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.

Understanding the Concept of Strategic, Tactical and Operational Resource Management

In a recently conducted survey by Daptiv, it was revealed that resource management is the top business challenge for most senior executives. Nearly 67 percent of senior executives surveyed identified prioritizing work to fit available resource capacity as their biggest business challenge. Despite the key role of strategic alignment, many organizations leave their managers mired in a myopic view when it comes to resource management.

Hence, when we look at resource management activities in Project Portfolio Management (PPM), I believe that there isn’t a single / linear approach to manage the resource management process.  In fact, resource management in its essence is hierarchical; there are three views wherein the strategic lens drives the tactical lens, which in-turn drives the operational lens. Therefore, resource management is best explained through the following framework.

Strategic Resource Management

What is it?

Strategic resource management focuses on resource demand at a macro level. A level where portfolios are defined and budgets are committed to. This is usually done at the executive level in an organization. Executive teams should be looking at various Run, Grow, and Transform initiatives trying to determine what investments are going to allow the organization to achieve their defined goals and objectives.  In most organizations decisions are made on the budget/portfolio and no consideration is ever given to the resource impact on the organizations responsible for implementing the portfolio has. Organizations ignore resource impact until they are ready to execute on the initiatives – this is tactical or operational thinking, not strategic.

Strategic resource management is about understanding the impact of resource commitments needed for the initiatives to succeed.

Why is it required?

Strategic resource management is fundamental to organizational alignment.  If the executives in an organization need to see results from various initiatives they have authorized, then they must make sure that capacity needs are addressed and available  to make things happen.  If there is no organizational alignment, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is, it will fail due to poor execution.

How is it done?

  1. Understand true capacity – Key to this is making sure there is a clear delineation between project time, non-project time, and non-working time so that true capacity [net & gross] is understood.
  2. Project Time – The planned, forecasted and actual time to complete project deliverables – this could be either at the task level or if your organization is not ready for task level management, then project level at a minimum.
  3. Non-project Time – This is effort that can’t be categorized into a project , but is a classification of time like admin and other business-as-usual effort. It is important to track non-project time to get that complete picture of capacity. Besides, it is really difficult to predict true capacity without knowledge of the amount of non-project effort that is actually happening. As a side note, after a while you’ll be delighted to actually uncover that what is classified as non-project effort is actually related to a project.
  4. Non-working Time – Again – complete capacity – we need all time including vacation, jury duty, sick time, etc. It is also important to define the “splits” of project time vs. non-project time. Some organizations use the 80/20 rule; 80% non-project time, 20% project time.  You really need to identify and set aside the plan for non-project work. Analysis of planned non-project time provides a deeper understanding of actual non-project time and available project time.
    1. Align resources to resource types – Although our inclination is to go directly to a named resource.  The goal is to align like resources to a “resource type” or resource classification. This makes the task of understanding capacity much easier and the identification of additional headcount requirements controllable.
    2. Forecasting Strategy – An organization also needs a good forecasting strategy for project and non-project activities, to insure the forecasts, are always accurate.
    3. Portfolio strategy – A good portfolio strategy will align to the business drivers and allow the organization to categorize various initiatives as Run, Grow, and Transform for example.
    4. Governance – Simply prioritizing once a year is not sufficient, initiatives pop up all year and decisions on how to act on those requests need to be put in context with the rest of the portfolio to ensure optimum return.
    5. Time sequencing of resource demand – This is the critical part. At the investment/project level and for each resource type, identify the requirement hours for each resource on a weekly or monthly dimension for the length of the project.
    6. Identify strategic demand – With resource demand now identified to the project and the list of proposed projects for the portfolio, you can analyze strategic demand from the true capacity in step 1 whilst analyzing resource demand from steps 2 and 6.

What are its benefits?

The organization as a whole will be in alignment with what needs to be executed, how it should be done and who needs to do it.  The mid-level managers will be empowered to make the right staffing decisions.

Tactical Resource Management

What is it?

Tactical resource management is about understanding project relationships and dependencies and “slotting” the projects to start when resource availability is aligned with project requirements.  At this point you are looking at roles and not individuals.  If your organization has a Project Management Office, then this activity is conducted by the PMO in coordination with the various project sponsors (usually Line of Business executives), and resource managers.  If your organization doesn’t have a PMO, then this needs to be done by a VP of Strategic Planning in coordination with the project sponsors, and resource managers.

Why is it required?

Aligning resources to work on the right project at the right time is the key to getting projects off the ground and running, and this needs advanced planning to make sure there are no resource shortages or contentions.

How is it done?

  1. Resources need to be aligned into like resource types (as prescribed in Step 2 of Strategic Resource Management), preferably assigned to a resource manager(s).
  2. Project owners/managers are responsible for forecasting the resource demand (resource types) on projects. This is critical in maintain capacity knowledge.
  3. It is not only critical that the resource manager maintains project demand, but also that resources keep the resource manager informed on non-project and non-working events in order to maintain accurate capacity forecast.
  4. It is generally a good idea, if not best practice, to have periodic resourcing meetings to review resource and portfolio demand. Decisions from this meeting inform the resource manager on the steps required to fulfill demand.
  5. It is the resource manager’s “role” that is responsible for maintaining the right staffing levels for the resource type and for evaluating the correct “slot” to fit resources to projects.
  6. Finally, the ongoing analysis of the headcount delta required to execute the portfolio and available capacity will dictate your staffing/hiring needs.

What are its benefits?

The project sponsors have a higher level of confidence on when their projects will be executed. Resource Managers are involved early in the planning process to create a staffing plan to meet the needs of the sponsors. There is a higher level of accountability on the resource managers to deliver the resources when needed.

Operational Resource Management

What is it?

Operational resource management mainly deals with creating a staffing plan at the project level in consultation with the resource manager and working with the project staff to meet project deadlines. This is primarily done by the project manager of the project.

Why is it required?

Operational resource management is where the rubber meets the road.  Having the right people to work on the right tasks at the right time is paramount to successful project execution.  Failing to do so will lead to cost overruns and delays.

How is it done?

  1. Up to this point we’ve only looked at resources from a forecasting perspective. Now we need to translate that forecast into a plan.
  2. The project manager validates scope, and builds a project plan (work breakdown structure or WBS). He then creates /updates the resources forecast, and make resource requests to build the resource plan.
  3. Once the resource request(s) are fulfilled, then the project manager simply assigns the named resource to the tasks.

When executed properly, resources are updating time in their timesheets and submitting for approval, thus providing the feedback loop to the resource and project management processes.

What are its benefits?

Resources will be available and ready to perform tasks as and when needed.  The project manager can focus on project deliverables rather than scrambling to find people to staff the project.

Employees are the most valuable asset and the biggest expense for most organizations. The ability to deploy employees effectively against often conflicting projects and other work priorities enables organizations to optimize their return on human resource investments. In conclusion, having a hierarchical approach to resource management enables any organization to share unified information across the enterprise so that they can make smarter business decisions across all levels.

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.