to make products and services at far less costs and with much fewer defects, compared with traditional business systems. Companies are able to respond to changing customer desires with high variety, high quality, low cost, and with very fast throughput times. Also, information management becomes much simpler and more accurate.” defines Lean as:

“To accomplish this, lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flowof products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers.”

Building a Lean and effective IT governance should not be transformational but transitional.  It is a major shift for an organization whose only governance is the command and control of the organizational chart.  Simply implementing a PPM tool is not the answer. In the book “The Information Paradox”, by John Thorp  Copyright 2003, McGraw / Hill, states that there are three necessary conditions for an effective governance:

  • Activist Accountability
  • Relevant Measurement
  • Proactive Management

Well technology can’t deliver these three conditions, they’re organizational. However a PPM can contribute to sustaining the knowledge, specifically with Relevant Measures.  It can be the single source-of-truth. Implemented correctly the PPM system IS the repository of the decisions the organization has made in the past.  This means that any governance placed in IT investments must also have the same scrutiny place on the ‘relevant measures.’  Relevant Measures must evolve with the rhythm of business.

As I said earlier, a governance needs to be transitional, it is a continuous improvement process and needs to be implemented at the rate the organization can absorb the change.  Activist Accountability!  Commitment needs to up and down the organization with strong leadership.

To start with the governance needs stewardship. This classically comes from the PMO, but as it has been will documented this isn’t the process/methodology police.  The PMO needs to be open and clearly communicate the “vision of the end” at the beginning.  A lean effective governance is more than how you run a project or any investment for that matter. That’s why it is important to recognize that governance is a combination of two major processes; the first being the project life cycle; the second is the portfolio process.  Your transitional strategy needs to take both of these into mind. And these processes should be instantiated in the PPM tool. Another key to governance is the roles in the governance and the exchange of information and dialog between them.  Oh and this is NOT an organization chart! But is a make-up represented cross-functionally. The roles are:

  • PMO – Is the steward of the governance.  The make of this is more that just project managers.  It needs vision and leadership capable of being the “trusted advisors” for the complete governance. The PMO is the champion for change. Not only does the PMO
    require the PMs but needs the vision and the moxie to champion the “roadmap” for the governance’s evolution.
  • Decision Board – Represents the needs and priorities of the governance.  It’s made of the business leaders accountable for the introduction of change from the investments in the portfolio. The Decision Board is accountable for the decisions of the portfolio make-up and the Relevant Measures.
  • Steering Committee – Represents the needs of the project, program or investment.  This is different from the decision board its scope IS narrow, but necessary.  I’m not going to elaborate on the Steering Committee; its role is well documented in project methodologies like the Project Management Institute’s Project Manager Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).
  • Project Manager or Program Manager or Initiative Manager or Investment Manager – They all fulfill the same role – Investment Steward, one of the most important roles in the governance.  The investment steward is accountabledelivering on investment outcomes.  Againthis is a well-documented role.
  • Project Members – Yes they are considered as part of the governance and are sometimes left out. Their role in the governance is to deliver capability as prescribed by the investment steward and communicate progress on that delivery.

Those are the primary roles, however in more mature organizations there exists two more roles, they are:

  • Portfolio Manager- In highly evolved governances the Portfolio Manager is accountable for the performance targets or outcomes of the portfolio. The Portfolio Manager is part of the decision board and advises the decision board on investment scenarios and portfolio adjustments.
  • The Architecture Review Board – In conjunction with the Steering Committee this board is counseled for any impact to the enterprise architecture. Now wait, this not the standards police! The architecture board is made up of enterprise architects and is accountable to ensure that an investment does compromise the direction of the enterprise architecture.  Enterprise Architecture is a topic in of by itself and there is much written but in no means is the scope of the blog post.

This post is about Building and Maintaining a Lean and Effective IT Governance Board, I’ve touched on mostly the building part, but maintaining?  I’m not going to fool you that is the hard part. But the key to remember, this is a continuous improvement process.  People are likely to move on, especially in the leadership, that’s why keeping the governance going is not one person responsibility.  How does that saying go…? “It takes a village…” and change is good!

By keeping up with the rhythm of the business you are always ensure the portfolio is working on the Right things, the Right way, things are getting done, and the governance is realization the full benefit and potential.

Elements of a Lean PMO

People and organizations all over the world continue to embrace and adopt “Lean Management Principles” in their work. What started with Edward Deming in the 1950s and later found its way into the Toyota Production System has now made inroads into software development.  You will notice that IT organizations and software development teams often talk about “Lean” software development or “Kanban” as it pertains to how they work.  It is therefore essential that today’s Project Management Office (PMO) understand this old new way of project execution in order to stay relevant in today’s business climate.

Before we go any further, let us first understand what Lean is all about and whether PMOs should embrace this concept as well.  Lean in a nutshell, is a set of tools that help in the identification and elimination of waste.  As waste is eliminated, quality improves, consequently, reducing time and cost of production. While elimination of waste can seem to be a simple subject, it is often easier said than done. Organizations often have a difficulty classifying a process or activity as waste and often tend to be conservative when identifying/defining waste.  Toyota defines Lean as the reduction of three types of waste:

  1. Non-value-adding work
  2. Overburden
  3. Inconsistency/Unevenness as it pertains to flow of work

Lean aims to make the work simple enough to understand, execute and manage, and I believe that all PMOs should strive for this. Let us now get down to brass stacks and examine how a PMO could strive to be Lean.  Here are some steps a PMO could take:

  1. Prioritize projects based on business value. A project is a vehicle for change in an organization, which means that the business does not like the current state it is in and constantly evolves to move to a new state. Be willing to question the assumptions that drive any decision to change and make sure that the scope of the project is in line with the desired change/objective.  This will help PMOs avoid/eliminate non-value-adding work.
  2. Keep the internal PMO processes simple to start with and make changes as you mature. This will help the Project Managers and the PMO director to focus on delivering business outcomes rather than following mundane procedures.
  3. Level out the workload among the Project Managers so that they can provide each project the required attention.  Take the help of automation tools such as Project Portfolio Management software to help with collaboration, resource management, project prioritization, and reporting.
  4. Use a “pull” system as your project intake process.  In such a system, the sponsor of the project would place an initial project request.  This request in-turn would trigger a project prioritization request, which in turn triggers subsequent requests (such as resource request). This will encourage a “just-in-time” process and will discourage a “just-in-case” process (common in a “push” system) wherein resources are often under-utilized.

To conclude, as projects and project executions take on a lean posture, it is imperative that PMOs do so as well.  With this blog I have just scratched the surface of the lean PMO concept.  Stay tuned for more!  In the meantime, I welcome your comments and feedback.