The Future of Project Portfolio Management – Perspectives from the Gartner PPM Summit

Gartner gave us an interesting look into the future of PPM this week, and projects as we know them may be left behind. I’ve been wondering about this for some time, as the pace of business continues to accelerate and business changes – represented by projects – are called on to deliver results faster and more frequently. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s rewind from projects back up the business stack for a clearer view. Gartner did this nicely from their opening keynote through their multitude of breakout sessions – many of which were standing room only. In this note I can only summarize the model, but I will delve more deeply into each area in future posts.

First, we must remember why we execute projects – to implement change in the business. Be it incremental improvements in efficiencies enabled by minor software enhancements, or transformational change in the form of a merger – projects have been our vehicle. Gartner rightly points out that the pace of this change is accelerating to the point where it is almost constant. Can the old annual planning cycles and waterfall projects really keep up with this pace?

Most projects today involve changes to some application system, as IT has become thoroughly embedded in most modern enterprises.  Techniques like Agile can continuously release improvements to these applications, taking in ideas for change and working them into a continuously prioritized stream of stories. And these stories – which represent useful business changes – can be released frequently. We are now talking weeks or months to roll out changes to applications, instead of years.

How to manage all those applications? Enter Application Portfolio Management. Much like managing a portfolio of projects, APM rationalizes and prioritizes applications. Andy Kyte (VP & Gartner Fellow) gave a dynamic presentation on APM for Executives that boiled this concept down to some simple truths. He reminded us that applications are really means to an end – business value. Using that as the goal enables us to make decisions not only about which apps should stay and which should go, but where they should reside. Do we really need all those systems in house, or would a SaaS or even a BPO model provide the desired business outcomes more efficiently?

This brings us to the top of the stack – business value. IT systems do not in and of themselves provide any value at all. So what does IT really provide? Business Capabilities! And here Gartner sounded an interesting new theme. Instead of seeing capabilities as just part of the EA stack, consider these like products. A SaaS shop like Daptiv, of course, delivers PPM capabilities as a product – and we see it that way. IT shops should consider that they are really delivering products like Purchasing Management, Workforce Management, and Strategic Sourcing. Viewing these as products allows IT to focus their efforts on delivering business value rather than just technology.

So now we see the full model being proposed by Gartner. It really uses some tried and true techniques from Enterprise Architecture and adds a few twists. We start with business capabilities at the top, which are now enabled by IT products – apps and supporting infrastructure to enable those capabilities. And we move away from simple application and project management to product management. And now that we have products to support, we implement a continuous change cycle – such as Agile – to ensure changes to the business outcome driven capabilities are implemented quickly and frequently.

The current pace of business is such that the old model has lost its usefulness and would leave us eating someone else’s competitive dust.

Daptiv to Provide Resource Management Capabilities to Delta Dental of New Jersey

Delta Dental of New Jersey has selected Daptiv PPM for its resource management capabilities to manage resources, streamline processes and standardize projects across the organization. Delta Dental of New Jersey (www.deltadentalnj.com) is New Jersey’s leading dental benefits company, providing or administering coverage to more than 1.5 million people through contracts with employers in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Delta Dental of New Jersey selected Daptiv’s SaaS-based PPM solution over competitive alternatives based on superior process improvement methodology, metrics tracking, usability and low total cost of ownership. Delta Dental of New Jersey’s decision to deploy a PPM solution comes at a time when economic conditions are forcing organizations to improved efficiency and accuracy, particularly as they relate to IT projects. By streamlining established processes, Daptiv PPM enables Delta Dental of New Jersey to improve resource utilization, better prioritize projects and lower overhead costs.

Daptiv’s SaaS-based PPM solution enables Delta Dental of New Jersey to integrate all of its projects and provide real time visibility into the status of multiple projects across its portfolio. High-level dashboards for C-level executives keep track of developments on a regular basis, and an intuitive interface helps executives and managers identify resource bottle necks, manage resource utilization and more accurately plan projects.

You can view the complete announcements here.

Why is team collaboration not enough?

Expanding beyond team/social collaboration to business collaboration

The term “collaboration” has become one of the primary hot topics for businesses and analysts throughout the industry lately.  At its most basic level, “collaboration” simply means “working with others in a coordinated fashion toward a common goal.”  But few actually attempt to define what it really means in the context of business and PPM.

If you ask most people what capabilities define collaboration in the workplace, they generally talk about the sharing of information within a given team:  document management, threaded discussions, activity feeds, instant messaging, shared calendars, task assignments, facilitation of problem solving and idea development, communication of decisions and meeting minutes, etc.  This is all good, and certainly helps a team move forward in coordinated fashion toward the common goal of completing a project or specific unit of work.  Nearly all PPM solutions provide functionality to address each of these needs within the scope of a project.  SaaS PPM solutions are particularly well-suited to providing this level of team collaboration since, by their very nature, they are accessible to all team members regardless of geographic diversity and the information they contain is always available in near real-time.

I would argue, however, that this limited view of collaboration is incomplete.  Looked at from a broader perspective, an entire organization can be viewed as a collection of units which must all work together in a coordinated fashion toward the common goal of alignment and execution against the business’ corporate vision and strategic objectives.  Thus, business-level collaboration is necessary to establish the direction for an entire organization.  “Business Direction” includes the definition for the organization’s Vision, Goals and Strategies.  By sharing and collaborating on the Business Direction, the business teams will be better prepared to drive the various work efforts.  True business-level collaboration therefore depends on the free flow of information between the project teams and the outside world – management, other departments, executives, stakeholders, etc. – to facilitate proper alignment and effective decision-making throughout the entire organization.  It is this level of “business collaboration”, as opposed to individual “team collaboration”, which is often missing from a company’s collaboration strategy.  All too often, anyone not on the core project team is actually excluded from access to the system of record for project performance and must therefore depend upon periodic status updates or word-of-mouth communications to understand, participate, or make critical business decisions on project information.

Business collaboration provides a level of transparency and visibility to project details throughout an organization.  At its heart, business collaboration makes heavy use of enhanced dashboarding and powerful reporting capabilities to expose appropriate project information to those who are outside the core project team.  Ideally, facilitation of business collaboration also provides processes and methods for these external resources to submit inquiries and participate in discussions, access project documentation, and all of the other traditional collaboration capabilities as well.

When examining the collaboration strategy within your organization, be sure to keep the big picture in mind.  Team-level collaboration is certainly important.  But enabling collaboration across departments and across levels within a larger organization can often be even more critical to the success of the entire business.