If Cinderella’s shoes fit perfectly, why did it fall off?
As organizations develop their project management skills they begin to realize that skills and training are not enough. To achieve consistency and to develop project management maturity a Project Portfolio Management tool (PPM tool) becomes essential.
PPM tool can be viewed as the magical Silver Bullet to address a host of problems including standardization, transparency, and collaboration. A properly implemented PPM tool can help with
- Strategic alignment across project portfolios
- Remove organization silos and enable collaboration
- Improved decision making and accountability
- Streamlined PMO processes and templates
- Improved organizational productivity
- And automated reports on metrics to show success on all the above.
In short, with the right tool in place, your teams can do the right projects and the right time to drive innovations faster. But all that comes later, first you need to find the right bullet among the hundreds out there. Having gone through PPM selection and implementation process a few times, I’ve always relied on these 5 simple lessons learned.
Rule 1– Your PPM tool needs to match your maturity.
You can’t solve your problems by throwing a sophisticated tool at it. If you have low Project Management maturity, you may want to consider a tool that matches the maturity level. You want one with some growth room, but it must be close to your current situation, not your ultimate aspirations.
It’s better to start small and then migrate to a different tool later than to invest in a sophisticated one and struggle getting adoption. A rich solution that provides unusable features is not necessarily better than a simpler solution that meets the core requirements. I have implemented Microsoft Project and have also been part of a team where we built a customized perfect system.
It really comes down to asking a few quick questions. What is the business objective? Are you trying to minimize effort and maximize efficiencies? Or are you trying build transparencies while reducing overhead.
Rule 2 – Consider the needs of the real stakeholders.
While the management team may be providing the funding for the PPM tool, it is the Project Managers and project teams who will be providing the sweat. They are the real users, if you want adoption of your tool, you need to make sure that their voices and concerns are addressed.
Rule 3 – You can’t please all of the people all of the time
Well, actually you can, and I have been part of team that did just that. We assembled a huge list of everyone’s requirements and went out looking for a tool that does them all. When we couldn’t find one, we just paid to have one produced. But this ‘everything’ system was incredibly expensive, complex, difficult to implement, and required customized training.
But if you are not up for that challenge, use the ‘MoSCoW’ rules of features prioritization.
M – MUST: Feature that must be included in the final solution for the solution to be considered a success.
S – SHOULD: High-priority feature that should be included in the solution if it is possible within the available time/resources/budget but which can be deferred/omitted without compromising the success of the solution.
C – COULD: Feature that would be useful and could be included in the solution if it is possible within the available time/resources/budget but which can be deferred/omitted without compromising the success of the solution.
W – WON’T: Represents features that stakeholders have agreed will not be implemented initially but may be considered for the future.
Rule 4 – Give yourself time
This is a big one. Don’t rush the process. If you want to experience the full benefits of your PPM tool then you need to plan a sensible roll out. If possible you should always run a pilot and then roll out in tranches. A big bang launch can work, but it requires tremendous amount of planning and a heavy upfront investment in training. If your current team at capacity, getting commitments on their time for trainings may not be an option.
Rule 5 – Adopting change
The experience of implementing different PPM systems, at very different companies, has convinced me that a PPM project is really a project of organizational change, especially culture change. A PPM implementation project is a major transformation project and needs to be managed on that timescale. Plan for sustainability. Thinking that tool implementation followed by training is sufficient to achieve the benefits that you set out for, is a big mistake! You should plan for resources to be expended so that the importance and the benefits of the PPM solution are regularly reinforced by sponsors and senior stakeholders.
I have seen examples of PPM solutions delivering amazing benefits to organizations. However, I have also seen PPM solutions being horrific failures and used just as a glorified timesheet instead of a planning system. This is where the most important rule comes to play. There is no shame is accepting defeat and look for less sophisticated tool. Sometimes even magically conjured perfect slippers fall off, but then it gets you closer to Prince Charming. It’s not all for nothing.